Lillian Olrich moved to Manassas, Virginia nearly seventy years ago. She took an old, scrappy bus from Manhattan and so began the greatest adventure of her life. One of her first visit in this quaint little town, famous for its Civil War battles, was at Cocke’s Pharmacy. Lillian did not know what was in store for her in a known, which she had only become familiar with through history books.
The Early Days
She applied for a job as a history teacher at Osbourne High. On reaching there, she was introduced by the principal in a not so polite manner, as a ‘damn Yankee’. This was only done to the all-white students.
Regardless, Lillian imagined herself staying on in this obscure little farming town. She said, “As soon as I got here, I knew this place was where I could do the most good.” However, Lillian did not expect that she would still be there sixty years later.
The seasoned teacher and guidance counselor of both Osbourn High and Osbourn Park High finally retired. She performed her duties faithfully for over 67 years. She reminisces about all the students who have come through the schools and her office. She remembers all their happy, sad and trying experiences. She has many stories to remember.
The students, who visited her windowless office, since the seventies, knew her as ‘Miss O’. They confidently came to her seeking solutions about academic issues, family problems, friendship drama and the hidden plagues of their home life.
Lillian has catered to children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren, of her former students. She can boast of how successful her students have been in life. Many of them becoming accountants, politicians, lawyers, nurses, doctors and even teachers; the mayor of the city, Hal Parrish, remembered being in her social studies class from the 1960s. David Robinson, an NBA star, also recalled visiting her office on occasion in the 1980s.
She has been a lifelong spinster, opting not to marry; and serving her school family for many generations. Her siblings and parents have long passed on. She counts those who she worked with daily as her family. Orlich stated, from her long time blue and gold desk, “I don’t have any living relatives. These are my relatives.”
Lillian is entirely dedicated to her school family and has spent many decades proving this. She is known for getting to the office as early as 3 a.m. and accommodating parents as early as 5 a.m. she would also ‘man the fort’ until the administrative staff came in at 7 a.m. she surmised that she would spend her last days there and in the school auditorium is where her funeral would be kept. “I thought that I would die on the job. I thought that one day they’d find me here and that I’d be dead as a doornail,” she said.
However, that was not to be, as Lillian’s health had grown poorly over the years. Regardless, she aims to make frequent visits after retirement. Lillian started a newsletter called ‘Money Tree’. It showcases scholarships and this she will do from her old office until is occupied by her replacement.
Lillian As A Teacher
One of her former students, Parrish remember that she was strict the students performing well academically. He recalled there being an administrative panel which would vigilantly interview the students on historical facts; a bit scary, but many students performed well. “She had students who were competent and worked hard and listened to her because of her demand for excellence. Many of us went on to do things that were good for not only their careers but their communities, too,” said Parrish. He continued on, to graduate from the University of Virginia at the top of his class.
Lillian As A Counselor
Lillian shifted her focus to school counseling because she would rather work with her students one on one. Nonetheless, she remained involved in many activities. Lillian even got involved with the JROTC program as a cadet, in the 2990s, to help. She did all the activities, in her neatly pressed uniform, including the drills.
The auditorium is named after this great woman and she had been in attendance of all the events there. Megan, a graduate of Osbourn Park High in 2001 said, “She was like the matriarch of the school, She is part of the school, like the foundation of it.” Lynch returned to the school to teach English language and works steadfastly Lillian Orlich.
No matter the seriousness of the issues that face students at the school, Lillian has demonstrated her worth and as being one of the dedicated counselors in the country. Lillian helped students deal with trauma, death, grief and she has done this with an unwaveringly calm nature that she has been known to have.
There was a time when one of their students was about to tell her parents about her pregnancy. Lynch recalls Lillian handling the situation with such care and seriousness. She was the one to facilitate the discussion and provided further guidance and support to the young woman. Lynch reiterated, “She was a calming influence and kind of a reassuring influence. I knew this lady has probably seen it all as far as difficult discussions go.”
The New York City native has a first degree from Hunter College and she pursued her history masters at the New York University. After finishing up her courses in education and school counseling, Lillian then answered the call from an administrator of the school, to be their history teacher. She came back to the school in 1960, after leaving for a New Jersey school in 1957. It was then that she started the Advanced Placement program.
There have been many radical changes that have been experienced throughout the years at both the schools and within the community; regardless, Lillian Olrich has been there throughout all of them. The once segregated school is no longer segregated, one of the biggest changes there. The farms have transformed into subdivisions and the number of students has increased dramatically. As such, Lillian Olrich has had to serve hundreds of students at any one time and she has risen to the challenge, happily.
Lillian said regardless of the continued changes throughout the years, “My first role is to be a listener.” This she highlighted was the core function of her job and would always be the case, no matter how many people she helped.
Lillian now faces this new twist in her life with the same fearlessness as she did seventy years ago.
Author: Julie Bradley
I’m a freelance writer. Deeply engaged in studying education topics. I have experience in writing works for famous media and educational blogs. I have my own blog on Studymoose.com. I also help students with writing essays and dissertations. I believe that the right choice of the topic is 90% success.