Deep Impact


If you hope to be successful in life there are people who impact you.  I don’t know how successful I was but I certainly had people who guided me, mentored me, people I wanted to emulate.  Marilyn Koon Hendrix had the impact of a pile driver as far as my life is concerned.

I don’t know what I expected.  I didn’t know how a principal was supposed to act, but “Koon” certainly wasn’t what I expected.  She was a friend, a mother figure…maybe a god figure.  She was the standard I measured all other principals by.

She was certainly the queen of her realm.  Everyone knew who was in charge but not in a heavy-handed way.  No one would accuse her of being a micromanager.  She wanted to lead, taking you along because you wanted to go, not dragging you along because you had to go.

Mrs. Hendrix allowed you to teach or coach in your own way.  She was comfortable allowing you to learn by making mistakes, backing you the first time and expecting you to gain wisdom and not repeat the mistake.  I made plenty of mistakes those first few years and she made sure I learned from them.  My wisdom?  I made sure I didn’t make the same mistake again.

Koon was a big woman or maybe I should say, she had a big presence.  She cast a huge shadow, bigger than life.  To me, she was an Amazon in every way. A deep raspy voice and a hardy laugh she liked to use.  Koon worked hard and she played hard, she expected the same for those who worked under her.  She had an “if it ain’t fun, I ain’t wantin’ to do it” attitude and her attitude translated to all around her.  I tried to adopt her attitude throughout my career, always trying to find fun in what I was doing.

I was young and impressionable trying to soak up as much knowledge and wisdom as I possibly could.  I was a twenty-three or four-year-old child who couldn’t bear the idea of disappointing his parents or Ms. Koon…although I’m sure I did.

The youthful me was “country come to town” when I entered her office for my interview.  It was a casual affair…a sit down on the couch, she in her rocking chair.  A let’s get to know you kind of interview.  I found out we grew up in the same county, she the “huge” metropolis of Lancaster, me in a wide place in the road near a cow patty, eighteen miles north.

I’ve often looked back on that moment.  I’ve often wondered what she saw in an immature hayseed from Indian Land, but she offered me a job teaching Physical Science and coaching and my life’s course had been set.

As the interview ended, I remember she leaned in as if to tell me a secret, instead asking a question, “Do you think you can work for a woman?”  An odd question in today’s era but this was the early Seventies and she was the first female principal in Greenville County.  I wanted the job badly and would have worked for an Orangutan.  No, I never said such and working for a woman was no problem.  Working for Koon was a joy of a lifetime.

If you are successful there are usually one or two people who impact you.  I was lucky…I had many impactful role models just at Mauldin, many who never realized their effect on my life.  Many who are now gone but not forgotten.

I was fortunate, I got to tell Marilyn how much she meant to me a year or so ago.  One person I didn’t get to tell was Jay Lunceford who passed too quickly to tell.  I find it particularly ironic to have learned of Marilyn’s passing on the anniversary of Jay’s.

Saddening but then the memories come flooding in.  I’m not sure how we survived to have memories.  God takes care of the young and stupid.  Oh, the stories I could tell but won’t…some of the people involved are still alive.

Koon will be missed but she’ll never really die either.  I have too much love.  Too many people owe her much…much love.  Too many people have the warm glow you associate with the warm morning sun and with Koon.

I have hopes she and Jay have met up somewhere in the cosmos, telling tales, laughing with each other, reminding us of what it was to be a Mauldin Maverick back in the day. “Do you remember when….”  You bet I do.

Koon, I’ll miss you, but I’ll still be laughing with you, telling tales of those days…the good old days.


Clarification:  Jay Lunceford was the head football coach and athletic director at Mauldin High School…and the father figure to Marilyn’s mother figure.  He too had a significant impact on my life.  Unfortunately, he passed way too soon in the late Seventies due to a brain tumor.  I believe he was thirty-two.

Don Miller writes on various subjects and his author’s page may be found at

The image is from an old yearbook.  Marilyn Koon Hendrix when she was still Marilyn Koon.  I pray she’s not looking down pointing a finger at me.

19 thoughts on “Deep Impact

  1. Thank you so much for this amazing tribute. 💙 I joined her family after she had retired and have heard many stories about her time at Mauldin. She was an amazing lady and touched so many people’s lives.

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  2. What a tribute to both of these great educators. Even though I never worked with either, the impact they had on Greenville County was amazing. We all wanted to be like Mauldin back then.

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  3. That was excellent Don. I came in in 1980 young and dumb but proud to be a Maverick under Ms. Koon. Student teaching and coaching. She said she would find me a job and she did. Learned many lessons at MHS.
    Thank you Ms. Koon for helping me become a teacher /coach.
    God Bless

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  4. Thanks, Don, for your insight, humor, and honesty. I too learned about Marilyn’s passing on the 41st anniversary of Jay’s death. I choose, like you, to believe they are together and enjoying each other with life’s stories and memories. Marilyn was the best. She leaves us all with memories – times of joy, laughter, and hope for young people (and all of us) growing up and living life to its fullest. God’s peace Marilyn and as always, God’s peace Jay.

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  5. Perfectly written, she was an amazing leader! From my experience 1980-1984 all the teachers and coaches were so committed I have great memories and stay in touch with many of my MHS friends Thanks to you all Gina Bowers DeLozier

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  6. She was a very strong and committed leader in education. She was determined to lead Mauldin High School’s faculty and student body to be one of the best in Greenville County. I am a proud graduate of Mauldin H.S, and admired her as a role model. She allowed me to come back and student teach years later. I have been an educator myself, both in South Carolina (8 years) and Florida (26 years) because of her wonderful influence! Thank you for this inspirational tribute!

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  7. What a beautiful tribute to a woman who so strongly influenced me. As a 1977 MHS graduate, I have tried to emulate her in my own 39 year career in education. She was bigger than life and will live on in all of us she took time to invest in. I have fond and fun memories of you as well. Take care. Kim

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  8. Don,
    What a great tribute, Don. It reminds me to make a call to my little hometown in Michigan to check up on one of mentors in life and teaching.

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