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Fredericksburg, VA 22401
June Davis McCormick
As another new year begins, four more classmates were reported to have died in the past six months; they shall be missed and remembered.
Sarah Elizabeth “Libby” Phelps Beard passed away peacefully in Sugar Land, Texas, on June 23, just after her 90th birthday. Born in Knoxville, Iowa to Claude A. Phelps and Glenn Gaylord Phelps, during the Great Depression the Phelps family moved to Birmingham, Michigan where Libby grew up. She attended MWC with our class, graduating with a BA degree in psychology. While studying in Fredericksburg, Libby met her future husband, Donald Chamberlain Beard, “Mr. Don”, and they were married in 1951 at Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church in Bloomfield Hills. MI. Soon afterwards, Mr. Don began a 35-year employment with Shell Oil Company, transferring every two or three years to a different state. The last transfer was in 1973 to Houston, TX where the Beards were active members of Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church. Although never employed outside the home, Libby enjoyed a full life complete with managing each Shell transfer, volunteering in each new community, school and church where the family lived. Her favorite was teaching Sunday School. Libby’s family and friends were blessed by her outgoing personality, interacting with new people and offering her prayers for all she knew. Libby is preceded in death by “Mr. Don”, her husband of 53 years, her parents, a brother, four sisters and a niece. She is survived by three daughters and sons-in-law, four grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. With Alzheimer’s disease in later years, the family was especially grateful to the staff and caregivers of Silverado Senior Living and Hospice in Sugar Land for the superb care of Libby during the last years of her life.
Patsy Anne Jones Chewing of Rockford, Illinois died at 88 on July 22. Patsy was born in 1928 to her parents Robert E. and Mary Parr Jones of Fredericksburg. With easy access to MWC, Patsy joined our class as a freshman and obtained her BS degree in commerce. Patsy married Stanley B. Chewing in Fredericksburg on October 21, 1951.
She then worked as a Librarian for the College of DuPage for several years and was a
loving mother and grandmother over the years. Her husband Stanley predeceased her on October 16, 2016, only days short of their 65th anniversary. Patsy is predeceased by her parents and two brothers. She is survived by two sons, four grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and a brother. Patsy’s family offered special thanks to the staff at Fairhaven Christian Retirement Center of Rockford and the Northern Illinois Hospice caregivers for their excellent care.
On August 28, Dorothi Matheney Blake departed this life for the next from final
complications of Alzheimer’s disease. Whether fully cognizant or not, she had attained her 91st birthday only a week earlier. Dot was born on August 20, 1926 near Millboro, Virginia in Bath County. Dottie was an active member of our class, earned her BA in history and taught for several years in Rockbridge County. She had married R. Turner Blake in 1954. Dottie was an avid gardener and a wonderful cook. She also enjoyed needlework and met weekly with her quilting circle. She had a great laugh and a well-developed sense of humor. She never met a stranger and would welcome any new neighbors with homemade bread and preserves. She was active at Second Baptist Church in the Sunday School class and in infant care during the worship hour. Turner and Dottie had a great marriage and their children are forever grateful for the love they provided and the sacrifices they made in their behalf. Dot was preceded in death by her husband, Turner, her parents, Edward and Bettie Matheney and her sister, Janice. She is survived by her son and two daughters and also by her five grandchildren whom she adored. A celebration of her life was held at Second Baptist Church in Richmond, Va. in September, also with special thanks offered to the patient staff at Lakewood Manor for her tender final care.
Our last classmate’s demise to be reported was that of Cornelia “Nell” Avery Stone, 88, of Spotsylvania County who passed away in November at her home. She was the daughter of the late Frank and Vinola Hudson Avery of Fredericksburg, and taught PE classes prior to her marriage to John W. Stone, U.S. Navy. Following their marriage, the couple traveled the world with the Navy, raising their family in various ports including Puerto Rico, Japan and Hawaii. Wherever they were stationed, Nell made it their home. With their return to Fredericksburg, she was a dedicated member of the Presbyterian Church, Spotsylvania Family and Community Educators, Daughters of the American Revolution and Kenmore Stitchery Club. She was a homemaker and a seamstress. She enjoyed needlework, knitting, refinishing furniture, and working in her vegetable and flower gardens. Her family always was her priority. She welcomed every member of her extended family into her home with her bright smile, love and affection. Nell is survived by her husband of 67 years, retired Navy Master Chief John Stone, their three sons and their wives, a daughter and son-in-law, seven grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, a sister, a brother and numerous nieces and nephews. Memorials also were made to Alzheimer’s Research.
