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article imageNational Treasure Dorothy Presley Died on Sunday in Natchitoches

By Carol Forsloff     Mar 9, 2009 in Lifestyle
Natchitoches, Louisiana is a small town, and few knew Dorothy Presley outside of it. That's truly a shame because she died on Sunday as one of the most significant women in the South incorporating both the joys and the shame of its history.
Miss Presley, as folks called her, was soon to be 91. We were to share a birthday gathering this week. So when she died today, the news was painful for many reasons. That birthday sharing is gone. Furthermore, her joyful spirit won't be here to enjoy. But she was more than a treasure to the town of Natchitoches, her friends and family; she was a national treasure.
As a black woman in this Southern town, and teacher, Miss Presley experienced many things. She was born at a time when the Klan flourished in the countryside so she had to be cautious where she went and what she said. She never attended school with whites, even when she went to the University, from which she graduated to become a teacher. She taught mostly segregated schools. As a young woman she went up the back stairways to attend movies and couldn't eat in most restaurants. Yet in spite of those obstacles and insults, Miss Presley spoke no ill of anyone.
This beautiful lady could recite lengthy pieces from Shakespeare, Longfellow, the Bible and the greats of literature flawlessly until the day she died. She would do so on many occasions as fluently, folks said, as she had done in the classrooms of the town. She played the piano with joy and emotion and for many decades at a local church, to which she was devoted. But those were her material skills, that included, of course, her teaching and her role as a mother.
What made Miss Presley special and memorable for the nation was her overwhelming belief in the essential goodness of man, her inability to give up in the face of adversity, her interest in doing her best for everyone regardless of personal sacrifice. She is the epitome of what folks must do when trouble comes and to that end an example for the times in which we live. She was given the title a Natchitoches Treasure in the town where she grew up in a special program to honor seniors last year, but she was more than that. Miss Presley was part of the nation's treasure.
I offer the reader Dorothy Presley, Miss Presley as she was lovingly called, with the hope that those who read this will take a piece of the passage she most often quoted here:
“Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate
And ascending and securing
Learn to labor and to wait.
Miss Dorothy Presley has left the building.
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