Oakboro native, passionate about softball fields, schools and museums – The Stanly News & Press

The community of Oakboro recently lost one of its primary citizens with the passing of Anabel Speight.

Known for her work with the Oakboro Regional Museum, the former Stanly West teacher helped start a sport in the county that Stanly is now among the most productive in the state in terms of high school championships.

Speight founded Stanly’s first fastpitch softball team. She was inducted into the Dixie Youth Softball Hall of Fame in 2011 and was also a coach at West Stanly High School, where she won the Coach of the Year award for the Rocky River Conference in 1980 and 1981 .

Speight coached for over 20 years, coaching the high school team while taking the West Stanly Dixie Youth Debs (high school players) to back-to-back World Series appearances in 1978 and 1979. In 2007, the Dixie Darling Youth World A series has been dedicated to him.

The sport eventually expanded in the county to include Dixie Youth softball teams of all ages and high school programs. Three of Stanly’s schools won the NCHSAA State Championships in fastpitch softball, including West Stanly. The Colts won titles in 1997, 2013, 2019 and 2021, while South Stanly won titles in 1998 and 2012 and North Stanly in 2017.

Speight taught for five years at Oakboro, starting in 1972 after graduating from it when it was still a K-12 school. She later started the Save Oakboro School project to keep the school open. After it closed, it reopened as Oakboro Choice STEM School.

From 1977 to 1999, she taught at West Stanly and was active in the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes club. She was West’s Teacher of the Year in 1997 and Outstanding Club Counselor for the NC District Junior Civitans in 1990. Speight was also named West Stanly Players Volunteer of the Year in 2009.

Oakboro City Councilor Bud Smith worked for many years as the manager of West Stanly. He described Speight as “a doer”.

“She has never sat on the sidelines,” he said. “She was always busy helping or volunteering for a good cause. She had relentless energy, empathy for others, and enthusiasm.

Speight was also well known for volunteering at the Oakboro Museum and helping it open in 1999. She was honored by the museum in 2001 for her outstanding involvement, vision and expertise.

Oakboro Police Chief TJ Smith, who was a friend of Speight’s family, called her “an Oakboro champion.”

When it comes to the museum, TJ Smith said she was really a part of it.

“She loved the story. She loved Oakboro and school… she meant everything to me and what Oakboro stands for, and I admired her, ”he said.

With his passing, as well as the recent passing of Ted Lilly, the Chief said he hopes others will take over for what they have taught the city.

“The love of Ted and the story and education of Anabel… I hope we can take a part of it and can continue to move forward in a positive light,” said the chef.

Speight was actively involved with the Big Lick Baptist Church and its family, according to City Councilor Smith.

“She will be sorely missed by all of us. She has done so much for so many people.