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Business, civic leader Hairston dies
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer
Agnes Mobile Scott Hairston — retired Martinsville school teacher, former owner and president of Hairston Funeral Home, and community leader — died Tuesday at Memorial Hospital at the age of 88.
Lewis Martin, current president and co-owner of Hairston Funeral Home, said he worked with Mrs. Hairston and her husband, Charles Reginald Hairston, at the funeral home for 50 years.
Mobile Hairston said in an interview in 1990 that her husband started the funeral home business in 1949. “I was his receptionist, secretary and pianist. I called it flunky, but he called it helping,” she said.
Martin said Reginald Hairston ran the funeral home until 1984, the year he died; and that Mobile Hairston ran it until 2006. She was chairman emeritus of the funeral home at the time of her death.
Martin called her “a great educator, a very generous person, a very civic-minded and church-going person, very musically inclined.”
She was a mentor to him in his business and personal life, he said.
Paulette Simington, executive director of special education and student services for Martinsville City Public Schools, said: “Mobile had retired (from the school system) by the time I got here. I only knew her through the community. She was a strong, positive force in our community and had a great impact on a lot of the students who went through Martinsville City Public Schools. She will be sorely missed.”
Simington added that Hairston was active at St. Paul High Street Baptist Church.
“I think she was a very important teacher. She was a master teacher,” said Bill Vickers of Martinsville. When he was growing up, he wasn’t a student of hers but was aware of her reputation when she taught elementary school at Albert Harris. Years later, when Vickers returned to Martinsville to teach, she still was teaching for the city schools.
“She certainly was able to connect with her students. She was an exceptional disciplinarian,” Vickers said.
Hairston tutored students and worked with those who seemed to be “wavering” or to have lost direction, he said.
“She also was very interested in the community. She worked with tireless energy to try to help people who were indigent and people who needed help,” Vickers said.
Carolyn McCraw, vice chairman of the Martinsville School Board and a retired city teacher, said she didn’t teach full time with Hairston, but Hairston substitute taught in the English department at Martinsville High School a number of times.
“She was an outstanding disciplinarian, but she disciplined with love and caring,” McCraw said. “She was always so competent and organized.”
“She was certainly a highly respected person in the community because of her dedication to do whatever she was called to do,” McCraw said.
According to biographical sketch and Bulletin articles from 1989 and 1990 (more recent information was not available), Hairston earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from West Virginia State College, a master’s degree in education from Indiana University and an associate degree in mortuary science from John Tyler Community College. She also did other studies.
As of February 1990, she had taught 25 years for Martinsville City Schools and four years at John Tyler Community College, where she was program head for mortuary science.
Her many involvements included: president of both the Virginia Morticians Association and the Western District Funeral Directors Association; member of the boards of directors of the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Associations and the Virginia Morticians Association; and co-chairman of the education commissions of those two associations.
Her other involvements included: chairperson for the United Fund; life member of the NAACP; member of the Chamber of Commerce and the Voters League; director of the Martinsville-Henry County Interdenominational Choir.
Hairston held numerous positions at High Street Baptist Church, including chairman of the scholarship committee, minister of music, co-sponsor of the youth department and co-sponsor of young adults.
She was a licensed funeral director and embalmer in Virginia and North Carolina.
She received a Distinguished Service Award of the Men’s Round Table, and the Martinsville City Police gave her an award that proclaimed her Outstanding Citizen of the Year for 1989.