Mabel Hancock Holt
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Mabel Hancock Holt
  • December 13, 1923 - September 25, 2017
  • Charlottesville, Virginia

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Mabel Hancock Holt, steadfast friend, known for her love of books and life-long learning, her wonderful sense of humor and her strong faith, passed away on Sept. 25, 2017. An only child, she was preceded in death by her beloved and revered parents, Mabel Elizabeth Dudley Holt and Charles Wood Holt, who were responsible for Mabel's strong, happy character and high intelligence.
Mabel grew up in Martinsville, Virginia and completed a two year degree at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. She then returned to Virginia to Madison College (now James Madison University) in order to be closer to home while completing an undergraduate degree. She was a popular and active member of the Tri-Sigma Sorority and was elected president of her senior class. Mabel lost her mother, too early, in 1947, one year after completing her B.S. degree in Zoology with a minor in Chemistry. After her mother's death, she went to work at Yale University in charge of the chemistry and photography labs in the Zoology Department there, but after 2 years rejoined her father in Martinsville, Virginia. There she attended every session of a life-changing, two week seminar at a local Episcopal church at which a number of well-known theologians spoke. She was especially interested in hearing discussion of the scripture "Come now, let us reason together, sayeth the Lord...". It was key in helping her to resolve her issues in blending her beliefs in science and religion. Soon after, she was at the University of North Carolina, acting on her father's advice to take courses there, earning a second undergraduate degree in Religion, an unusual achievement demanded by her inquiring mind.
Beginning in childhood, Mabel made scores of "true, good" friends throughout her life wherever she played, studied or worked, and she retained an amazing number of them by making the effort to keep in touch. Most people who knew Mabel delighted in her finely tuned sense of the ridiculous, which could border on hilarity. She was a cause of joy wherever she went, but could handle a serious situation with poise, self-control, and thoughtfulness.
In 1953, she enjoyed a summer-long hostelling tour of Europe with a friend, and witnessed the devastation, still much in evidence from World
War II, in many cities. Mabel continued to travel widely with friends throughout her life, and being a skilled photographer, created albums and slide shows of her travels to share her experiences.
Continuing to explore her faith, Mabel graduated from the Presbyterian School of Christian Education with a masters degree in English Bible in 1957. Shortly afterwards she completed coursework at Southern Baptist Seminary, and accepted a position as circulation librarian with Union Theological Seminary.
Mabel lost her father in 1963 and eventually had to assist with the sale of his well-known store, C.W. Holt Co., in Martinsville in 1977. It was the stalwart support of her friends and her faith that encouraged her through these dark times in her life.
After the death of Mabel's father, Mabel began working on a masters degree in Library Science at Drexel University, specializing in Theology. She earned her MSLS in 1966, and moved on to the Richmond Public Library as head of their reference department. She was regarded there as having a scholar's knowledge in her chosen field of Theology.
After thoughtful soul-searching and discussion with her childhood Baptist pastor, Mabel changed her church membership, with her pastor's blessing, to the Episcopal church in 1968. Mabel had had to purchase the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer for her Religion degree studies at UNC, and many of the prayers on its pages had become favorites over the years. She had also investigated Episcopal church beliefs and found they meshed well with her own. Reflecting her love of music, Mabel generously donated a set of handbells to her Richmond church, Church of the Holy Comforter, in memory of her parents.
In 1970 Mabel moved to the Chester branch of the Chesterfield County Public Library, initially as a branch librarian. Early on, she was asked to set up a non-fiction book collection for a main library and five branches in connection with a years-long expansion of the originally small, but bustling library of two branches and two bookmobiles. Mabel was instrumental in that expansion and she loved her work there. She was interviewed during that time and was quoted as saying, "I feel that building a book collection is somewhat like building a house. Every book you buy adds to the architecture of the house.", and "All of them (CCPL branches) are different, have different personalities, so to speak. I really think, therefore, of libraries as being almost living things."
Mabel retired in 1988 as coordinator of adult services and head of the reference department of CCPL's Central Library. She then volunteered for over two years for the important job of Chair of the Library Committee to establish a library, from scratch, at Richmond Hill, an ecumenical retreat in Richmond, Virginia. During the same period, she also enjoyed volunteering at the Virginia Historical Society.
In 1991, Mabel moved to The Colonnades retirement community in Charlottesville, Virginia. She was soon singing with the resident singing group, The Colonnades Singers, and was also on the Vespers Committee at the Church of Our Savior. She continued to enjoy bird watching and collecting stamps. She was a good cook, too, and loved distributing slices of her delicious white fruitcake to friends during holidays.
After settling in to her new retirement apartment, the desire to continue to learn more about her faith moved Mabel to complete the four years of study in Education For Ministry, offered by the University of the South, for those interested in in-depth Bible study and Episcopal church history.
Due to Mabel's life-long interest in swimming and exercise, even though memory eventually became an issue, she did not move into the Assisted Living area at The Colonnades until 2016. She continued to enjoy singing, scheduled activities and especially being outside on walks and drives in

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