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Scholarship Named After Currituck Educator
(The Virginian-Pilot  - December 13, 2000; pg. Y1  by Jeffrey S. Hampton)

    When a young and pretty school teacher from Tennessee stepped off the train in Snowden, she didn't know she was part of the beginning of public education in Currituck County and that one day she would have a scholarship named for her.
    In honor of her 42 years as a beloved first-grade teacher, the late Tommie Gregory BRUMSEY will have a $500 scholarship fund named for her, established by her daughter, Barbara
SMITH of Currituck. They say BRUMSEY was the first-grade teacher for just about everybody who grew up in Currituck County.
    Sam WALKER, a former school board member, had "Miss"
BRUMSEY as a first and second grade teacher in 1945 and 1946.  "My mother and father requested her to be my teacher," WALKER said Tuesday, taking a few minutes from managing his grocery store in Sligo. WALKER, in a ball cap and long graying beard, leaned up against the ice cream box as he recalled his favorite teacher.  "They thought Tommie BRUMSEY was an excellent teacher, which she was," he said.  "She was very patient with children. She never paddled a living soul that I remember. She didn't need to."
    She bought tennis shoes, a rarity in those days, for a boy who came to school barefooted. Afterward, other boys who had shoes but didn't have tennis shoes asked her if she would buy them a pair, too.
WALKER was one of those.
WALKER remembered his mother threatened to punish him harshly if he didn't do better with his spelling.  BRUMSEY helped him improve until he began making 100s on every test, WALKER said.
    As a school board member,
WALKER proposed establishing a hall of fame for Currituck teachers. The board declined after much discussion about the difficulty of making the selection process fair, he said.  "I would have nominated her to be the first one in the hall of fame," WALKER said.
BRUMMSEY came here in 1922, she was recruited by Maude C. NEWBERRY, the first superintendent of Currituck County.  Joseph P. KNAPP, a wealthy northern businessman drawn to Currituck for the duck hunting early this century, built schools here and augmented teacher salaries until it was competitive with larger school systems, Smith said.
NEWBERRY lured BRUMSEY, who then still went by her maiden name of GREGORY, from Tennessee to teach first grade at the new Currituck School. The same school is now Knapp Elementary School. The salary was $100 a month with a bonus of $100 a year from Knapp, a substantial amount in those days, SMITH said. Tommie GREGORY lived with other young, single teachers in the teacherage next door that now serves as the school district headquarters, SMITH said.  The building was so new it didn't have curtains yet, which presented a privacy problem for the young, single teachers.
    "They had to crawl around on the floor because workers were still over at the school,"
SMITH said. The young teacher was 5 feet 5 inches tall with black hair and hazel eyes, Smith said.  "She was really a sweet and beautiful woman, physically and otherwise, too."
    Many local men pursued her, but she married Carl
BRUMSEY, a local farmer. They met at the Snowden store that sits across the road from the historic Currituck courthouse, Smith said.
BRUMSEY's career, she taught first grade at Currituck, then at the one-room school in Corolla, then at Poplar Branch, back to Currituck, then at Moyock Elementary School, where she finished her career in 1964. At one point, while teaching at Currituck, she served as the unofficial principal.
    The words that come to mind are 'gracious' and 'kind,' " said Jeanne
MEIGGS, who had BRUMSEY as a first-grader in 1948.  MEIGGS is a former superintendent of Currituck schools.  "You did find out after a while she had steel behind that. But you seldom saw that because she was able to get us to do things she wanted us to do by asking us very nicely."
SMITH has established the fund 10 years after BRUMSEY's death at age 88 through the Currituck Community Foundation, an affiliate of the N.C. Community Foundation. The scholarships will begin as soon as the $10,000 principal amount gains enough interest to begin offering a $500 one-time scholarship, probably by the spring of 2002. The fund will expand as the principal grows, said Peggy BIRKEMEIER, northeast region associate for the foundation.
    The Tommie
BRUMSEY fund becomes one of three funds managed by the 2-year-old Currituck Community Foundation, a nonprofit that allows the highest possible tax deductions for donations, BIRKEMEIER said. An unrestricted fund and the Currituck County Library Foundation fund are still maturing with assets already approaching $30,000, BORKEMEIER said. The N.C. Community Foundation has 700 funds statewide worth $53 million, she said. Local affiliates benefit from the resources of the state organization. 
Funds can be established for a minimum of $5,000, and donations to a fund can be for any amount.



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2004 Kay Midgett Sheppard