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More Than a Difference, Making a Legacy

The general store on Daufuskie & the guy who rents the golf carts

It’s my birthday (thank you!) and my husband, Wendy, has done it again. I asked for an overnight getaway which he made extra-special by knowing me so well.

As he always does, Wendy kept the plan a surprise until the last minute. After driving around a while, it became clear we were heading to a coastal town in South Carolina. Which turned out to be Beaufort. I love it there! It looked like we’d be kayaking. Wrong! We were booked on a fifty-minute ferry ride to Daufuskie Island where I’ve been wanting to visit for years.

Me in front of Pat Conroy’s classroom at Mary Fields Elementary School

As in Conroy’s day, the tiny island is approachable by boat only. Once there, we drove a rented golf cart from one place of interest to the next through the lush, lowcountry landscape of abundant Spanish moss and spectacular live oak trees. So. Much. Fun!

This is Pat’s classroom.

It was there Pat Conroy, as a young man, taught poor island children others wrote off as unteachable. He wrote about it in The Water is Wide, which became the movie, Conrack. I was transformed. I wanted to be just like him. Click HERE for my March 5, 2016 post, “Farewell, Pat Conroy.”

But the highlight, the place that brought tears to my eyes, was Mary Fields Elementary School and the classroom in which Pat Conroy taught. The school held two classrooms, one of which is now an indigo art studio, and a lunchroom, now a café. Pat’s room still holds tables and chairs where it appears workshops and other instructional activities still occur.

I’m happily retired from teaching now, but the nobility of helping children shunned by others still swells my heart. Pat Conroy was ahead of his time. A woman at the school told us that many teachers travel there from all over, like me, moved to tears by Conroy’s work on this speck of an island off the Carolina coast.

Best-selling books aside, it is a magnificent legacy.

A photo of Pat Conroy teaching at Daufuskie.