Community column: Community icons teach lessons that last
Travel can energize and delight, but there is another side to journeying this year — a feeling of loss.
Return from both a winter trip and a summer trip brought me home to sad news.
After an early February trip, I learned that Thora Jervey had passed away Jan. 31.
Thora was an indomitable spirit with a long history of community service. Her path was well known to many.
“Thora was personally responsible for getting things moving toward a dedicated library in Radford,” explained Toni Cox, current director. “She defined ‘take charge.’ ”
While new to Radford, I would see Thora and her husband, Ed, at many university arts events when I would drag my children out for a little culture.
She had been injured in an automobile accident the year we arrived in town, so I only knew her in a wheelchair.
But I admired her tenacity — the situation was obviously difficult, but she was frequently there, taking in and supporting local arts. She showed up.
I introduced myself for the first time during an evening event at Selu.
Thora had suffered several strokes by then, and it was difficult to understand her at first.
I would later visit her house where she interviewed me for her weekly newspaper column.
By this time, I had developed my ear for her speech.
We had a rich conversation, and I learned how we enjoyed many of the same things — travel, art, music, community.
Thora was on my list of future columns. I intended to sit and visit with her again — this time profiling her many achievements and basking in her positivism.
It was a good excuse to sit down and spend more time with her.
Did I learn anything from this? Of course, take the time.
Find better excuses to sit down now, rather than later. We all struggle with this balance and strive to do better.
Time’s passage can be a harsh instructor, and I can hardly stand a second instance in the same calendar year.
But there I was, this past Saturday, at a memorial service for Minnie Dean, another Radford community icon, another woman I greatly admired and related to, another person I intended to sit and visit with, one of these days.
I had a warning. A mutual friend mentioned that Minnie was not doing well this spring. I then heard things had turned around a bit so I gambled with that extra time and made a note on my calendar, on July 5 to be exact: Go visit Minnie Dean.
I’m not family or even a close friend, so word of her failing never reached me across the ocean.
By the time I returned to my office, where that reminder Post‑it note sat, Minnie was gone.
We shared a few moments — mostly in passing, two busy people on our busy ways to respective meetings or events or something that needed attention at the time.
Minnie never seemed to slow down in the years I saw her actively engaged in the community. She had led a long, successful professional career and then continued to lead — helping others through various organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, the Radford Heritage Foundation, and the Radford Clothing Bank.
Like Thora, Minnie continued to make the very most of her days in spite of physical hardships.
She suffered from polio as a child, survived injury from a pedestrian-car accident, and beat cancer. Her siblings testified to this resolute strength during her eulogy.
According to her sister, Margaret Sutton, Minnie rejected any suggestion that she had been dealt a bad hand in life. Her brother, Richard Dean, recalled how she systematically associated benefits with these trials, setbacks that might have provided any of us with an excuse for checking out, sidelining ourselves. Not Minnie. She showed up.
Thora and Minnie leave numerous legacies. Service to the community is only part of this picture.
Their style of living, their remarkable persistence through personal challenges, their absolute passion for doing is a lesson to all. Show up.
By Catherine Van Noy
Special to The Burgs | 639-3330