R-C area religious educator succumbs

Published 11:45 am Saturday, August 15, 2009

MURFREESBORO – If there were just one phrase to say at the passing of Anna Belle Crouch, it would be, “well done, my good and faithful servant.

Crouch, 90, drew her last breath on Thursday, but not before fulfilling her life’s ambition, that of making a lasting impact on others.

Through the numerous “hats” she wore in life, Crouch did indeed reach out and touch others. Among those whose lives were forever changed by interacting with this grand lady were students and fellow staff members at what is now Chowan University where she served for 25 years as a professor and academic administrator.

She came to Chowan in 1958 and ended her work career there in 1983. Over that quarter-century, Crouch served as a Religion and Speech professor; taught Physical Education, Hygiene and Professional Development; and served as Assistant Dean of Women.

Despite being a native mid-westerner (born in Neosho, Missouri) and, as things turned out, a world traveler, Crouch retired in Murfreesboro. There she was extremely active within the community…holding memberships and serving as president of the Murfreesboro Federated Woman’s Club and Chowan Faculty Women’s Club. She was also a member of the Murfreesboro Historical Association and the Women’s Division of the Murfreesboro Chamber of Commerce.

Between 1960-1972 she served as Director of Modeling for the Miss Ahoskie Pageant.

Her impact was also felt at Murfreesboro Baptist Church where she served as Choir Director, teacher of an Adult Sunday School class, WMU Director and Chairman of the Baptist Women Mission Action/Prayer Group.

Over one nine-year stretch, Crouch served as the West Chowan Baptist Association Music Director.

Her work in the field of religion help show Crouch the world. She served as a Missionary in Panama and as an English teacher at Quangxi University in China, sent there as part of a team of Southern Baptist Association volunteers.

A firm believer in education, Crouch held degrees from Southeast State University (B.S. in Education), Southern Baptist Theology Seminary (Masters in Religious Education) and Columbia University (Masters in Speech Arts and Speech Science).

Additionally she attended the School of Sacred Music, East Carolina University and the College of William and Mary.

Over her illustrious career, Crouch was named to Who’s Who in American Women; Who’s Who in the South; Who’s Who in the South West; and International Who’s Who of Women in Education. She was also tabbed as the Woman of the Century by the Hertford County Women’s Council and was awarded the Book of Golden Deeds by the Murfreesboro Exchange Club.

The Music Library at the West Chowan Baptist Association is named in her honor. There is a tree planted in her honor at a Children’s Park in Israel.

Crouch began her career in education in a one-room schoolhouse in Missouri where she taught all subjects in grades 1-8. In 1942, she became the Assistant Chief of Post publications at Camp Crowder, Missouri. Three years later she accepted the position of Young People’s Secretary for the Missouri Baptist State Convention.

Her first journey to North Carolina came in 1955 where she landed a job as Music and Education Director at Rosemary Baptist Church in Roanoke Rapids. Three years later she moved to Murfreesboro to launch her career at Chowan.

“Anna Belle moved to Murfreesboro at the same time that my husband and I did,” said Shirley Pike. “We lived near each other and attended the same church (Murfreesboro Baptist). We became very close, so much to the point that Anna Belle became like a mother to me and my husband (the now late Dale Pike) and like a grandmother to our children.”

Pike continued, “She was a wonderful women and human being…so caring of others. In a day of where ‘me’ is all the world is about, for Anna Belle it was about everyone else. She loved people and it showed.”

Pike shared a story of how Crouch, after moving to Guardian Care Nursing Home in Ahoskie, would make weekly visits to all the patients.

“She wanted to pray with them,” Pike said. “If they were awake, she would go in their room and pray. If they were asleep, she would stay out in the hall and pray for them.”

Despite declining health, Crouch continued her “prayer mission,” although she did have to reduce her schedule from weekly to monthly visits.

But no matter how often or where she choose to share her gift of loving life to its fullest, Anna Belle Crouch never did it in an attempt to promote herself, but rather to bring glory to her God.

Funeral services will be held at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 16 at the Murfreesboro Baptist Church. Dr. Lee Canipe will officiate. Burial will follow in Riverside Cemetery. Visitation, at the church, will begin one hour prior to the service and at other times at the Pike’s home, 305 Union St., Murfreesboro.

See page 7A for the full obituary.