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Renfrow, Elizabeth Kirby

Born: April 22, 1908 at Kirby's Crossing
Died: October 13, 1993

Nathaniel Kirby Home
Parents: Nathaniel & Minnie Mumford Kirby
Grandparents: Henry & Elizabeth Hinnant Kirby

Background: Grades 1-5-Attended the one-room Schoolhouse at St. Mary's
Grades 6-9-Attended Buckhorn School
Grades 10-11-Graduated from Kenly High School
1927-Attended Atlantic Christian College & earned 2-Year Teaching Certificate

She taught Grades 3-5 in one room upstairs at Buckhorn School for 17 years while continuing her education nights and weekends, receiving her Bachelor of Arts from AC in 1940, and her Master's in Education from East Carolina University in 1954. She was both Principal and Teacher of Grades 6 and 7 at St. Mary's School for approximately 4 years, then was promoted to Supervisor of Wilson County and Elm City Schools for the next 16 years, having her office in the Wilson County Courthouse, reporting directly to Mr. H. D. Browning, Superintendent.

Known as "MISS KIRBY" to teachers and school children throughout this and surrounding communities, she held a highly responsible professional position in the education field long before it was common for women to do so. As Supervisor of Schools, she traveled extensively throughout the county to observe and review educational programs and activities and distribute supplies to teachers, helping them with any problems that would arise. She was highly respected and well known to be objective and firm in carrying out the duties of her position.

As a teacher before assuming this responsibility, she is remembered warmly by her former students as a strong, positive influence on their lives, and especially for her genuine caring and concern on their behalf. Many of her students in this area fondly recall special attention she gave them in time of need, such as going out of her way to provide extra tutoring when a child had to be out sick, even going to their homes if necessary. In one case, she even completed a child's sewing project herself, finishing the housecoat the child was making in her sewing class, and delivering it to her personally at the hospital where she had had emergency surgery. Others remember that she was a stern, but always fair, disciplinarian who inspired them to better themselves. One student visited her years later to 'show' her he was successful, because of an incident years before when he was a repeatedly disobedient student, during which she had told him he wouldn't amount to much if he didn't change. Her wisdom in challenging him made him determined to prove her wrong and show her he had done well in life.

In 1967 she married Mr. L. A. Renfrow of Lucama and retired after 37 years in the educational field. At his death in 1977, she returned to the family homeplace she had always maintained. She lived there until her death in 1993, keeping it as a splendid reminder of the beauty of home, heritage, and family traditions. One visiting her always enjoyed fresh bouquets of flowers arranged by her from those grown in her yard, and the beauty of her handwork adorning the walls of her family home, which she has kept as beautiful as it was when built by her Grandfather Henry Kirby after returning from the Civil War. One especially remembers her kind smile and gracious manner in everything she does, and always feels privileged for the joy of any time spent with her. The way she lived her life served as an inspiration to us all to try to be the kind of example she was in the way we live our own lives.

In loving memory, by June and Rudy Jones.

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