In the past eight months, former Fort Scott Community College professor Marcel Normand completed a biography on the life and impact of fellow teacher Lucile James and how she influenced not just the community, but his own family’s lives.
That book, The Lucile James Story: Portrait of a Remarkable Teacher, will be available at the Fort Scott Community College Thursday December 3, for a book signing event.
Normand said he first met James, raised in Pleasanton, when they both started teaching at the Fort Scott High School when he was just 25 years old and she was 52. Their offices were located near each other, they taught on the same floor and they often shared lunch breaks.
“We just kind of hit it off,” Normand said of when they met, saying theater and deciding who would direct the school play that year became the foundation of their friendship that would last for decades.
Normand married his wife in the next year after meeting James, and their families grew close to one another, with the couples often going dancing together over the weekends.
“We had a family friendship,” Normand described the couples’ bond. “It was much more than a school relationship.”
Normand and James would go on to teach at FSCC and, by the early 1970s, Normand said he knew he would write a book about James one day, as he was inspired by her life and teaching method. Normand said she had a flamboyant and fun attitude that seemed to match her red hair, but could also be disciplined and professional in the classroom.
After James’ husband died in 1974, she would spend about every other weekend with Normand’s family, often enough that their three children would begin to consider her a grandmother. Two of those three children would later take English classes from James at FSCC.
In the 1970s, James had heart surgery as a result of heart disease. In 1985, just months after FSCC hosted an appreciation dinner for James, doctors discovered a malignant tumor on her brain, leading to her death later that year.
Normand referred to the book, which took him about 16 months to write, as a 30th anniversary edition as it was printed about 30 years after James’ death. Normand encourages family, friends and students of James to read the book as well as those who have only heard about her.