Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero once said, “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need,” and as a tribute to the life of Ina Montgomery, his words could not have been more fitting. Educating the youth of Marlinton was one of Ina’s many passions, and those who were close to her have recounted many-a-fond memory of the sea of daffodils that bloomed in front of her house every spring.
Ina’s love of her community, education, gardening and reading inspired Janice Hatfield – the wife of Ina’s late nephew, Bill – to erect a memorial in her honor. It was around the same time that Pocahontas County Free Libraries Director Vicky Terry and library patron Trish McNaull were discussing volunteer projects to spruce up the entrance at McClintic Library.
When Ina passed away in 2013, her service was unlike the typical funerals of yesterday and today. Family, friends and former students gathered for a memorial, and together, they honored the late teacher’s memory with anecdotes, laughter, and stories of the time spent in her class. When it came time to lay her to rest, Ina wanted her ashes scattered over her beloved husband Monty’s grave – and it was Ina’s lack of a headstone that ignited Hatfield’s decision to memorialize Ina’s life.
“Ina doesn’t have anything in this county to say, ‘I was here,’” Hatfield explained. “Ina loved Marlinton, and she was very much a part of this community. She loved the people here, and they loved her. Ina taught at the school that used to stand where this [McClintic] library stands now, and I thought the area out front would be a wonderful way to remember her and everything that she did and loved.”
McNaull – an experienced gardener – was quick to volunteer and has been hard at work in the garden for the past month. Working with the greenery already in the landscaping, McNaull added beautiful pops of color to the library’s entrance by donating flowers from her personal gardens, as well as purchasing new additions.
Volunteers from the Pocahontas County Day Report Center and Drug Court offered their services and assisted with the heavy lifting and breaking up the garden’s soil.
“It’s tough going under there,” McNaull explained, “and the guys worked really hard and put a lot into amending the soil. They put a lot of effort and a lot of interest into the gardens with me.”
In the past, frequent maintenance was needed in order to keep the landscaping looking presentable, but without someone to tend to the garden full-time, upkeep proved to be a challenge. To make the garden easy to maintain, a selection of low-maintenance, colorful annual and perennial flowers were added to the landscape’s greenery.
A raised bed was created to house a small, community herb garden, and to help passersby identify each plant, McNaull and her fellow Pocahontas County Art Guild artists have decorated paint stir sticks donated by Glades Building Supply. Each stick features the name of one of the plants in the memorial garden, and in some cases, the plant, itself, has been painted.
“I’m excited about the garden,” Terry said. “It looks so nice, and the one thing they kept in mind while doing all of this was ease of maintenance. We don’t have a gardener at the library, and they were very mindful of that.”
Ina and Monty built their home along Route 219, in Cooktown just north of Mill Point. Every spring, she would plant daffodils in front of her house, and in time, the small garden blossomed into a sea of daffodils from the fence-line down to the road.
Ina’s long-time friend, Jane Beverage, well remembers her friend’s love of daffodils, and has suggested, in addition to the garden, that the community pay homage to Ina by planting daffodils along the hillside facing Mitchell Chevrolet.
“Anybody who wants to remember Ina can plant a daffodil,” Beverage said, “and I think that would be a fantastic way of showing their love for her.”
For those who never had the pleasure of meeting Ina Montgomery, the former teacher is often described as a fun-loving and outgoing – a warm woman who loved children. She was incredibly family-oriented, and although she and her husband had no children of their own, Ina was always taking care of others and loved her students as if they were her own.
In fact, Beverage recalled Ina using her students to tease a doctor. When the doctor asked if she had any children, Ina jokingly replied, “I have twenty-three!” – referencing the number of students she had in her fourth-grade class that year.
Ina was known throughout the community for her impeccable dress, and not once did she wear jeans in the classroom. Her hair was always styled in a French twist and accented with either a colorful comb or scarf, and it was rare for the seam of her nylon hose to not be straight. Ina wore high heels every day, but that did little to deter her from playing a game of Fox and Geese with her students during lunch.
“She was always dressed to a ‘T,’ even for fourth grade,” Hatfield said. “It was her way of saying that education was important – that what was being done in the classroom was important. She was very passionate about education, and she loved to show students that it could be fun at the same time.”
Ina instilled a love of reading in her students and used her collection of book and stories as a way to encourage good behavior in her students. When they completed their work or had a good day, Ina would reward them with wondrous tales that came to life as she read.
“Reading was a passion,” Beverage added, “but with everything that she did, Ina had a way of bringing subjects to life.”
Following her retirement, Ina began volunteering at the Cranberry Visitor’s Center, and despite her initial reservations that she might not be accepted among the younger group, she quickly became known as “the mouth of Cranberry.”
After Monty suffered a stroke in 1985, Ina spent the next seven years at her husband’s bedside at the “old” Pocahontas Memorial Hospital – caring for him, and in time, the others who were in the hospital. During Monty’s time in the hospital, Ina only missed three days, and in the years following his death, continued to care for others.
Monty always told Ina, “I thought the end would be the end,” and in years leading up to her passing, Ina, too, shared a lasting sentiment with her loved ones: “I’m fit as a fiddle and ready for love.”
“I just can’t say enough good things about her,” Beverage said of her friend. “Ina was so special to me in my lifetime of knowing her. She dearly loved children, and they all loved her. She played with them, and they learned as they played.”
Cailey Moore may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org