A Salute to Marie Botte

NOTES DA CAPO - By John Puffenbarger
September 1993

(Note: This past April I drove to Parkersburg, where Libby Henderson, Wood County music supervisor, introduced me to Marie Boette. Ms. Boette was full of charm, a delightful conversationalist, and very interested in music. In 1925 she served as secretary of the music section of the State Education Association, which was the forerunner of the WVMEA. Ms. Boette is 98)

"Why don't you tell him about the book you wrote?" asked Libby Henderson. Marie then related that when she taught at West Virginia Wesleyan College she began a compilation of ballads and songs to keep West Virginia's heritage of folk music alive. She drove her car around various parts of Upshur County and visited families who loved to sing. "I would listen to the songs and would later write down the words and notes. Then I would drive on down the road until I came to another home, and would stop and ask if I could hear some songs from them." She edited this book, Singa Hipsy Doodle and Other Folk Songs of West Virginia, which was printed in 1971 and distributed throughout the state.

Marie is a native of Parkersburg, and for most of her life and career has lived in that city. They youngest of five children, her father came to America from Germany, and she says that she inherited her musical ability from her father, who sang in Parkersburg's Germania Singing Society many years ago.

She began playing the family pump organ when she was very young, and she also took lessons on an upright piano. As a youngster she enjoyed excursions to Blennerhassett Island to hear band concerts, watch ball games, and explore the site of the Blennerhassett mansion. She began pipe organ study with Mrs. J.G. Cochran at the First Presbyterian Church at 10th and Market in Parkersburg, where she later became organist and director of music.

After graduating from Parkersburg High School, Marie entered Theil College in Greenville, Pennsylvania. After one year, she transferred to West Virginia Wesleyan, where she graduated. She also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in music education from New York University and a Master of Arts degree from Ohio University. She has been awarded honorary Doctor of Music degrees from West Virginia Wesleyan and Davis and Elkins colleges.

In 1914 Marie became a substitute teacher at McKinley School at a salary of $25 per month. In 1920, she became the first girl scout leader in the Parkersburg area. "I had four brothers in scouting. I was the only girl in our family, and I wanted girls to have a chance to participate in outdoor camping, also." (To be continued.)