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Published: Monday, 4/14/2003

Tough teacher looked out for class `underdog'

NORTH BALTIMORE - Vesta Insley, a former teacher in the McComb and Van Buren areas who spent most of her life on a farm near McComb, died of heart disease Thursday at Blakely Care Center in North Baltimore. She was 92.

It has been years since she taught, but her son, Larry, said former students still come up to “tell me how much they respected her.”

Mrs. Insley taught nine years in McComb and six years in Van Buren. Subjects she taught included history, English, and math, and she also was a substitute teacher for many years. She retired from teaching in 1970.

“She loved the underdog,” he said. “She'd work with students no matter what level they were at.”

That doesn't mean she was an easy teacher, he added. The same students also said no one fooled around when Mrs. Insley was around. “She was the only teacher who'd stand up to them,” he said.

That toughness might have come from spending most of her life helping her husband on the family farm near McComb. While she wasn't a “tractor-driving”-type farm wife, she gave a helping hand whenever her husband, Wayne, needed it. She also stayed busy taking care of Larry, her only child.

After her husband died in 1969, Mrs. Insley traveled extensively with former teaching colleagues. Larry said his mother loved traveling adventures, and he recently found a diary from the 1930s documenting a cross-country trip his mother took with friends in a 1929 Chevy.

Larry Insley said one of his favorite memories that illustrates how caring his mother was happened years ago when he had come back to the family farm during a break from his college studies. He told his mother how much he missed playing ball with his dad.

“Ten minutes later, she came out with two gloves, and we played ball. I'll always remember that,” he said. “And she had a pretty good arm too.”

Surviving are her son, Larry; two grandchildren, and sisters, Valerie Poole and Margaret Stalter.

Visitation will be after 5:30 this evening at Hartley Funeral Home, McComb, where services will be at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow.

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