When Velma Horton passed away on Jan. 21 she left many friends and loved ones searching for a way to show their appreciation for her over 37 years of service as a Carroll County educator. That desire has materialized in the Velma B. Horton Memorial Scholarship.
The idea of honoring Horton with a scholarship in her name came about during a discussion between two of her closest friends, Yvonne Jessup and Helen Melton, following Horton’s funeral service.
“At the funeral service, I said to Helen that we needed to get a plaque in honor of Velma for the guidance department. Helen said we needed a scholarship in her honor, so we decided on that,” said Jessup.
“Never in all my years of teaching, nor when she was my teacher, did I ever hear anyone utter a negative word about Velma. All students, faculty, parents and staff had the greatest respect and admiration for her,” said Melton, who had Horton for an English teacher during the eighth grade.
“She was a strict teacher, but we all learned so much in her class and had the greatest respect for her. English was my favorite subject, but she gave me my background in grammar and instilled in me a love of English. I attribute my choosing a career as an English teacher to her. She was the best English teacher I ever had.
“When I started teaching, and she was my coworker, I developed an even greater respect and admiration for her. We became close friends and remained so until her death. I have never had a more loyal friend than Velma.”
Horton began her teaching career in 1953 at the one-room Hylton School in Dugspur and later taught at the Rome and Excelsior schools in Laurel Fork. She then went on to teach at Vinson near Hillsville, Wards Gap in Fancy Gap and Delton, also in Fancy Gap. After 10 years of teaching in one-room schools, Horton held a position for six years as an English and civics teacher at Hillsville High School. While there, she also worked part-time in the guidance department.
From 1964 to 1969, Horton traded teaching for motherhood and stayed home to raise her two daughters. During this time, the family moved to Radford, which allowed Horton to finish up a master’s degree in education at Radford College.
Horton and her family moved back to Hillsville in 1969 and she was hired as a guidance counselor at the newly consolidated Carroll County High School. From 1982 until retiring in 1990, she was the director of the guidance department.
Shelby Puckett , who worked in the guidance department at CCHS for 15 years and later became an assistant principal, said Horton’s “patience was beyond any I have ever known. She would go the extra mile to help a kid and her patience was absolutely endless. I never saw her lose her temper, say a harsh word or be out of sorts with anybody.
“Velma cared about anybody she came in contact with. She was amazing, the greatest human being I have ever known.”
Harold Golding, who worked with Horton prior to and during the term as principal at CCHS, called her his “mentor.”
“When I came to this county I was fortunate enough to serve with Velma on a committee that was working on consolidation. I was an inexperienced 25-year-old and she was this seasoned educator who taught me a lot of things. She was my mentor in education,” said Golding.
Later when Golding became principal at CCHS and worked with Horton, his admiration grew.
“She was such a hard worker. If she had to stay until 9 p.m., she would,” he said. “She made sure every kid had an opportunity to go to college even when they didn’t have the money. She would find scholarships or grants. She wanted kids to have values and she taught those things, and she took care of everybody else before herself.”
Melton said she was amazed with Horton’s work ethic.
“She was always at CCHS by 6:45 a.m. and she never left before 5 p.m. When she did leave, she carried stacks of work home with her to complete,” recalled Melton. “She told me numerous times about the parents and students who called her at home in the evening. Until she passed away, students and parents continued to call her for help with college applications, scholarships and school work. Since her death numerous parents and students have told me how much she helped them, what she did for them and how much they appreciated her.”
Melton said she too relied on Horton for advice.
“I knew she would always give me an honest answer. If you were wrong, she very professionally would tell you so,” she said.
Melton said the fact that Horton would devote so much of her time to others was even more inspiring because of the hardship she endured.
“Anyone who had faced what Velma had, the death of her husband and the tragic death of her youngest daughter, would have given up, but she continued on. After her daughter’s death, she devoted her life to rearing her daughter’s two children,” Melton said.
Anyone wishing to donate to the Velma B. Horton Memorial Scholarship fund may do so by sending a donation to the Carroll Scholarship Foundation Inc., P.O. Box 517, Hillsville, Va. 24343. Be sure to note that the donation, which is tax deductible, is for the scholarship honoring Horton. For more information, call 728-4121.