By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief.
Michigan State University lost one of its biggest fans Tuesday. Most of us who grew up in Scottville and went to Scottville Elementary had Gene and Shirley Muscoe as teachers. Gene died Tuesday, appropriately on the day when many people wear green. He was 80-years-old.
Gene was my fifth grade homeroom teacher. I had Shirley in third grade. But, my most vivid memory of them was the first year I played with the Scottville Harvest Festival. One of the band’s traditions is to play some college fight songs, during the finale routine. When the Michigan State “Fight Song” was played, Gene and Shirley would come out of the thick crowd carrying a huge MSU flag. When I started traveling places with the band, I carried on that tradition.
I spoke to Shirley tonight and she reflected on Gene, especially on his and her career at Mason County Central Schools.
Gene grew up in Cedarville, located on Lake Huron in the southeastern Upper Peninsula. His father died when he was 5-years-old and his mother raised him and his four brothers by herself.
“After high school, Gene got a football scholarship to the University of Iowa,” Shirley said. “I think he was probably the first person from the eastern U.P. to get a football scholarship to a Big Ten university.
“He got homesick from being that far away from his family so he transferred to Michigan State his sophomore year,” she said. It was a good thing he did, too. During his junior year, he met Shirley, a freshman from the Grand Rapids area.
They soon got married. Shirley left college to raise their three children. Gene got a job teaching middle school in Lake Orion, north of Detroit. He was there for 13 years. He also taught one year in Pontiac. Shirley eventually went back and finished her education degree from Michigan State.
“My parents had a place on the Pere Marquette River south of Baldwin. I wanted to be closer to them. Also, at that time Lake Orion schools switched to half days because they couldn’t accommodate all the students, they were building a new school. I wasn’t very happy about that and wanted my kids in a different school. There were openings in Scottville at Mason County Central. Gene and I both applied and were both hired.”
The Muscoes taught at MCC for 25 years, always just down the hall or across the hall from each other. “It was unusual for a married couple to be teaching in the same building,” Shirley said. “I enjoyed being that close to my husband and it worked out well. The kids didn’t seem to mind.”
The Muscoes also lived a few blocks from the schools on North Reinberg Avenue in Scottville.
“We would ride our bicycles around town and we were called the pied pipers, because kids would just start following us around. We just really enjoyed the kids. They were all very special to us, every single one of them.
“To this day, we keep in touch with many of our former students, especially through Facebook. It’s just amazing the many kind words people have written about Gene and to know he touched so many lives.”
Gene and Shirley had three children, Joanne, Michael and Sally. Joanne died in a car accident when she was 16. They also have three granddaughters.
After retiring in 1995, Gene and Shirley moved to her parent’s cottage in Lake County. Then, they moved to Lansing. They also own a home in Cedarville.
“We were attending a lot of the sporting events and other activities at Michigan State and just decided to be closer to East Lansing. We still have many good friends from Scottville and keep in touch with a lot of them. Since Gene has been ill, we have had a lot of visits from former students and fellow teachers.”
Gene suffered from congestive heart failure the past two years. Shirley said he had multiple blood transfusions but continued to lose a lot of blood. He recently contracted pneumonia and wasn’t able to recover.
Gene was a member of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians. His funeral is scheduled for Monday, March 23, 11 a.m., at Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church in Hessell, near Cedarville. Visitation is Sunday, March 22 from 4 to 7 p.m. at R. Galer Funeral Home in Pickford, see website here.