For the first time in ten years, Betty Bond Heller Nichols and her family members didn’t spend their usual fun-filled time at the beach in July. While they all missed it terribly, there were too many other family events going on, with one grandchild graduating from high school, another graduating from Drexel in Philadelphia, two with immediate summer jobs (one being a counselor at a boys camp in Durango, Colorado), they just couldn’t find a week when they all could be together. With advance planning, perhaps they can make it happen this year. Betty Bond said she had heard from her BFF, Jane Yeatman Spangler who, together with her daughter Jan, planned to drive from their home in Concord, NC to Pennsylvania the first week in August. As usual, they hoped to stop to visit B.B. in Lexington on their trip home. Their return date was on one of B.B.’s scheduled three-times-weekly dialysis days, and if their planned date could be changed, Betty Bond hoped to see them both. Jan, a registered nurse, lives with her mother, and was about to retire from her official nursing duties. Jane knows she is truly blessed to have Jan as her resident caregiver. Speaking of the four BFFs, Betty Bond had also checked on the other two, Dorothy Booker Pinkham and Charlotte Baylis Rexon, saying that both Dottie and Chot were about the same. Bless them all!
September brought Hurricanes Harvey and Irma to Texas and Florida, causing much concern for our resident classmates in areas of both states. With faulty or non-existent email addresses for 5 classmates in Texas and 8 others in various areas of Florida, it took several days to learn that they were not in harm’s way. Katherine “Kate” Mayo Schmidt, longtime resident of Houston before moving further north to Palestine, TX, was grateful to learn that her friends in Houston also were safe, although there was devastation over both states. Kate and many other baseball fans then were overjoyed when the Houston Astros survived a seesaw set of six games to win the World Series in October, giving Houston ample reason to celebrate their hard-fought championship.
After enjoying a 3-day trip to New York with a group from her Woodland Retirement residence in Fairfax, Va. to see three musicals, Elizabeth “Betty” Fischer Gore also took a Royal Caribbean cruise in September up the New England coast into Canada. While several of her group visited various ports of call, Betty only went ashore in Maine and the Bay of Fundy, preferring to stay aboard to enjoy reading and relaxation. While she also joined some of the planned activities on board, Betty especially appreciated the
passing scenery and peaceful voyage.
Last year marked many special birthdays for several classmates, the 90th being one to celebrate and appreciate. June Davis McCormick hit her 90th in February and enjoyed the thoughtful and loving wishes of family and friends, especially a great MWC surprise tribute originated by two special friends in the Alumni Office, Executives Donna Harter and Jan Clarke. In October, Joyce Hamilton Eisler was given a beautiful birthday party by her son and his wife in their West Chester, Pa. home. All of their families were present, plus husband Joe’s two brothers. The highlight of the celebration was the presentation of a large picture album/book of Joyce’s life. She said it was the most memory-filled album she had ever seen, representing a tribute of love over the many years. Joyce added that she and Joe continued to enjoy good health and were looking forward to the Christmas holidays and the New Year. In honoring Betty Gore’s ongoing friendship, service and support to our alma mater, Donna and Jan made a special trip to Fairfax in November to take Betty for a birthday luncheon in celebration of her 90th! A photo of a beautiful Betty accompanied the report of her special day. There may have been several other birthday celebrations during the year of which we were unaware, but the icing on the cake came from Marion Selfe Kelly who said there had been a qrand party on November 11 at Westminster Canterbury in Lynchburg. With 53 celebrants in attendance, family and friends from far and wide, including their two little great-granddaughters, the very special occasion honored husband George’s 100th natal
anniversary! That’s right, the century mark! Marion said George continues to be hale and hearty and she feels so lucky and blessed. With an added wry query, Marion asked if she might be the only one of our classmates who nightly sleeps with a hundred-year-old man?
On the subject of birthday parties, Barbara Trimm Wright in South Hill, Va. wrote of having attended a lovely one last fall which was big and beautiful, with more than 100 guests present. Barbara really enjoyed the occasion but noted it only marked a 75th natal anniversary, calling the honoree “a mere child.” Barbara mentioned not having a lot of stamina these days, saying when she does something for three days in a row, she needs to take it easy for the next two days to recuperate. No big surprise there, Barb!
Kathryn “K.D.” Wright Drake wrote of having the first snow in Tennessee in ages with everyone excited to see the white flakes falling. Now living in Chattanooga, she
recalled living in Michigan for four years after they were married and their children were young. While they didn’t care for the cold weather, they enjoyed the white winters when the children could sled over snow-covered streets and yards. Earlier, KD wrote of the special Veteran’s Day celebration at their Creekside Independent Retirement home. The day began with a National Guard unit leading the salute to the flag, an inside Veteran’s Wall with pictures and names of Veteran residents and a dance that night where red, white and blue attire was an added tribute to the occasion. In all, that was quite a memorable celebration of Veteran’s Day.
