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Columbia Missourian

Connie Guy's passion for teaching inspired family, students

By Meghan Eldridge
April 10, 2013 | 8:08 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Anne Lane was so inspired by her kindergarten teacher, Connie Guy, that when she entered the teaching profession her goal was to become the “Connie Guy of Jefferson City.”

Lane, who was a kindergartner in Mrs. Guy’s class in 1960, was influenced by the way Mrs. Guy used crafts, music and hands-on activities in her classroom. She sought to adopt those methods during her 31-year teaching career in Jefferson City, even using some of the same songs in class.

Constance Anne "Connie" Shell Guy of Columbia died Tuesday, April 9, 2013, at her home. She was 92.

Mrs. Guy was happiest surrounded by her family, hardly ever missed an MU basketball or football game and liked to lend a hand, especially to her kindergartners.

“She loved everybody and figured everybody would love her, too, and as a result, everybody did,” her son, Tom Guy, said.

She was born Jan. 20, 1921, in Laclede, the daughter of Clifford and Lila Flo (Hunter) Shell.

She married Gerald "Jerry" Guy in October 1944 while he was serving in the Navy during World War II. They met when she was working as a civil service clerk for the Air Force in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Growing up during the Depression, Mrs. Guy learned how to adopt a positive outlook on any situation, Tom Guy said. Although she didn’t have much material wealth, she had a lot, he said.

“She was just one of those people who made something out of nothing,” he said.

Mrs. Guy graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education from MU in 1959, the same year that Tom, her last child, was born. Before graduating from MU, she began teaching. With two friends, she opened a private kindergarten in Brookfield in the early 1950s.

When her husband, who was working for Sears, was asked to open the retailer's new store in Columbia, she took a job teaching kindergarten at West Boulevard Elementary School. At the time, kindergarten education was not yet a part of the Columbia Public School system.

In 1959, she began working as a kindergarten teacher at Robert E. Lee Elementary, a job she held for 27 years. She often integrated music into her lessons by playing piano and writing music. 

“She could just sit down and all of sudden, there’s the song,” her daughter, Patti Freeman, said. “She just felt like music was something that drew children together.”

Mrs. Guy loved her students and often worked late into the night preparing school lessons for them, Freeman said. Even if she hadn’t received a paycheck for it, she would have continued teaching, she said.

Throughout her career, Mrs. Guy won honors and awards as an educator, including the Columbia Community Teachers Association Teacher of the Year Award in 1979, Outstanding Elementary Educator for Kindergarten Through Third Grade in 1982 and the Valley Forge Teacher’s Medal from the Freedom Foundation in 1973.

When she wasn’t working, Mrs. Guy enjoyed spending time with her family, especially at the family’s lake house on Holiday Acres Lake north of Moberly, where she taught her three children to swim. Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and some family friends gathered at the lake house each summer for a reunion.

Mrs. Guy’s upbeat outlook extended to everyone she met, as she gave everyone the benefit of the doubt, Freeman said. Her children remembered their house often being filled with their mother’s friends.

In the early 1960s, when the family lived in a home on Turner Street, an MU sorority house nearby lost power. Mrs. Guy invited the entire sorority — about 25 girls — to their home for meals while it was repaired, Tom Guy recalled.

Mrs. Guy was also active in the First Christian Church in Columbia and served as a deacon, elder, member of the Administrative Board and Christian Women’s Fellowship president. She was involved in the children’s music program and helped organize and direct the church’s annual Christmas pageant.

Lane achieved her goal of following Mrs. Guy's example as a teacher. In 1991, she was named Jefferson City teacher of the year.

“Her love of life, her respect for other people, her energy was so inspiring,” Lane said. “She lived the Golden Rule, whether it was a tiny child or an older person.”

Mrs. Guy is survived by her husband, Jerry Guy; two daughters, Patti Freeman and her husband, Gary, of Columbia, and Kathy Barreto of Columbia; a son, Tom Guy and his wife, Lori, of Springfield; a sister, Jackie Sumpter of Louisville, Ky.; four grandchildren, Matthew Barreto and his wife, Julie, of Seattle, Natascha Romero and her husband, Tony, of Austin, Texas, Adam Guy and his wife, Caroline, of Columbia, and Ashley Patton and her husband, Chase, of Kansas City; and six great-grandchildren, Marisol, Juliana and Xavier Romero of Austin, Texas, Daniel and Clara Barreto of Seattle and Mason Guy of Columbia.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. April 20 at the First Christian Church, 101 N. Tenth St., with the Rev. Brad Stagg officiating. A reception will follow the services.

Memorial contributions can be made to First Christian Church Special Music Fund, 101 N. Tenth St., Columbia, MO 65201.