June 12 should have been Thora (Jervey) and my 66th wedding anniversary. We came to Radford in August 1968, and for two years we were allowed to rent the Governor Tyler Mansion, which is now the home of the university president. We were the first people outside the family to ever live there.
Thora wrote one book, Toby Turtle and one major article for Redbook magazine, “Why we fought and how we won.” That article described the long ordeal of my fight with president Charles K. Martin and the board of visitors for violation of due process and academic freedom, a struggle that changed forever the direction and internal governance of Radford College.
But Thora must always be remembered for all the great things she did for this city. In the late 1960’s, she resurrected the Radford Woman’s Club. Then, in 1971 she started the recycling of newspapers. This led to a second place in the nation by the Shell Oil Company in 1972 and a continuing project of the Woman’s Club—the birth of Radford’s recycling.
In 1975 she began writing a weekly column for the Radford News Journal, highlighting people and events in Radford. But especially deploring the awful situation of the city library, which was housed in one crammed room of the old recreation building.
After many articles and appearances before city council, funds were made available for the beginning of our marvelous library. And she started home tours to continually raise money to support it. Today, the Lamplighters is a vigorous and great organization.
In 1980, she founded the Newcomer’s Club to introduce new citizens to each other. Then in 1981 she founded the Radford Clothing Bank, which opened in 1982. This was always what she considered the best thing she ever did, because it was a great help for disadvantaged people.
Within that framework, she started a stork exchange and with the great help of Cook’s Clean Center, August coats for kids.
In 1993 she started “Babies into Books” at Carillion Hospital and three years later “Reading is Fundamental.”
She worked, as she said, with many great people to get her projects going, like Minnie Dean, Tom Starnes, Polly Corn and many more.
When Thora died in January 2012, Mary Hardbarger in the Radford News Journal wrote that she was the “matriarch of Radford Volunteering” and one editorial declared, “community mourns passing of ‘founding mother.”
Near the end of the great movie “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” Colonel Nicholson says to Japanese General: “Suddenly, you realize you are nearer the end than the beginning and you wonder— you ask yourself— what the sum total of your life represents, what difference your being there at anytime made to anything.”
Well, Thora did make a difference and I hope that the City of Radford will always remember her.
Edward D. Jervey,
Jervey is a retired Professor Emeritus from Radford University, having taught history at the school from 1968-91. Thora Jervey wrote a column for the Radford News Journal titled “The Lamplighters” from 1963-2012.