Friday marked the end of an era at Thomson High School as teachers, former teachers, principals and many friends gathered to honor Joyce Shurling on her retirement.
For more than 42 years, from 1978 til 2020, “Miss Shurling” was the hub of the high school office. She also previously worked at the high school in the 1960s, then left and returned. As part of her retirement, she was congratulated by many friends and peers, presented a plaque, and given a personalized rocking chair.
“We’re here to honor Miss Shurling for her 40 plus years of service. We have this plaque to commemorate that and we have this chair. But that does not do justice to that Mrs. Shurling did, and gave, while she was here at Thomson High School,” said Trevor Roberson, THS principal.
Although he is now principal, Roberson recalls Shurling from the days when he walked the hallways of THS as a student.
“I graduated 30 plus years ago and she was here even before then,” he said. “I was one of those thousands of students she was waiting in the front office to see as they came in the office as freshmen every year.”
Roberson continued to address the crowd and praised how Shurling, who came to Thomson from Macon, made THS her home.
“She came and she immediately became a Bulldog and turned her heart over to the black and gold,” he added.
Former Norris Elementary School teacher Susan McFadyen and husband Jim were among those who showed up for the drop-in reception.
“I knew Miss Joyce because both of my daughters came to school here and they just loved her,” Susan McFadyen said.
Jim McFayden said he got to know Shurling well because one of the two daughters, Mary Kate, would always forget lunch and he would have to bring lunch to school and leave it with Shurling.
Former THS Principal Bill Reese, 2000 to 2004, fondly recalled how Shurling managed the front office.
“Miss Shurling was bright, well organized and you couldn’t rattle her. She make sure all the teachers were lined up with substitutes when that had to be done. She was here at 6:30 every morning running off tests, running off class work for teachers,” Reese said. “I would get here at 6:30 and she would already be here.”
The retirement event drew friends, former teachers, and even a former THS head football coach.
“She is just an awesome lady, you don’t think of them like that anymore,” said former THS football Coach Rob Ridings.
“As far I go, she is Miss THS,” added Coach Paul Leroy.
“When you think of Thomson High School, you think of Miss Joyce Shurling,” said Ridings.
Bill Beckum worked many years with Shurling, and admires her work ethic.
“She is one of the sweetest people I have ever met and one of the hardest working people I have ever met. When you define old school, that is Mrs. Shurling,” said Bill Beckum, THS apprenticeship coordinator.
Among the former teachers who made the event were Vanessa Bacon and Lois Porter.
“I’m just happy to be here for Miss. Shurling. She’s always been a great person, a great professional, and we just love her,” said Bacon, a former math teacher at THS.
“I drove four hours from western Carolina, 25 miles west of Ashville, a little town called Clyde,” said Porter, who taught at THS from 1996 to 2018. “Miss Shurling just hugged my neck and loved me from the day I walked in the door.”
In talking about the retirement reception, Shurling said, “Every bit of if was so wonderful. It was just thrilling and humbling. It was fantastic.”
She said she was excited to see many of her former students and teachers that she had not seen in a long time. She worked under 10 principals. Only seven are still living. Of those, six attended Friday’s event to congratulate Shurling.
Before coming to THS, Shurling was from Macon. She married Billie Shurling in June of 1957 and they had two sons, Ted and Roy.