by Nina Myers as told to David Parmer
It isn’t easy to lose a parent. Today there are many social welfare agencies that provide help and assistance to families that suffer the loss of a wage-earning parent. There are agencies that provide food stamps, rent assistance, free medical care, coupons for milk, payment for utilities, child care assistance, free lunches and textbooks at school, free transportation to school, vouchers for clothing and of course money, either in the form of welfare checks or social security checks. It is difficult today, visibly, to discern a child who is supported by his parents and a child who is supported solely by social welfare agencies.
Left: Nina Smarr
Below, right: Abia and Margaret Etta (Cunningham) Holbert
Left: Margaret Etta and Abia with grandchildren Angela and Helen Ellyson
Below right: portrait of Etta Holbert made from photo at left.
Mrs. Holbert was the daughter of Enoch and Mary (Kiley) Cunningham, a farm family of Clover Fork, whose farm was at the railroad tunnel near Chapman. Born in 1873, Mrs. Holbert received four years of education in a log school house on Abram’s Run. Despite this meager education, she never stopped learning until her death. She was 62 years old when I arrived at her home on Clover Fork in 1935.
From the start of my relationship with Mrs. Holbert, I was made to feel a part of her family. Her four natural children and her step daughter were all adults and had left home and had successful careers. She may have still had that maternal yearning which is perhaps why she received me so warmly and sought to make sure that my life would be secure and productive as she would have for a child of her own.
Although Mrs. Holbert shied away from public speaking herself, she always encouraged me to participate in school activities involving public speaking, whether it were plays at school or participation in school or public activities where communication was important. I particularly recall an occasion of a school play at Walkersville High School one rainy night when the Clover Fork hill was slippery and muddy from an incessant rain. I had stayed at school to prepare for the play and I was fearful that Mr. and Mrs. Holbert would not be able to make it to the play because of the horrible road conditions. Despite the inclement weather and worse road conditions, I was much relieved and honored when someone brought Fred Holbert’s Stetson hat backstage which was to be a prop in the play, which meant that my foster parents braved the elements to attend the play.
Left: Margaret Etta with son Robert's family in Nebraska
Mr. Holbert died in 1943 and Mrs. Holbert passed away in 1950. I am quite proud to say that I am the foster daughter of Margaret Etta and Abia Holbert of Clover Fork.
In Memory of Abia B. Holbert
By Nina Smarr Craig
We think of our fathers in this valley below
Who toiled to keep families together.
They worked with their hands from morning til night,
No matter what kind of weather.
Their word was their honor, each neighbor their friend,
Who they helped through sickness and health.
They had enough of God’s blessings in store;
Not one of them searching for wealth.
We sat on a bench at the table
And doubled or tripled in bed.
There was always room for everyone
And each of us amply fed.
Our Dad’s had their worries as we know now,
But they silently went on their way
And taught all us children honesty and truth
And knew the reverence to pray.
We respected the church, the older folk,
The teacher, the school and such.
What we learned from our Dads no words can explain;
By a good example was the way we were trained.
They never saw New York or Paris
Or yearned for the bright city lights;
Orlando, Clover Fork was home;
Their jobs, their family, their life.
We’re scattered now all over the world,
The offspring of these great men.
We hope we have left an impression somewhere
As they did for us back then.
We thank God today for the Dad we had,
With memories so precious and rare.
We could search the world over and never could find
A Dad like ours anywhere.