Monday, October 29, 2007

Susan Hall’s Mother Remembered

Susan Hall is the Treasurer of our Countryside Neighborhood Alliance. Susan’s mother, Frances Lowe, passed away in June. Frances attended our neighborhood meetings and lived a few doors up from her daughter, Susan. On Friday, October 26th, Frances Lowe was remembered by the Roanoke Valley Democratic Women where former governor Mark Warner attended. Susan spoke of her mother’s full and productive life. Below is Susan’s remembrance from Friday.
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Mark Warner and Susan Hall
Frances Lowe — one of the hardest working Democrats you would ever want to meet, a self-made woman and an amazing woman. She passed away in June and I appreciate your wanting me to share some of her life with you.
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First for a little background — both my parents were born in Roanoke, raised in Melrose Baptist Church and graduated from Jefferson High School. Mom attended National Business College and my dad, VPI.

They eloped while my dad was a student at VPI (VPI didn’t find out or he would have been kicked out of school in those days). My parents had to daughters, me and my little sister, Anne Michele.

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My mom’s working career began in 1946 at the VA Regional office in downtown Roanoke while my dad followed his dream to be a pilot of the biggest airplane — which he found in the Air Force. When my dad was stationed at Hickam Field in Hawaii, mom and I followed. She went to work for the Navy of the Pacific where she taught sailors to type and take shorthand.

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My dad, being an Air Force pilot, meant we traveled from Massachusetts to Florida and Georgia to Texas and a lot of states in between. I changed schools 12 times in 1 year but both my parents were my “tutors” so school was never a problem. My sister arrived when I was 8 and a joy she was. We all played, laughed, and prayed together — we were a storybook family.
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In August 1952, the Korean War was still going on, so we returned to Roanoke to stay a year while my dad was sent to Korea (I was 11 and my sister 3). Then tragedy struck — on September 13, 1952 the telegram came telling my mom that my dad was missing in action in North Korea. To this day, there has been no further word from our government as to his whereabouts, but that is another story.
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Frances Lowe was now heart broken, a single mom with no income, and two children to feed. She went back to work, first at the VA Regional office, and with promotions, to the Air Force Reserve Center, and when it closed, to the VA Hospital in Salem and then was promoted to the Blue Ridge Parkway — this added up to 19 ½ years with the government. You ask why she didn’t stay and get her full 20 years with a big pension. Well – She had also been working (on her own time) for a Legislative Chairman and was a part-time Lobbyist. When her bosses learned about her involvement in politics, they reminded her of the “Hatch Act” and told her she would not able to continue working in politics and keep her government job.
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My sister and I were grown by then. So Mom did what no one expected and quit her job, packed her bags, and accepted a job in Richmond as “State Director of Volunteers in Politics — Committee on Political Education” for the VA State AFLCIO and also became a Registered Lobbyist. This was in 1968. She was the first woman hired in this job. She was also appointed to the Board of the VA Citizens Consumer Council and became its Legislative Co-Chairman and was a member of the Political Women’s Caucus.
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She traveled this entire State alone implementing programs she had developed and teaching workshops on subjects such as “Importance of Legislation Affecting You and How to Get Involved” and Election Reform, Registration, and most importantly workshops on “get out the vote” and “fund raising.” In very close elections, she would set up “get out the vote” call centers and actually stay in that part of the State that needed help most to see that the vote got out. This was a time when women didn’t go to hotels alone or eat alone — so through her travels around the State she had many stories to tell — some very scary and some just funny.
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Mom was a Member and Elected Delegate, or Alternate,to all County, 6th District, and State Democratic Conventions beginning in 1969 and continuing for many years thereafter — I can’t find her records after l976 but she did not retire from this state job until about 1985.
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The most fun and the longest hours were when she was actively working to elect COPE-endorsed candidates from the Courthouse to the White House. In 1968, her first campaign job was Hubert Humphrey for President and F.T. “Bingo” Stant for Congress. Next came Henry Howell for Governor and Andy Miller for Attorney General.
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The winner came when she worked State-wide to get Lynwood Holton for Governor, “Sarge” Reynolds for Lt. Governor, and Andrew Miller for Attorney General elected. What a celebration!!!
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Do you remember the elections of William B. Spong for the US Senate? William Fears & Daniel Byrd Jr. for State Senate? Jim Thompson & Ray Garland for the House of Delegates? Jimmy Carter for President? Chuck Robb for Governor? Chuck Robb for U.S. Senate? Doug Wilder for Governor? Jim Olin for US House? Just to name a few. She worked them all! She truly enjoyed her work and believed very deeply in what she did. She made many political friends locally as well as across the state and worked in many of their campaigns: including John Edwards, David Bowers, Chuck Woodrum, Victor Thomas, Bill Hopkins, Grainger McFarland, Dick Cranwell, Rick Boucher, and I know I’ve left hundreds of friends out and I apologize.

Mom was a member of the Roanoke Valley Women’s Democratic Committee.

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I think Mom’s happiest moment was when her Grandson became head of the Young Democrats at V.M.I.
When she semi-retired in 1985 she went to work for the Job Corps sending young people, who appeared to have no future, to school. She moved back to Roanoke but traveled all over Southwest VA meeting with these children and making their arrangements.
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But, Mom never really retired because she was active in her church where she continued to serve as a Deacon, Sunday School Teacher, and member of WMU (the womens mission group) and she was an active supporter of building a new church near Smith Mountain Lake called Community Church of the Brethern. She was a member of the Eastern Star, and active in a Book Club, Investment Club, Ladies Golf Association, and played Bridge at the Salem Senior Center every Monday.
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Frances Lowe — she was my mom, my dad, my best friend, my confident, my advisor — and the memories she has left behind are meant as a comfort for a lifetime.”
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Susan receives a rose at left.

Posted By Valerie Garner

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