As they started to realize who she was, people in the long line at the Patrick County Branch Library cheerfully congratulated Lindsey Marshall.
A graduate in May from Patrick County High School, Marshall is the recipient of the scholarship given out in celebration of the release of county resident Martin Clark’s latest book, “The Substitution Order,” at his book-signing event Tuesday. The money the five-time author would have spent on a fancy book release party, plus proceeds from sales of the book, went instead to the scholarship Marshall was selected to receive.
“The turnout and sales were by far the highest I’ve ever had,” Clark said — and they resulted in a check for $15,011 given to Marshall that night.
Library branch manager Garry Clifton said 856 were at the library Tuesday, a day when the average attendance is between 200 and 250. “We are always thrilled to have our local author in our local library,” he added.
“We have pledged another $30,000 over three years to Lindsey,” Martin said.
The book was launched officially at that event by its publisher, Alfred A. Knopf.
Also there Tuesday night was Clark’s high school English teacher, Ann Belcher, who not only proofreads his books but also, on his request, chose the scholarship recipient.
Many solid candidates
It was difficult to choose from among the 21 students nominated for the award, she said.
“We got some fabulous nominations,” she said. “Many would have been very deserving.”
Clark “put absolutely no stipulations whatsoever as far as the selection,” Belcher said.
In trying to identify the recipient she said she kept in mind what she figured Clark’s values and goals to be: “One of his missions is to help others ... or leave a positive impact on somebody’s life. I felt like Lindsey reflects what he might appreciate.”
Marshall was on the high school basketball team, and she coaches the Patrick Prowls, a basketball team for sixth-grade boys and middle school girls.
The daughter of Angie Marshall of Patrick Springs and Jeff Marshall of Ararat, she said it has been her dream since early childhood “to really play basketball.”
She had set her sights on Randolph College in Lynchburg because “they have a really good education program, and I like the basketball team,” Marshall said.
However, when she found out it would cost her $22,000 a year after financial aid to attend, she decided to start out at Patrick Henry Community College instead.
Learning that she would receive the scholarship “totally took me by surprise,” she said.
Now she’s back to her original plan of attending Randolph College for all four years.
Belcher said Clark asked her in the spring to choose the recipient, and she “took Martin’s request ... very seriously.”
A school guidance counselor prepared for her a spreadsheet “with a lot of information” about each student, and she also had letters the students had written about themselves, recommendations others had made about them and the informal familiarity with many of them that small-town living brings to guide her as she made her decision.
Belcher said what impressed her about Marshall was that “she has goals, and she works really hard to achieve them” — getting started on that at 5:30 each morning.
She said she also thought it was good that Marshall plans to return to Patrick County after college to be a physical education teacher.
Education is Belcher’s family line. Her mother, the late Orea Rakes, taught at Woolwine. Her husband, Larry Belcher, taught at Hardin Reynolds and was a principal there and at Patrick Springs, and the couple’s only child, Monica Gonzalez, is a teacher at Stuart Elementary School.
The Belchers have three grandchildren, Camille Gonzalez, 11, Suzanne Gonzalez, 14, and Burke Gonzalez, who was graduated with Marshall in May and plans to attend the University of Virginia.
Belcher’s teaching career spanned 31 years, from 1969 to 2000. Her first year was in Woolwine, and then she taught Spanish and English at Patrick County High School.
After retirement, she taught part-time at the community college for five years.
Belcher is “a remarkable English teacher who taught me the grammar and construction rules that I still use today,” Clark wrote in an email. “She is a Patrick County institution and a treasure.
“To this day she still reads and corrects my manuscripts, often spotting errors that the very best editors at Knopf miss.”
Throughout her childhood her mother insisted the family speak properly, Belcher said, and that attitude stuck with her. She also admitted to having “a Type A” personality, plus she enjoys “word puzzles and things like that, and spelling has always intrigued me.”
“She has helped, impacted, shaped, encouraged and educated so very many students,” Clark wrote, “and always done so with the highest degree of skill and professionalism.”
Said Belcher: “I just think in Patrick County we have a good school system and we’ve had good parents who support their kids, and we’ve had good kids who have worked hard and been successful.”
Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.