Skip to site content
The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

Teacher, researcher, musician, Marine

Connie Marine spent 27 years in education and won many accolades as a high school English teacher, including being chosen by the Fulbright Teacher Program in 2000 to spend six weeks in Japan to study its educational system. Marine loved her job and even went so far as to describe teaching as her calling. But eight years ago, the daily preparation required for teachers took its toll.

“At one point, I had to weigh the choice of hunting Easter eggs with my 2-year-old granddaughter or staying home to grade papers. I knew spending time with my granddaughter was more important,” she said.

That very May, Marine resigned. The president of the West Alabama Bank in Reform, Alabama, a friend and father of two of Marine’s past students, evidently pictured Marine with a different kind of calling and soon asked her if she wanted to work at the bank.

West Alabama Bank
d Club
Reform, Alabama

Born: Macon, Mississippi

Education: Bachelor’s degree in education, University of Montevallo; masters degree in administrative certification, University of West Alabama; postgraduate work at the University of Alabama; and graduate of Alabama Banking School.

Employment: Before her current position as loan officer and director of the Gold Club, Marine spent 27 years as a high school English teacher and assistant headmaster at an independent school. She was also an adjunct professor at two colleges.

Family: Two children: Larry, 37, and Lisa Ann, 32; and four grandchildren

Hobbies: Reading, traveling and playing the piano and violin. Currently, Marine is also busy transcribing Civil War letters to include in a special book.

“I told him I didn’t even balance my own checkbook, and he responded that it didn’t take a rocket scientist,” Marine said.

Today, this multitalented loan officer is also director of the bank’s Gold Club. “Three years ago, I volunteered to take over the group. I love to travel, and I thought I could add some life and vitality to the club, and hopefully, I have,” she said.

Designer tours

With her background in teaching, Marine was already a skilled researcher and organizer. A master in planning field trips, her motto had always been to give more than what was anticipated on a trip and, most importantly, have fun.

“I really like detail work. Learning about history, culture, even the designs of buildings is not only fun for me, but it assures me that the group won’t be stupefied on the bus for two hours,” she said.

With Marine’s attention to detail, the Gold Club travels are special even before members step onto the motorcoach. Each tour is titled, and brochures and itineraries are designed and decorated to reflect those themes.

Some examples are Wildflowers at DeSoto State Park in Alabama, a visit to a park known for its 900 species of wildflowers; Dining in the Delta, an overnight visit to the Alluvian Hotel in Greenwood, Mississippi, home of the Viking Cooking School; and Power of Local History, a daytrip to nearby Aliceville, Alabama, where the Aliceville POW Museum documents the 6,000 German prisoners who, during World War II, called this town home.

Headquartered in Reform, Alabama, the West Alabama Bank has 15 branches in eight counties in west central Alabama. The bank has assets of $550 million. The independently owned bank is celebrating its 65th birthday this year.

“I distribute all these themed brochures for the next year at a December luncheon. That way I can be assured my group members will have the dates open,” said Marine.

Education is the key

Although Marine obtained her master’s degree and completed postgraduate work years ago, she has never given up any opportunity to learn. She is not only the piano player at her church, but has also recently taken up the violin.

Marine explained: “I was reading a magazine about an adult strings group at the University of Alabama, and it piqued my interest. I always had an interest in the violin, so I’m now in this group that also includes the cello, viola and bass. Most of us are over 50, and I think we all waited this long because there were so many other tugs on our time.

“It’s such a nonstressful environment, but we did have a miniconcert in December and another one this past May, and we sounded so much better in May. Speaking for myself, I know I would be much better if I practiced more, but my goal is to learn Amazing Grace and Ashokan Farewell, a beautiful piece used as the title song in PBS television’s miniseries The Civil War.

“If I persevere, I know I’ll get there,” she said.

Marine’s interest in the Civil War extends to another project: transcribing 50 letters that were sent to her great-grandmother during the conflict. Marine is typing all the letters, which are difficult to read and in tattered condition, and placing copies of the originals beside them for a book she is making for her father’s 83rd birthday.

“Many a

Club members pose with a Deepo, a life-size Garibaldi fish mascot at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.

re by a man who I think was my great-grandmother’s former schoolmaster and, possibly, an admirer. He was in the Union Army, and he wrote vivid descriptions of battles and the scarcity of food and poor sleeping conditions, and while they are very formal letters, there is an underlying feeling of affection and admiration,” Marine said.

“The letters are so interesting and historically accurate about truces, we’ll often pull out the map and see exactly where he was when he was writing. On December 18, 1864, he wrote, ‘Cheers for Lincoln!’”

Marine’s travel philosophy is rooted in her own experiences traveling alone, journeys that included studying in Oxford, England, with an international studies program and teaching summer school in Hong Kong.

“Traveling by myself was so empowering; it’s incredible to realize you can do this by yourself,” she said.

• Be very organized. It may sound dull, but it’s so important.
• Show appreciation to your customers. I send thank-you notes after every trip to let them know I appreciate their business and friendship.
• Always make it fun for the traveler.

She quoted Mark Twain to describe that philosophy: “‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.’ My goal with the Gold Club is to broaden people’s horizons and enrich their lives,” she said.