In Remembrance: Adventurous woman tried to pass on life's lessons to others

If not for her mother's persistence and a 1,750-page book of home remedies, Thora Snow Hankins might not have lived past the age of four, let alone 84.

"They told me I was a sickly child," Hankins wrote in her 142-page memoir "Life is a Classroom." "When I was almost four, they propped me up on a chair, told me to smile, and took a picture to remember me by."

Hankins had other ideas — paths to explore and young minds to shape. She died March 18 in Boise.

Hankins had a gift for playing music and for teaching — but education won out over a career as a professional concert pianist. Her first teaching job earned her $90 a month at Iona Grade School, followed by assignments at Malad and Riverside elementary schools, Central Intermediate School and O. E. Bell Junior High, all in southeastern Idaho.

When Glenn Hankins, a ticket agent for Greyhound Bus Lines entered her life in 1947, a new chapter began.

"Our dates consisted of a wide variety of adventures, more than I'd been used to," she said in her memoir. "Almost every weekend we'd take a ride out in the country to fish, or the hills to look for deer, or we'd adventure into some out-of-the-way ghost town."

The couple married in 1948.

The Hankins' adventures continued throughout their lives at many exotic locales, including Mexico, Canada, Hawaii and Europe. The couple's three sons, Robbin, Scott and Roger, gained an extraordinary education and learned valuable life lessons their mom observed in her classrooms.

"One of the biggest things was tolerance and to not be judgmental," Roger Hankins said. "You shouldn't judge a person by how they look, she'd say. First impressions aren't necessarily the best."

Scott Hankins admired his mother's sense of humor and spirit of adventure.

"Something I've carried with me was her ability to lighten situations with humor. She was a real cut-up, always joking," Scott Hankins said. "And she was never afraid to experience new things."

Hankins began teaching at Lowell Elementary School in 1966. In 1972, she transferred to Koelsch Elementary. Her last teaching assignment began in 1981 at Taft Elementary.

Following 32 years of educating Idaho's youth, Hankins retired in 1987 amid much fanfare. Her last day, the school was decorated inside and out with banners and signs declaring it to be "Thora Hankins Day."

After retirement, Hankins began writing her life history.

"My purpose in writing was mostly for my benefit. I don't pretend to have all the answers, yet it puts my mind to rest to know that at least I understand most of the reasons," Hankins said. "Struggling to put it on paper instead of rolling around in my head has been a kind of self-therapy. Let me know if you find your answers — I am still looking."

In Remembrance is a weekly profile on a local resident who has recently died. Contact Boise news assistant Stephanie Eddy at seddy@idahostatesman.com or 377-6481.