FLORENCE KIRVEN FOY STRANG – 106 -
WINTER HAVEN - Florence Kirven Foy Strang died on August 16, 2014, in Winter Haven, Florida, full of days, surrounded by loved ones, having lived to see her children's children's children's children. Not only did she survive the death of her mother when she was only three, two world wars and one cold one, the influenza pandemic of 1918, the Great Depression and the Great Recession, as well as being sprayed by a skunk while bedridden with phlebitis and George Wallace's attempts at strong-arming her when she was serving in his administration-she thrived regardless of the circumstances, her signature combination of gratitude, compassion, curiosity, and zest for human interaction radiating even at the end. 'Fonnie,' as she was known to her friends, was the daughter of William Humphrey Foy and Florence Wall Kirven. She was born on January 31, 1908, in Eufaula, Alabama, and had two older brothers: Levie Wilson Foy and Frederick Humphrey Foy. Although she lived in Eufaula for nearly 100 of her 106 years, she traveled far and wide over the course of her life, in body and especially in mind. 'It is through place that we put out roots, wherever birth, fate, chance or our traveling selves set us down,' wrote Eudora Welty, 'but what these roots reach toward is the deep and running vein, eternal and consistent and everywhere purely itself.' Fonnie's deep roots in Eufaula gave her the confidence to explore the globe, the varieties of human experience, and the limits of her own imagination with an attitude of openness and wonder. She attended the Eufaula public schools, then, following in the footsteps of her mother and great-aunt, went to Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia, where she forged several lifelong friendships.
In the classroom, her encounter with the work of French philosopher Henri Bergson proved to be an instance of deep calling unto deep: her questioning yet unflaggingly optimistic cast of mind resonated powerfully with his concept of Ã©lan vital, his theory of creative evolution, and his advice that one should 'act like a man of thought and think like a man of action.' Majoring in philosophy, she graduated in 1928 as class valedictorian, president of the student government, captain of the swim team, and May queen. Over the next two years she took courses at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, worked as an editor at the Eufaula Tribune, and lived in Tianjin, China.
On July 16, 1930, she married Carl James Strang. Together they reared three children-Shorter Thornton Strang, Florence Foy Strang, and Carl James Strang, Jr.-and with the exception of three years in Atlanta, made their home in Eufaula, where, after her husband died, Fonnie continued to live until she moved to Winter Haven in 2011. For most of the time when her children were growing up, Fonnie's family lived at the end of a dirt road five miles outside of town.
Responsibility for overseeing farm life fell largely to her, especially during the years her husband was serving overseas in World War II. She knew how to skim cream, churn butter, manage all the tasks involved in the annual hog slaughtering, and make scuppernong wine. On occasion, she had to be concerned not only with the providing but also the protecting: she once shot a rattlesnake in the head at fifty feet with a rifle because she saw it as a threat to her children. Her considerable managerial skills, coupled with her gifts as a public speaker-her ability to inform, inspire, and reassure seemed effortless made her a natural for civic leadership. Then, too, her industriousness always stood out, especially amid the languor of the Depression-era rural South. Commenting on the brisk pace at which she went about her affairs, an acquaintance once remarked, 'Miz Strang, if you were a dog, your tail would be pointed straight up.' Out of the long list of her nonprofit work in Eufaula, she is perhaps best remembered for cofounding the Eufaula Heritage Association in 1965, and chairing its first Pilgrimage, or tour of historic homes, a year later. Her continued involvement with this annual event over the ensuing decades helped it become one of the premier celebrations of small-town history and culture in the southeast.
She served as president of the Christ Child Circle (which provides assistance to women and children in need), the Eufaula Carnegie Library (she spearheaded a capital campaign to expand the building, which doubled its size and garnered architectural awards), the Garden Club, the PTA, and the Pierian Club. She was also a Girl Scout leader, chaired the Eufaula City Planning Commission, served on the boards of Head Start and the Advisory Committee of RSVP (a program of Corporation for National and Community Service). At the regional and state levels, she was a member of the Alabama State Board of Education, the Alabama State Council on Arts and Humanities, the Alabama Citizens' Committee for Better Schools, and the Dixie Regional Committee of the Girl Scouts. She also served as president of the Alabama Federation of Women's Clubs. As a charter member of the Historic Chattahoochee Commission, she was instrumental in preservation initiatives in the 18 counties in Alabama and Georgia that make up the lower Chattahoochee River Valley and also in the publication of a number of important scholarly books about the history and folkways of the region. In addition to being honored by nearly all these organizations, Fonnie received awards from the American Association of State & Local Histories, the Alabama Preservation Alliance, the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, Kappa Delta sorority, and the Commission on the Role and Status of Women of the United Methodist Church's Alabama-West Florida Conference. She was also a member of the Order of Magna Carta Dames. The Eufaula Tribune named her Eufaula's First Citizen. In 1998, she was awarded the Hollins Medal 'for distinction, service to Hollins University and to woman's life and education in general.' High-mindedness and civic involvement did not prevent her from having a good time.
