Lois Shepard is a McAlester legend.

As a teacher, volunteer and civic leader she’s touched many lives over the years.

Shepard taught several generations of Pittsburg County students for more than 37 years.

“I’ve had a busy life,” Shepard said. “I’ll tell you for sure.”

Shepard graduated from Kiowa School as valedictorian in 1927. During her senior year, she did substitute teaching for the lower grades.

Shepard said that’s all it took. Her love for teaching was almost immediate.

“That’s where my desire to teach was created,” Shepard said.

While still in high school, Shepard passed the state teacher’s examination and was granted a one-year teaching certificate.

Shepard was a fast learner. One week after graduation she began teaching in a one-room school in the Madge District.

“I realized I needed teacher training,” Shepard said. “I didn’t want to disappoint my students.”

Soon after, she started classes at Southeastern Oklahoma State College at Durant. She earned her bachelor’s degree in 1941. She went on to receive a masters degree in education from Oklahoma State University in 1964.

Shepard taught a total of 37 years, including 14 years at Savanna schools and 20 years at Will Rogers Elementary School in McAlester. She said her students made it all worthwhile.

“I’ve had so many students from McAlester go on to make something of themselves,” Shepard said.

Shepard retired in 1972. She wishes she had been able to teach even longer.

“I still miss it,” Shepard said. “The classroom was the place I loved the best.”

Even after retirement, Shepard continued to reach new heights. She completed a real estate course sponsored by the state of Oklahoma and sold property for the next few years.

She also logged more than 11,000 hours of volunteer service at McAlester Regional Health Center.

In 1996, Shepard moved into Van Buren House Assisted Living Center.

“I moved in the day it opened,” Shepard said. “I’ve been here ever since.”

Shepard served five years as president of the Van Buren House residents’ council. She said one day she realized it was time to completely retire. After all, she’d spent more than half a century in leadership roles.

“One day I just said boys and girls, I think it’s time to find someone else,” Shepard said.

Now Shepard spends her days relaxing and reminiscing. Her favorite hobby is crocheting.

“I’ve been crocheting since I was seven,” Shepard said. “I made over 200 Afghans in 2002 and gave them all away.You can go anywhere in this building and see one laying there.”

Shepard turned 99 Aug. 2 and said she couldn’t be more happy with her life.

“I’m thankful I still have my right mind,” Shepard said. “I’ve done it all and it’s been most fulfilling.”