One thing Marybeth Flusche says she regrets about teaching is missing the chance to say goodbye.
Flusche spent 22 years teaching science at at Alice Robertson Junior High and at New Tech at Alice Robertson. She retired at the end of the school year. However, news of area floods last week cancelled the last days of class. Flusche said students were to have tossed water balloons.
"All my years were spent at AR," she said. "That doesn't happen very much because people move."
Flusche said she originally wanted to be a physical therapist when she started college. However, she later got into hotel and restaurant management. She spent two summers interning at a Holiday Inn in Spokane, Washington. She also was sorority house manager at Oklahoma State University.
After college, she spent three and a half years as food and beverage manager at Muskogee Country Club.
Flusche recalled how divorce prompted her to seek a different career.
She said she showed her Oklahoma State University transcript to officials at Northeastern State University.
"And they said I had enough science to become a science teacher," she said. "I knew science. I loved kids, but I didn't know how to teach standards."
Flusche taught science for four years at St. Joseph Catholic School. One day, she crossed the street to Alice Robertson Junior High and talked to the principal.
"I remember it was the end of the school year," she said. "And he hired me on the spot. It was, I call it, a God thing."
Flusche said an autoimmune disease called giant cell arteritis prompted her retirement. She said she hopes it's temporary and that she can return to teaching.
Early health issue
Marybeth Flusche spent her childhood and teen years doing gymnastics, golf and cheerleading.
She was diagnosed with a light case of polio at age 4.
"We were getting ready to go to the pool, and I said 'Mom, my straps won't stay up," Flusche recalled. "And she stood me in front and said, 'you're crooked.'"
Doctors confirmed the disorder.
"And they couldn't figure out why because I had the vaccination," she said.
Flusche said a doctor encouraged her to take gymnastics to build her muscles and straighten her spine.
"I had to stay in it until I was 18," she said. "Which caused me to be a cheerleader in high school. I played golf in high school. Anything physical, they wanted me to do."
She said gymnastics and athletics taught her about hard work, integrity, team skills and perseverance.
"Gymnastics is for 5-foot people and I'm 5-foot 6," she said. "I had to work hard."
She said she had hoped to be a cheerleader at OSU, but was too tall to stand on the shoulders of male cheerleaders.
"I didn't end up trying out, but I did go to all the workouts," she said.
Her first career
Flusche got an early start on a hospitality career.
First came high school jobs at restaurants.
Then, she spent two summers interning as a hotel front desk manager in Spokane, Washington. One of those summers was during Spokane's Expo 74 World's Fair.
“I got the job mainly because I had a brother and sister-in-law who lived up there,” she said. “I was 16 and off I went."
She recalled meeting all sorts of people, even famous ones, at that downtown Spokane Holiday Inn.
"Sometimes I was the night auditor at the desk, and the famous people would come in," she said. "Because they were in entertainment, they would sit and visit. Ray Charles was my most memorable."
Flusche recalled Charles coming in after performing.
"And he just sat and talked. He's just a very friendly man," she said. "He'd ask 'what do you do,' 'where are you from.' He could tell that I was a southerner. He just was interested in my life."
After earning her management degree from OSU, Flusche landed a job as food and beverage manager of Muskogee Country Club.
"I booked parties and made sure parties went," she said. "During that time, Muskogee was booming. We'd have a lot of parties. A lot of people were at the club. It was the place to be."
Flusche filled the last three weeks of school with science projects, including solar ovens and mousetrap cars.
"We had a planet walk, where we'd walk all the way to Pluto from the building," she said. "We shrunk the solar system where the sun was the size of your head. Earth would be the size of your (eye) pupil."
Flusche said she loved seeing her students ask questions and get excited about learning.
"These kids are amazing, from the baddest kid in the world to the best kid in the world," she said. "The kids would tell you, 'you were strict at first.' Then they knew what you expected."
Flusche got students involved with the community as a student council adviser. They helped out with the Garden of Lights and with special education.
Students also competed several years in the River Rumba cardboard boat regatta, she recalled. She said 4-H Extension Educator David Adams helped students put the boats together.
"Lori Martin, who was the PE teacher, taught the kids how to row," Flusche said. "April Cohen, the art teacher, helped the kids paint it. It was a group effort. I loved it. The ships sank."
Flusche said she still has one of the River Rumba boats in her garage.
HOW DID YOU COME TO BE AN OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE?
"A man named Bob Dickson, the pro at the country club, and Clifford Cate hired me to be the food and beverage manager at the country club.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT MUSKOGEE?
"I like the close-knit community. I like it because I have a lot of friends here. I feel like I have been here all my life. I think it's kind of a hometown feeling. The town I grew up in is not like this because you grow up there and then you move away. People come back here."
WHAT WOULD MAKE MUSKOGEE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE?
"Jobs, better jobs. Not $5-an-hour jobs, career jobs. We (Husband and I) have six kids together. My four grew up here and none of them live here. And they all have great jobs. I always think what would make it better would be something for our kids to come home to."
WHAT PERSON IN MUSKOGEE DO YOU ADMIRE MOST?
"Kerry Hillmon. He was the principal at Alice Robertson who hired me from St. Joseph's. I just remember teaching at a Catholic school and going to a public school. I thought these teachers were amazing. He just had a way of making us feel excited about teaching. He was just a super principal.
"I really admire Shirley Hilton because she just works so hard. She's one of my travel friends. She is so knowledgeable about her area."
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE THING TO HAPPEN TO YOU IN MUSKOGEE?
"Probably meeting my husband, Pete. I met him at school. And we dated for a long time before we got married. He inspires me. He's such a good teacher. He's such a kind and gentle man. He was the wrestling coach and my son wrestled. That's how we met."
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
"I'm going to get back into exercising daily, watching grandkids, reading. Hopefully, I'll get back into teaching science."
HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP MUSKOGEE IN 25 WORDS OR LESS?
"It's a good place to raise children. It's a friendly, welcoming community. It's very diverse, which is good for children."
Meet Marybeth Flusche
EDUCATION: College High, Bartlesville, 1974; Bachelor of Arts in hotel management, Oklahoma State University; master's in science education, Northeastern State University.
PROFESSION: Retired New Tech at Alice Robertson Junior High science teacher.
FAMILY: Husband, Mark "Pete" Peters, six children, 10 grandchildren and another on the way.
CHURCH: St. Joseph Catholic Church.
HOBBIES: Exercise, cooking, travel, being with girlfriends.