Her lighter side included a love of stories-hearing as well as telling them-that was so strong she refused to allow a gathering she was hosting to be cut short by the labor pains that heralded the birth of her first child. Another sign of her fascination with human connection: she was the genealogical equivalent of a math whiz, able to determine complicated kinship ties-for instance, fourth cousins versus second-cousins twice removed-instantaneously, without recourse to pen and paper. Sports, card games, history and archaeology, as well as being out in nature figured prominently among Fonnie's enthusiasms. She was an accomplished horsewoman. She once swam across the Chattahoochee River au naturel. She played tennis regularly in the '30 s, and when she picked it up again after a hiatus of nearly forty years, teenage boys often suffered the indignity of being aced by their grandmother. At bridge, she ran a finesse with consummate skill. She also imparted to three successive generations a fiercely competitive love of double-solitaire, a game she referred to as 'Pounce.' A weeklong stay at her house often included a trip to the Kolomoki Mounds archeological site from the first millennium B.C.E., the living history museum in Westville, Creek War and Civil War battlefields, or Providence Canyon. Fonnie taking her afternoon walk along Country Club Road was a familiar sight to neighbors and motorists alike from the mid-1960s into the 1990 s. In her 70 s she went ballooning along the Loire River and whitewater rafting on the Snake. And tracking the feathered friends that visited her back yard was not only a source of great delight for her, it was also a form of meditation-an exercise in noticing. Her eye was on not only the sparrows, mockingbirds, Carolina chickadees, and pileated woodpeckers that lived in Alabama year-round, but also the purple finches and cedar waxwings that wintered there, the whip-poor-wills and ruby-throated hummingbirds of summer, and the rare vermillion flycatcher passing through.
Like the patriarch Abraham, she was secure enough in her relationship with God to be able to argue with God. Intercessory prayer was one such instance: 'Why should I have to ask God to be doing things he ought to be taking care of on his own?' she exclaimed more than once. But she didn't let the disagreement ruin a good friendship. As the years passed by, she spoke more often of the contemplative nature of her prayer life-of prayer as communion with God instead of petition to God. Even so, she continued to pray for each member of her immediate family by name every night-this even after their number had grown to more than fifty. She also continued to teach her weekly Sunday School class at First United Methodist Church maybe not always exactly by the Book of Discipline-for a total of more than sixty-five years.
Fonnie was preceded in death by her two brothers and their wives, her husband, her brother-in-law Max Strang and his wife Lucille, her son Shorter, her grandson Sam, her step-grandson Brett, and her great-grandson Ryan.
She is survived in her immediate family by her daughter-in-law Jean Hurlbert Strang, of Winter Haven; daughter, Foy Strang Gary, of Crozet, Virginia; son, Carl James Strang, Jr., and daughter-in-law Sheryll Webb Strang, of Winter Haven; grandchildren Shorter Strang, Jr. (Marcia) of Winter Haven, James Daniel Strang of Huntsville, Alabama, Carl James 'Bud' Strang III (Anita) of Winter Haven; John Walton Strang (Meg) of Winter Haven; Beall Dozier 'Nap' Gary, Jr. (Amy) of Crozet; William Loren Gary of Cambridge, Massachusetts; Florence Kirven Gary of Eufaula; Eve Strang Bass (Jerry) of Winter Haven; Fred Foy Strang (Cecily) of Bristol, Tennessee, Emily Goode Gary of Batesville, Virginia; Max Wilson Strang (Tamara) of Telluride, Colorado and Miami, Florida; step-grandson Webb Tanner (Deanna) of Winter Haven; twenty-five great-grandchildren, step-great-grandchildren, and their spouses; and two great-great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 11:00 a.m. on August 30 at First United Methodist Church in Eufaula (101 East Barbour Street). A reception will take place there immediately following the service.
The family suggests that in lieu of flowers, any donations be made to the Christ Child Circle of Eufaula, the Friends of the Eufaula Carnegie Library, or to the charity of their choice . – Ledger,Aug. 22, 2014