From her long-time residence in Bethesda, Md., Margaret “Peggy” Walton Mason
sent Thanksgiving greetings and best wishes to all our classmates. Still in her ‘50s or
“mid-century” home , she said very little has changed there, for which she is most grateful. She has a new great-granddaughter in Decatur, Ga. named Margaret Ann,
especially in her honor. Sweet, Peggy. Just before Thanksgiving, Kate Mayo Schmidt
learned of the passing of her best friend with whom she grew up in Radford. Saddened
to realize that her BFFs from Radford and MWC all now are gone, she said she had not planned to be the “last one standing.” Kate is grateful for her remaining family, small though it is. They did enjoy a lovely Thanksgiving together and her son, Bill, Jr., stayed for an extra week. Kate anticipated a very quiet Christmastime, hoping to think of all her loving memories.
With the annual re-running of the TV movie, “Eloise at Christmastime” which is the 2003 sequel to ”Eloise at The Plaza”, in which Corinne “Conni” Conley Stuart had a continuing, billed role as “Mrs. Thornton”, perhaps some of you had the opportunity, and time, to see it again, or for the first time. While still active in Toronto, at age 88 the auditions are fewer, but she had five interviews for parts just recently and thinks the preparation of learning lines keeps her mind alert! Conni passed along news of her ol’ roomies and BFFS, Norah Pitts Byrnes and Betsy Thorne Bultman ’50. Norah has moved from East Point, Ga. south to Summerville, Ga. where one of her sons lives and is the principle of a school there. Betsy is quite comfortable in her own recent move to a lovely condo in Columbia, S.C. and has visited Norah in her new home, saying she is very happy to be near her son, ‘Topher (family nickname for Christopher?) and his own extended family. Betsy and Norah spent the Christmas holidays together in Columbia, still enjoying each other’s company and shared memories. When Conni chose Christmas
cards in the gift shop of the Art Gallery in Toronto, she needed only one look to scream: “Primm!” The cards she chose said “artist unknown” about the intricate artwork depicted, but Conni, having received those familiar, original designs for over 60 years, instantly recognized the artist as Sarah Primm Felicity Turner ffrench, another suitemate and BFF! With a name, and talent, like that, Conni felt that Primm’s artistry should be properly identified and credited. Perhaps Conni might notify the ffrench daughters of the oversight. They still run the business of their late mother and father, notably their exclusive, annual silk-screened calendars.
Receiving an update about our dear Dolores “Dee” May Ross, you might like to know that the executor of her estate recently reported the sale of her house, originally her sister Anne’s, to the friends who, after Dee’s demise, have been caring for her adored little dog, Joe, who gave her much joy. So Joe actually was going back to where he started with Anne, then Dee and now with these friends. He truly is a lucky little dog, and seems to have brought a lot of happiness and purpose to the lives of many people! Having asked also about the two portraits of Dee and Anne their father had commissioned, they were donated to UMW’s collection and are now being cataloged. They eventually will be hung in the bedroom suite Dee donated to the Kalnen Inn of the Jepson Alumni Center. During each return for special events, Dee enjoyed staying in “the Ross Room” there. Both Dee and sister Anne Ross Parks ’46 had established scholarships in honor of their parents and Dee contributed a second scholarship for education students in Anne’s memory. You may recall that Dee also chaired a committee to form our own Class of 1949 scholarship several years ago, which continues to benefit our recipients. However, a current report indicates that the recent awarding of the annual amount now exceeds the incoming donations. To keep our awards going, please consider stipulating all or part of your annual contribution to our Class scholarship. End of commercial; now back to our program!
