Marian Wilbur says she is happily back home where she belongs at West Junior High School.
Wilbur spent 28 years teaching at West, expanding students' minds, volunteering in the guidance office, tutoring and supervising an after-school study club. She previously spent a short period of time serving as a substitute librarian. Wilbur is thrilled to be working with the staff and children at such a rich family and academically oriented school.
"I didn't want to lose contact," she said. "I'd spent 28 years there. I just wanted to continue to have contact with the staff, but do it in some way that I was helpful. I wasn't just drifting in and saying, 'Oh, isn't it too bad that you guys aren't retired,' but rather, 'What can I do to help as long as I'm here?'"
Wilbur, a tireless and committed volunteer, has been helping people throughout the community since retiring almost three years ago. She volunteers with the Lawrence Public Library, Audio Reader, Meals on Wheels, Lawrence Memorial Hospital, and the Trinity Episcopal church. Her husband, Ray, joins Marian in volunteering with many of these organizations.
West remains dear to her. She enjoys answering students' questions during the after-school study club. Wilbur has a lifetime of knowledge about history and English. She describes her satisfaction in helping a particular student recently.
"One young man that's been in there all two and a half years called me over and said, 'Do you know any history?' Well, I said 'I know a little bit.' He said, 'Could you help me with this?' So we sat down and did social studies. When we got done he said, 'Thank you.' That was a nice moment to have somebody recognize you could help them and then thank you for that."
Wilbur receives many thank-yous from students and staff alike. She always revels in bumping into former students, whether it's volunteering at West or LMH. Wilbur was ecstatic and surprised recently with being honored by the Lawrence Education Assn. for her outstanding volunteer work at West.
"You just felt really special," she said. "I felt really good that day."
She feels good every day she volunteers at the school. In addition to tutoring and helping students with their studies, she loves interacting with the staff in the guidance office. Wilbur admires all the counselors at West and has learned a lot working with them. She added that the guidance office does a terrific job at the school with such areas as prevention counseling, class scheduling and career planning.
"It certainly gives you a new perspective," Wilbur said. "I found out just how many things those people do, which as a teacher I wasn't aware of. They do a lot of other things that keep that school running."
Teresa Clough, guidance counselor at West, marvels at Wilbur's work ethic and contributions to the school. She has known Wilbur for 21 years.
"She's an absolute hard worker," Clough said. "She'll do anything to help people. She's a person with a lot of people skills and gets along really well with everyone."
While teaching has been Wilbur's passion over the years, she is grateful that she can now give of herself in a different way. Volunteering at West and in the community has opened up a "whole new world" for her. She has met countless numbers of compassionate people from all walks of life.
"Being able to do volunteer work has been such a lot of fun," Wilbur said. "All the time I taught, most of my time was taken up with grading the papers from that day, preparation, all the things that go with teaching. I loved it, but I just didn't have time for anything else. I really had planned to get involved in some way (volunteering), because I like to have a structured life, and I like to have a purpose. I've found that every place we volunteer we have made some of the nicest friends."
She looks forward to seeing her friends each week volunteering as a receptionist at the LMH information desk. Wilbur registers patients, answers phones and provides directions and gentle reassurance to both patients and visitors. She also gives area second-graders group tours of the hospital during the spring.
"I think anytime anybody goes to a doctor's office or a hospital, there's a certain amount of apprehension," she said. "I think it's a real important job to make it a very friendly place and a place where everybody's there to help you find where to go. We'll try to take good care of you."
Wilbur had a big thrill at LMH last year meeting Jerod Haase, the former Kansas University basketball standout. He came to visit teammate, C.B. McGrath, who was in the hospital having wrist surgery.
"He (Jerod) seems like the kind of person that you would really enjoy teaching and having for a son," Wilbur said. "He's just a really nice guy. It was fun to be able to see him in person and tell him I enjoyed watching him play."
Wilbur has two children of her own and three grandchildren. She genuinely appreciates retirement and spending time with her husband. The former teacher thrives on keeping busy.
"I would not be happy just sitting and doing nothing in retirement," she said. "I think that would be pretty deadly. It's been fun. It gets you out. I thought I knew a lot of people in teaching, but this kind of opens up a whole new world."