THE VICKSBURG POST
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 2007 - SECTION B
happy Veterans Day, Mrs. Kinzer
The girls had a special pet, a big yellow tomcat named "The King," and while other children learned to sew by making doll clothes, the Blocksom girls made cat clothes for The King. His hats had little holes so his ears could stick out, and they
dressed him in royal regalia and rode him around in a baby carriage.
After completing r schools at Auburn, Mrs. Kinzer went to Learned through the llth grade and then to Raymond for her senior year at Hinds AHS. Two years later she received her AA degree from Hinds Junior College and then entered the University of Mississippi. In Oxford she lived with her relatives, Dr. and Mrs. Ephraim Nobel Lowe. He was on the faculty at the university and his wife was assistant registrar. He was a medical doctor, a botanist and state geologist.
Though science was Audrey's first love, her foster parents thought it more fitting for a young lady to major in something else, so when she graduated from Ole Miss two years later with a major in French (and she also played the violin) it should have been no surprise that she received the Taylor Medal in botany, for she devoted her free time and most of her energy to botany and biology.
After graduation she went to Arkansas as a teacher at Forrest City. On a visit to the Lowes' at Oxford, she met Tom J. Kinzer Jr. They eloped on Aug. 5,1934, and married in Port Gibson, keeping their marriage a secret for a long time. Eventually, to placate Uncle John and Aunt Mary Bush, they had a "public" wedding.
Tom Kinzer's parents ran the general store at Yokena, and for a while he and Audrey lived there. Then they went to Kentucky, later to Louisiana, before returning to Warren County. They now had a family Tom III was bom in 1940. In 1948 they built a house south of Yokena; it would be the family home for the next 49 years.
It was in 1948 that Audrey
Kinzer became a substitute teacher at Jett High School; the job became
full-time the next year. Her subject was what she loved general sci ence.
The county school was practically void of adequate facilities, but
The "Science Department" was an old, one-room building dubbed Siberia by faculty and students, and there was only one microscope for the entire class. Mrs. Kinzer assigned Mona the task of teaching one of the school jocks, who had failed the year before, so that he could pass.
"I remember Mrs. Kinzer as
always smelling of lavender, loving the color blue, and always wearing a
sweet, kind smile on her face. She was incredibly generous with her time and
resources. She welcomed me into her room to use the microscope during my
bits of free time, and she lent me her personal books for extra study," Mona
said. She later became Dr. Whitson, earned degrees at MSCW and a Ph.D. at
Mississippi State in physiology and microbiology, taught at Boise State
"I dedicated my dissertation to Mrs. Kinzer," she said. "I have thought of Mrs. Kinzer with appreciation and affection many times over the years, and always on November 11, our shared birthday." Mrs. Kinzer's career at Jett flourished, and she moved from Siberia to a comer of the auditorium and then to the old shop building. Her courses expanded from general science to include two years of biology. In 1960 she lost her best friend and husband who died unexpectedly. Tom, their only child, went on to graduate from MIT and lived in the Boston area. Later, Mrs. Kinzer would earn a master's degree at Mississippi College, where she was the outstanding student in Dr.Charles Deevers' botany classes.
In 1965, Warren Central High School opened with Mrs. Kinzer as head of the science department. At last she had adequate classroom space and a fully equipped lab. All of her teaching, however, was not indoors. She and her students created a nature trail and they planted and maintained a rose garden. She also had a greenhouse.
James Henry was a 15-year-old sophomore when Warren Central opened, and he remembers Mrs. Kinzer's teaching as "one of my greatest experiences... Every student was important to this special lady. She had a unique way of winning the respect of her students, real respect." Henry, who later earned degrees in chemical engineering at Mississippi State, said she tried to teach her students not just to get the right answer but to understand the thinking process.
"In her quiet way, she challenged me to be the best I could be and not take the easy path to avoid hard work," Henry said. "She knew and tried to instill in her students the importance of a good work ethic in every phase of life."
Her abilities did not go unnoticed by students, for twice they dedicated the school yearbook to her, and twice she was chosen Star Teacher. She was honored by both the Mississippi and National Wildlife foundations, the Society of Professional Engineers and was named Outstanding Biology Teacher of Mississippi in 1971.
She was active in a number of professional organizations and was also a member of the DAR in Port Gibson and of Yokena Presbyterian Church. For the past several years, she has been a resident of HeritageHouse.
On her 100th birthday, James Henry, speaking for the multitude of students she taught, said, "Thank you for being a great inspiration to me, not just as a student, but as a person whose values in life were greatly shaped by you. Thank you and God bless you as he blessed me with your presence to my life."
Gordon Cotton is an author and historian who lives in Vicksburg.