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Happy Birthday from the Halls of Congress

 

Irene Burrow Lancaster enjoys a cup of tea with her companion, Princess, in her Columbus home Tuesday afternoon. The retired school teacher turned 89 today and got a birthday greeting from Rep. Alan Nunnelee, who announced her birthday on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday.

Irene Burrow Lancaster enjoys a cup of tea with her companion, Princess, in her Columbus home Tuesday afternoon. The retired school teacher turned 89 today and got a birthday greeting from Rep. Alan Nunnelee, who announced her birthday on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

Slim Smith

 

Irene Burrow Lancaster turns 89 today and along with birthday greetings from friends and family -- two children, six grandchildren, five great grandchildren -- the retired junior high teacher also heard from a former student. 

 

There's nothing unusual about getting a "Happy Birthday" from a former student, especially after devoting 38 years of her life to the profession, most of them at Joe Cook Junior High in Columbus. She retired in 1986. 

 

What is unique is the venue from which the "Happy Birthday" emanated: The floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.  

 

Tuesday afternoon, Alan Nunnelee, who represents Mississippi's First Congressional District, used a portion of his time on the House floor to salute Lancaster, who he says inspired him to enter politics as his eighth-grade American History teacher at Joe Cook. 

 

"I felt very humbled," said Lancaster after a member of Nunnelee's staff called to inform her of the plans. "As a teacher, you never know who you are helping or who will remember you. I'm very appreciative that he would do this." 

 

Having taught hundreds of children both in Columbus (31 years) and Monroe County (two years) and New Hope (five years), Lancaster's memories of the future Congressman are limited. 

 

"He was a shy little boy," she said. "Well-behaved. You know, just a nice kid. Of course, back then, all the kids were that way. I don't remember having a problem child, not one that I can think of, anyway. It was an age when you taught children who were respectful of authority and teachers had the backing of the parents. It was easy then." 

 

Lancaster said she appreciated the gesture, but seems unaffected by the sudden noteriety. 

 

"But to be honest, while I appreciate him doing this for my birthday, I'd rather have the approval of the Lord," she said.

 

Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is ssmith@cdispatch.com.

 

 

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