Their safety net was always in place. The girls knew if they were homesick they could call their mother collect, and "there were a couple of college professors Daddy has called."
Together, they remember several decades of Longwood lore. Six of them had Dr. Rosemary Sprague for English "She was wonderful." Several had Dr. Elliott in education. They remember Dr. Gussett for math, Dr. Helms in history, and Dr. Moss who entered class in Ruffner through one of the windows instead of the door.
Now, each of the women brings to teaching what she learned from her mother and father and from years of sharing with seven siblings. They say they use a lot of common sense to teach special children, to meet each child's needs. Says Sarah Jane, "No matter what child, you can always find something good to bring out."
Longwood grads and one grad-to-be surround Christine Estes, mother and grandmother. From front left: Kimberly Goodwyn ('96), Crystal Nemeth ('02), Pamela Goodwyn ('96). Middle row: Mary Estes Goodwyn ('68), Betty Estes Ballard ('70), Christine Estes, Shirley Estes Watts ('71). Back row: Sarah Jane Estes Calhoun ('72), Marilyn Estes Wright ('75), Sandra Estes Nemeth ('77), Linda Estes Shelton ('78, MS '80) and Velva Kindley ('80, MS '81).
Discipline? They agree with Shirley: "We're all strong disciplinarians. Daddy said, 'You break that first one and you'll be fine.' Mother lectured; Daddy spoke one time he disciplined with his voice. No one at Longwood ever taught us as he did to discipline a child. A child knows by the tone of your voice."
The sisters have stayed close. Betty and Shirley live close to one another and talk every morning from 5:30 to 6 a.m. Linda and Sandra talk from 6 to 6:30 a.m. Family support saw them through the illness and death of Cabell Estes in 1995. Christine Estes continues the gift of unconditional love to their eight daughters, eight sons-in-law and 21 grandchildren.
One of these sons-in-law carries on the house moving business Kenneth Nemeth, Sandra's husband and Crystal's father, who graduated in 1978 with a degree in biology from ... Longwood.
This family has not gone unnoticed. In 1978 the State of Virginia honored Mrs. Estes as Merit Mother of the Year for Virginia. In 1980 Longwood honored the Estes at the graduation of their youngest daughter. Dr. Henry Willett, Jr., then Longwood president, presented them with eight engraved Jefferson cups. The family treasures a photo of Cabell Estes trying to shake Dr. Willett's hand and hold onto eight boxes of Jefferson cups.
Eight women. Some of whom teach former students' children; some now hire people whom they have taught. Some of them laugh about the appeal of the word retirement. But they all believe as Betty says, "God put us on this earth to teach."
These women smile through tears and remember a time just before their father's death when he said, "I was proud of them as babies, but I'm even more proud of them now." Longwood ladies.