Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Julia Mae Mullinax Darby | 1921-2012

Julia Mae Mullinax Darby had a passion for teaching children

GUERNSEY ESTATES — Until she was in her mid 20s, Julia Darby's future seemed headed down a contented and conventional path. She was the young mother of two daughters and a homemaker, leading the life that many women of her generation dreamed of.

The only problem was that her husband was fighting in World War II. She prayed for his safe return.

He did return, but as a changed man, according to Mrs. Darby's daughter, Kathy Geubtner. He drank heavily and she fled Tennessee, where she had lived most of her life, and came to Tampa, where her mother lived.

Here, she met and married her second husband, Ben Darby. They had two sons together before he died suddenly two years later, leaving the young Mrs. Darby with four children and no career.

So, she went back to school, studying elementary education at the University of Tampa. In her mid 40s, she graduated first in her class and spent the next 20 years teaching Hillsborough County first-graders. Other than her family, teaching proved to be the most profound passion in her life.

Mrs. Darby passed away Feb. 1, after suffering a massive stroke. She was 90 years old.

"I used to tease her about being first in her class," said her daughter, Kathy Geubtner. "She'd say 'Well, it wasn't a very bright class.' "

At UT she met Carolyn Andersen, another aspiring teacher who became her close friend.

"I've had a lot of good friends," Andersen said, "but she was the best friend I ever had. She was a really, really loyal friend."

They began their career together at Lanier Elementary School. When the principal of Lanier left to become the first principal of Crestwood Elementary in 1970, he asked both Andersen and Mrs. Darby to become part of the founding faculty. They taught at Crestwood for the rest of their careers.

"She was an excellent teacher," Andersen said. "Not only did the principal love her, but all the kids loved her."

Mrs. Darby had a special connection with Crestwood's youngest students. After a few years of teaching first grade, she was asked to give second grade a try. After just one year she asked to go back to first grade.

"She loved the little ones," Geubtner said. "She absolutely adored them. She spent her life wiping noses and zipping up zippers."

Mrs. Darby's passion for teaching was so strong that she taught even on her days off. For 31 years, she taught Sunday school at Bayshore Baptist Church.

After she retired from Crestwood she volunteered to start a library at Bayshore Baptist, even returning to schools to learn new skills. She ran the library for 21 years. The church named the library for her, but soon after she left the library, it closed.

Still, she hosted a Bible study class in her home for many years.

Mrs. Darby had health problems in recent years, but led an active life. She enjoyed the company of 97 friends at her 90th birthday part last year.

Her unexpected death earlier this month shook her family and friends.

"She was my mother, but as soon as I left home we were best friends, and we just kept getting closer," Geubtner said. "We talked on the phone every day. I can't tell you how much I'm going to miss those phone calls."

Besides Geubtner, Mrs. Darby is survived by her sons Ben and Bob, four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Marty Clear writes life stories about Tampa residents who have recently passed away. He can be reached at mclear@tampabay.rr.com.

Julia Mae Mullinax Darby had a passion for teaching children 02/18/12 [Last modified: Saturday, February 18, 2012 3:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump's lawyers seek to undercut Mueller's Russia investigation

    Politics

    Some of President Donald Trump's lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president's authority to grant pardons, the Washington Post reported, citing people familiar …

    President Donald Trump is said to be irritated by the notion that the special counsel's investigation could reach into his and his family's finances. [Associated Press]
  2. North Tampa shooting leaves one man dead

    Crime

    Times staff

    TAMPA — A man was fatally shot Thursday afternoon after an argument with another man escalated, police said.

  3. St. Pete City Council tightens building rules in historic areas

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — There's a battle being waged over the soul of the city's historic neighborhoods.

    A new larger home sits next to a smaller one in the Kenwood neighborhood in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.
  4. Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze resigns over 'inappropriate conduct' (w/ video)

    College

    OXFORD, Miss. — Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze was at Jackson Country Club on Wednesday night, giving his yearly rah-rah speech about the Rebels overcoming adversity and getting ready for the college football season.

    If Hugh Freeze hadn’t resigned, Ole Miss says it would have fired him for violating his contract’s moral turpitude clause.
  5. Fennelly: With playoff chase in high gear, it's time for Rays to make a move

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG

    Thursday was an off-day for the Rays, who are coming off a solid western swing. I assume there was no rest for the tag-team Rays baseball brain trust of Matt Silverman, Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom, whose job it is to improve this team in advance of the trade deadline. They've done a good job …

    Evan Longoria is glad to see the Rangers coming to town: He’s batting .296 against them with 15 homers and 56 RBIs in 69 career games.