Visitation with the family will take place on July 6, 2012, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the home of Roger Boynton, 337 N. State Street.
The funeral service will be at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on July 7 at 11 a.m.
Ruth Hollingsworth Edwards was born on Christmas Day 1912 at Grey Friars in Abbeville. She was the second of W.P. and Ruth Chadwick Edwards’ four children, who were nicknamded Anno, Hollo, Billo, and Rogo by their father. Holly’s name stuck; she was known affectionately as “Holly,” “Miss Holly,” or “Aunt Holl,” all her life.
Holly was educated in the public schools of Abbeville and by the circle of adults among whom she lived — her father, her mother, her “Grandpa Edwards,” her “Grandpa Chadwick,” her Aunt Elizabeth and her “Nanaan.” Holly brought each of these revered parental figures to life for us all throughout her life: by the rich and wonderful stories she told about them, by her daily references to them in ordinary conversation and by passing on what they taught her. Almost certainly, it was from one or more of these parental figures that she acquired her love of poetry and the French language, her love of history and politics, her interest in architecture, her civic mindedness, and her travelust.
She played the piano and read poetry aloud in a way that brought tears to your eyes and she loved to dance and was a wonderful dancer. She was a natural born student and she did not lose her love of reading until the last few years before she died. She read only the most serious of books — nothing frivolous.
She continued her education at Southwest Louisiana Institute (now UL) and Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. She obtained a bachelor’s degree from Rollins, but she never stopped seeking education. She spent a year at International House at the University of Chicago and she attended summer schools at Cambridge, the University of Wales and the University of Grenoble in France. She went to Graduate School at LSU in Library Science and she took many courses over the years at USL in Lafayette. When she was in her eighties, she was still making inquiries about going to summer school in Williamstown, Massachusetts!
After her year at the University of Chicago, she returned home to Abbeville and worked almost seven years for the Welfare Department and the First National Bank. Reluctant to marry, she eventually succumbed to the persistent overtures of Pierson Lewis, whom she married on December 28, 1941. After they married, she and Pierson lived above the Wing Lee Laundry on Chartres Street in the French Quarter in New Orleans, where Holly worked for the War Office. When the War broke out, Pierson joined the Marines and he and Holly were sent to Camp Lejeune and then to Quantico. When Pierson shipped out to the Pacific, Holly returned home. She gave birth to their first child, Susan, while Pierson was on Iwo Jima.
Like many soldiers, Pierson returned home a hero to a world turned upside down in the aftermath of World War II. He tried several businesses, a bus service, a cattle ranch, and a Gulf Service Station. He ultimately found his talent as a leasehound in the oil industry in Lafayette and that was about the time Holly gave birth to their second child, Martha.
When her children were young, Holly did not work, but she was very active in civic organizations, The Woman’s Club, the League of Women Voters, and Daughters of the American Revolution. She and Pierson divorced in 1956 when their children were 11 and 4. After the divorce, Holly started a new life in Abbeville and she became a school teacher. She was a dedicated teacher with a real passion for the subjects she taught — French, American History, and English grammar. During this phase of her life, she also began to fulfill her dreams of world travel.
Over a period of many years thereafter, she traveled, always taking one or both of her children, to most countries in Western Europe, and to England, Scotland, Wales, Greece, Majorca, Egypt, Turkey, Israel, Alaska, New England, the Far West and Canada. She began these travels well before the age of globalization and visited the countries in Europe when each was still a unique place on earth. The most well worn book in her library was her world atlas.
Throughout her life, whether or not she was working, Holly was extremely active in public interest causes. One of her most enduring accomplishments was the work she did to insure that Abbeville had a beautiful courthouse to replace the one that burned down. She worked tirelessly to reverse a police jury decision to erect what Holly called a “cracker box” on the Courthouse Square and the result was the beautiful structure now there, of which the entire community is justifiably proud. She also was deeply interested in public health issues and worked to bring a health department to Vermilion Parish.
Holly was an idealistic believer in the power of democracy and the basic freedoms of the Bill of Rights. She wrote literally hundreds of letters to her Congressman and often wrote “letters to the editor” advocating her views. She believed not only that she had a duty to exercise her rights, but that she could make a difference. She saw the evils of one party government and was one of the founders of the local Republican party in Vermilion Parish. She was active and involved in politics all her life.
Holly was also an independent thinker. She was never influenced by what was popular or in vogue; in fact, quite the opposite. She was highly principled, and she practiced what she preached. And she was often way ahead of her time in matters that really concerned her, like health and safety. Long before it was à la mode, she figured out that a diet of vegetables was healthy and that is what she ate. She had seatbelts installed in her car long before they were required; she had someone manufacture them and bolt them to the floor of her 1948 Ford! She was environmentally conscious and extremely resourceful. She abhored waste and practiced recycling long before it was recognized, and she found ways to recycle items for which there was not even a recycling system established. Notwithstanding her strong convictions, however, she was a real lady, with a gentle, self-deprecating wit. Although she was ahead of her time in many respects, she represented the very best her generation stood for.
With her death, for those close to her, an era has passed. She is among the last of a generation who went to school in a horse and buggy and lived to see tourism in outer space. It is hard to imagine a lifetime that could cover a period of greater change. For those who knew and loved her, there will never again be another like her. She was truly sui generis.