By Henry Lane Hull
History abounds in the Northern Neck. Many have made our history and many have studied it to gain inspiration for the present and the future. For almost a century history was a passionate concern for Lucile Booker, who died last month at the age of 101.
Perhaps having been born across the Rappahannock River in Port Royal, she technically could be termed a “come-here,” but few if any could match her love of the Northern Neck or her level of mastery of its history.
Lucile graduated from Mary Washington College and began a long career in the teaching profession. She was intrigued by the intricacies of American government, considering her duty to be inculcating a similar interest in the students she taught. She wanted her graduates to be good citizens and she taught them accordingly. For Lucile, who was born on Flag Day, patriotism was rooted in history and the two could not be separated.
For much of her career in education she served as a librarian where her love of books and literature gave her pupils the opportunity to enjoy reading as she did. She could speak fluently on any aspect of American history and knew what were the important books for students to read. After her time in the public school system, she became one of the first employees of the newly formed Rappahannock Community College, where she helped to organize the library.
In her retirement Lucile was indefatigable in pursuing her interests on a wide spectrum of activities. She was a foundation stone for the Northern Neck of Virginia Historical Society, serving as chairman of several committees and guiding the Society to pursue policies that would stimulate interest in the study of the past in the school systems of the Northern Neck. She came to meetings with her briefcase filled with her manifold projects, the causes of which she articulated enthusiastically, particularly in the area of recruiting like-minded individuals as new members.
In the 1980s she was concerned that the forthcoming Bicentennial of the American Constitution would not receive the attention that she deemed it needed, leading her to encourage school programs as well as events that could emanate from the many historical societies to which she belonged. She never stopped working for the causes she supported, enjoying every minute of her retirement being productive and useful in promoting the history of our region and our country.
Lucile crossed the Rappahannock from Port Royal to teach and to marry her husband and fellow educator, Derwin Booker, making their home at Farnham on his family farm. Both Lucile and Derwin spent their retirement as an extension of their working careers, verifying the adage that teachers never retire. Ultimately, they moved to nearby assisted living, where Derwin died at 92 in 2007, after which Lucile’s health began to fail. As her memory declined she no longer was able to carry on the projects for which she was recognized across the Northern Neck.
In appearance she did not change. I knew her for over 40 years, during which time I never encountered her except being impeccably attired with her hair and clothing in perfect harmony. In every aspect of her life she was ordered and directed. Toward the end of her century in this world, she spoke infrequently, which was quite unlike her traditional demeanor. She seemed to enjoy visits and continued to maintain her stately presence in whatever setting she found herself.
Lucile was a great proponent of the Northern Neck. She understood the dynamism of tradition and sought to inculcate it in her students as well as in a broader context with her sponsorship of scholarships and programs designed to get others involved in those causes important to her. Hers was a century well spent.
Lucile Brockenbrough Holloway Booker, June 14, 1915 – November 3, 2016. R.I.P.