To the Editor,
The life of Julia Holthouser Richards, a powerful tower of strength and goodness in the Elkin community, came to an end recently. Her unique influence, however, is still alive and well and resides richly in me, others and numerous
organizations to this day. That is the reality that prompted me to write this letter to inform those who did not have the opportunity to know this remarkable woman of exceptional influence.
In June 1985 my wife Patti and I moved to Elkin where I had been sent to be pastor at the Elkin United Methodist Church. Among many fortunate aspects of that move was our next-door neighbor, Julia Holthouser. Her husband (whom she called “Holt”) was the administrator of the hospital until his sudden death in the spring before we came. Although she was still in deep grief for her beloved Holt, Julia gave us a generous welcome and soon became our dear friend.
Almost from the beginning of our time in Elkin we discovered what a force Julia Holthouser was. She was a formidable advocate for the power of the well-written and well-spoken word as manifested in all of her connections. She particularly focused effort for the library, the Elkin Presbyterian Church and the Presbytery of which it was a part. However, stories of these and many other good, community-building institutions and causes were dwarfed by the enormously positive influence she was for a generation of students at Elkin High School.
I was fortunate to have had a long conversation with one of her former students, Dick Atkinson (whose father Rich, now deceased, once served as mayor of Elkin). Dick was a member of the faculty of the University of Arkansas School of Law. He told me that of all his teachers in college or graduate school (he had two professional degrees from Yale) none exceeded the quality of Mrs. Holthouser’s teaching or her positive influence on the lives of her students. In myriad ways her positive influence on the town of Elkin was immense.
The contributions of Julia Holthouser Richards are too many and diverse to name fully here, but those of us who had the good fortune to live and interact with Julia were especially blessed, but, truly, those of us who follow can rejoice as well because so many continuing structures, organizations and relationships embody her influence and bless all our lives to this day and beyond.
United Methodist pastor, retired