A faithful reporter of news for Class Notes, Harriet Scott Brockenbrough recently has brightened our column with her happy reports of returning to her original home in Onancock on the Eastern Shore. Chatham now is part of a vineyard and winery, but Harriet and her sons have been there frequently and are now welcome visitors by the appreciative new owners, who have learned much from Harriet about the historic home and area. Having spent a recent Thanksgiving there and other weekends with her boys, they were there again in October. Harriet’s youngest son, Tom, casually remarked that it would be fun to spend Christmas there. The thought quickly bore fruit as Harriet then rented the house for 4 nights, December 22nd through the 26th! Her after-Christmas report of their holiday adventure was a joy to receive and read. Harriet said their Christmas was a dream come true! With two of her sons and an invited cousin from Maryland present, they also had local friends and neighbors visiting throughout their stay. Her original home now is called the “Vineyard House” as part of the winery. When she arrived, son Tom was already there putting the final decorations on their own Christmas tree which was placed in the same spot the family tree always stood. He also had decorated inside and out and the entire house looked very festive. Harriet got in her car only once to drive just over a mile away on Christmas Eve to the lovely little Hungars Church where the first minister had been assigned in 1623, and where most of her family and her beloved Ben are buried. The first two days were warm enough for their walks through the woods, to look over the water behind the house, explore the barns and other out-buildings and to visit Chatham House and the winery. When it turned cold, they had a fire in the fireplace and were as cozy as could be as they enjoyed the many familiar foods Harriet had prepared. The house has not changed much and is beautifully furnished and so comfortable it was easy to lapse right back into being there. Harriet had always loved the view from her bedroom window and her special gift from Tom was a lovely framed painting of that very scene, which she now enjoys daily in her Covenant Woods setting in Mechanicsville. The entire visit was such fun, Harriet now has a standing reservation to spend Christmas there as long as she can drive across the iconic Chesapeake Bay Bridge, or her sons can get her there and back. She said she couldn’t have asked for more, other than to have more of her family there. Son Allen’s daughter was home for the holidays and son Scott and Jenny were settling into their new home in Arizona, after leaving the Kirkland, Washington area so Jenny could gradually prepare for retirement, which her Seattle law practice did not allow. Aware of summer’s record heat in Arizona, Harriet’s visits now will change to another time of year. But she still hopes to have all four sons and their families all together for one very special Christmas in her original home. Surely, Harriet proved Thomas Wolfe was in error; you CAN go home again! Thank you, Harriet, for that lovely word picture.
Betty Bond Heller Nichols later reported having a wonderful Christmas with all the grandkids together, plus Cathy and her husband. The only missing link in the family chain was son Kevin, but they talked with him by phone. B.B. continues her weekly visits to her special sing-a-long group at Kendal, a retirement facility where they know all the familiar songs she plays for their songfests and enjoyment. She admits that her dialysis schedule has its ups and downs, but realizes it’s keeping her alive so she can’t complain too much! Her new answer to people who ask how she’s doing is to reply, “I’m maintaining.” Ever generous with her time and her music, B.B. knew that June and Conni had been unable to properly download her extraordinary piano program using their computers. Learning that her recorded program was made available on YouTube, she was surprised to hear that it now has gone “viral” which sounded to her like a virus of some kind! Knowing that Conni planned to return to St. Louis at Christmastime to be with her son Curtis and his family. Betty Bond graciously sent a DVD to June for their planned meeting and mutual enjoyment. If you wish to have God smile, tell Him your plans!
Now for a rare personal note: In the days of preparation between Thanksgiving and Christmas, a sudden health problem caused unusual and painful concern. Thinking she somehow had broken a rib, June consulted her primary doctor of many years. He quickly ordered an X-ray, followed by a CT scan, followed by a PET scan (with no puppies or kittens in view) and, finally with the diagnosis in hand, set up the necessary biopsy. The result then sent her to an oncologist and the prognosis. It was not good, but a further test gave a more encouraging report, not a cure, but a possible slowing down of the end result. Given a “one in a million” chance for a slowing therapy, the oncologist reported his surprise when the results came in, a match of my “markers” would allow that therapy, a six-week process. At the end of the six weeks we might learn whether it had been helpful and might continue. As this is written, we’re now three weeks into the I.V. therapy and awaiting the rest.
Meanwhile, Conni was alerted to the sudden change of our usual plans. When she arrived, the family again spent a relaxing Christmas at nearby Innsbrook. With many events to pursue and enjoy during her stay, we finally met to view Betty Bond’s music program on a full TV screen, up close and beautiful. Conni’s family sat with us to also enjoy her magic and were duly impressed by what we have known for these many years…B.B., always a self-described accompanist, is a true performer!
This was the start of June’s 39th year as Class Agent for our special group she had named The Fabulous Forty-Niners, she had planned to make it an even 40 years of service. And God smiled. With a deep bow to those who preceded her, Ann McCaskill Libis, the late Irvin “Kitten” Whitlow Westbrook and Anna “Andi” Dulany Lyons, we now need a new Class Agent to keep our classmates informed, involved and supportive of our beloved alma mater. The obvious nominee to take over would seem to be… Harriet Scott Brockenbrough, who has been devoted to her group of high school BFFs, a caring friend to her MWC best friends, an active traveler AND a prolific and highly observant writer. We hope to persuade her to take the task, a labor of love, but still a labor. If she accepts, she will need the support and cooperation of all caring classmates and the ready help of good friends in the Alumni Office.
As the days fly by, I would wish every dear classmate who has shared our mutual moment on earth health, hope, faith and peace. I bid you all a fond farewell, with my love always, June.
– 30 –
Sarah Elizabeth Phelps Beard ‘49
Dorothi Matheney Blake ’49
Patsy Jones Chewing ‘49
Cornelia Avery Stone ‘49