One of Carroll County’s most beloved educators celebrated her 80th birthday June 15 with the first class she ever taught at Hillsville High School.
Ruthie Griggs, who turned 80 earlier this year, was the special guest for a surprise birthday party in her honor that day at Tony’s Pizza, where the Hillsville High School Class of 1969 also celebrated its 48th reunion. Jerry Cox and a room full of classmates celebrated Griggs’ birthday, bringing her a special cake, flowers, orange and black balloons (the colors of the old Hillsville High School) and a large print of a picture from an old annual of Griggs teaching a class.
The Hillsville High School Class of 1969 has a special connection with Griggs. During their eighth grade year in 1964, they were a part of Griggs’ very first class at HHS – eighth grade English.
“Ruthie, I feel, adopted us as her class back in 1964. Everyone seemed honored to be part of that class,” Cox said. “Our celebration was like the old African proverb, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ In our case, it takes a village to honor a teacher.”
Griggs talked about what a wonderful time it was to be 17 when the Hillsville High School Class of 1969 graduated – the last class to come through HHS before the opening of Carroll County High School.
“You all were my very first class. There were no phones, no SOLS, no computer gadgets. But most of all I tell everybody there were no lawsuits,” Griggs said. “And we touched, we danced, we embraced, we did whatever. It was a marvelous time and thank you all for coming along.”
Griggs also thanked her dear friend, Mava Vass, for coming for the birthday party/reunion.
“She has been treated as well as I am being treated because the students loved her,” Griggs said.
Cox noted the “Alpha and Omega” were also in attendance June 15. Wayne Worrell was a student in Griggs’ first eighth grade English class in 1964, while his son, Allen, was in Griggs’ last class, a ninth grade history class at Carroll County Intermediate School in 1990. Allen Worrell joked the Worrells had done Griggs in.
“I’m not sure if that was the reason she retired or not,” Cox added.
Cox said Pam Hancock, station manager at Cockerham’s on South Main Street, deserved a lot of credit for making the event happen. She’s the one that told Cox about Griggs’ birthday, which set off the idea in his head to have a celebration for the former teacher.
Annuals from 1965 and 1969 were also passed around during the reunion. A letter was also read from class member Eric Poole. The evening’s events were also supposed to be a homecoming for him from his current state of Colorado. Poole was a former Hill Street neighbor of Jerry Cox and another classmate, Rex Hill, during their youth in Hillsville.
“Please extend my heartiest birthday greetings to Ms. Griggs and my heartfelt regrets for not being able to be a part of this celebration in person,” Poole wrote. “She was a huge influence on so many of us in that 8th (Grade) English class and I will be there in spirit next and keep you folks close in my thoughts and heart.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN