Hilda Ruth Martin Harrell

Published 11:39 am Friday, August 19, 2011

NEW BERN – Hilda Ruth Martin Harrell, 88, formerly of Rocky Mount and Conway, N.C., died August 13, 2011, in New Bern after a long period of declining health (Alzheimer’s disease).

She was born on October 31, 1922 near Conway, the youngest child of Edgar and Ruby Johnson Martin.  She was educated in the Conway school and graduated from East Carolina Teachers College (now East Carolina University) in 1943.  She had lived in Rocky Mount for almost 40 years before moving to be near her daughter in New Bern (December, 2008).

While at East Carolina Teachers College, Hilda majored in French and English, minored in Spanish, and loved dancing, especially the jitterbug.  After graduating in 1943, she immediately began a teaching career that required her initially to move almost yearly to new schools in various parts of North Carolina.  She married her former husband, Lewis W. Harrell of Rich Square, in 1952.

Mrs. Harrell moved to Rocky Mount in 1961, and taught in Nash County schools for 22 years, first teaching French and English at the former Benvenue High School and then at Northern Nash High School.  Hilda advised the Beta Club and several other student organizations.  A natural and lively teacher, she loved being in the classroom and set high standards for her students.  Her career spanned many changes and challenges in education, including integration, which she strongly supported, school consolidation, and equal pay for female teachers.  She was a voracious reader.  Despite her small-town roots, Mrs. Harrell loved to travel.  She traveled all over the United States, including Alaska (by car in the early 1950s), Europe (taking many student groups), Russia and China.

Mrs. Harrell was a member of the Rocky Mount Altrusa International, a service organization for professional men and women.  Upon retirement from the school system, she worked for the Hallmark Card Corp. and then joined the “Red Hots,” a group of “older” women who sang, danced, told stories and played music at retirement facilities and churches in eastern North Carolina.  She was also an active member of Toastmasters Club.  Mrs. Harrell enjoyed playing bridge and also volunteered at Spring Arbor Assisted Living in Rocky Mount.

She is survived by a daughter, Hannah H. Mitchell (Ed) of New Bern; a son, W. Martin Harrell (Kathy Hodgkiss) of Glenside, PA; her sister, Jimmie N. Martin, of Woodland; three granddaughters, Hannah Kate Mitchell of Washington, D.C. and Mollie and Elizabeth Mitchell of New Bern; and four beloved nieces.  Hilda was preceded in death by her parents, Rudy and Edgar Martin, and her brother and sister-in-law, Edgar Wilson Martin Jr. and Blannie Baughan Martin.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, August 26 at Englewood Methodist Church in Rocky Mount followed by a graveside service in Conway where she will be buried in the family plot.  In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions in her memory be made to organizations supporting Alzheimer’s research or Braswell Memorial Library in Rocky Mount, 727 N. Grace Street, Rocky Mount, NC, 27804.

Online condolences may be made to the Harrell family at www.cottenfuneralhome.com.