St. Francis Episcopal Church in Rutherfordton, NC

The Life Journey of Vera Scroggs

Vera ScroggsVera may not be the oldest member of St. Francis, but she has been coming here for the longest. She was born in Rutherfordton 90 years ago and has lived on Southern Street her entire life. The only physical distance between Vera’s home and St. Francis Church is the town cemetery. Her mother died when Vera was 13-months old. She and her father, George Pope, lived with his parents until he remarried. Vera was two years old when her father married Iva, her mother’s sister.

Father Lobdell baptized and confirmed Vera. Her faith has always been very important to her. She remembers her favorite Sunday School teacher – Arie Bailey – who worked in the linen room at the hospital. Vera would go visit her at the hospital and Arie would show her the linens and explain her work. “She was a really good Sunday School teacher,” said Vera. Church school would be held in the undercroft of the church or outside on days of good weather. At one time Sunday School was held at St. John’s Church, up the hill on Main Street.

Vera remembers the Sisters Mary and Gertrude who would come from New York for the rummage sales. They would sometimes give her little dresses and one time they gave her a religious book.

When she was growing up, St. Francis was a “high” church. “Father Lobdell was really high church and the sisters went along with that,” she said. “They made sure you genuflected and knelt to say prayers when you entered the church. You also were to make the sign of the cross at appropriate places. And you always wore a hat!”

Vera sang in the choir when she was younger. Her first year in high school was when the new part of the church was dedicated on Ascension Day. Vera is in the picture taken on the occasion. She remembers that Miss Noble played the organ.

After high school, Vera attended Brevard College for two years. During the holidays Vera would work at her father’s store. He had a barbershop and grocery store on Cleghorn Street. Her step-mother made hot dogs and sold them there. Sometimes her father would take a break from the store and go back to the mill where he was the spinning room boss.

It was while Vera was working at the store that she met Troy Scroggs. Troy was from Pelzer, South Carolina and was here working at Spindale Mills. He was boarding with Mr. Littlejohn who lived on Cleghorn Street. Troy bought a penny box of matches from her. They did their courting in the churchyard.

Troy had attended the Methodist and Baptist churches. He said, “When I get married, I don’t care where she goes, but that’s where I am going too”. They were married at St. Francis in 1938.

Vera worked in the mill for a while and then helped JoAnne Parker at the St. Francis Kindergarten. Vera and Troy were not able to have children. Father Webster and Dr. Eaves helped them adopt two children through the child welfare department. Ronnie was adopted in 1949 when he was five weeks old; Kenneth was adopted four years later when he was five months old. Pat and Maynard Hudgins were their godparents.  Ronnie Scroggs Celebration of Life and Memorial Service was at St. Francis on April 14, 2006.

Kenneth had really bad allergies for many years. He still has problems and can’t take too much sun. He caught cowpox from Ronnie’s smallpox vaccination. Dr. Hyde said they didn’t have a cure for cowpox and they almost lost Kenneth.

The family fished and camped together and went to the beach with friends. Ronnie and Kenneth had kayaks and Troy and Vera would take them up the Broad River, drop them off at one bridge and pick them up at another bridge further down the river.

Vera and Troy were both active in St. Francis. Vera taught kindergarten age Sunday School and was chairman of the Altar Guild at one time. Troy was an important member of the choir.

Vera continued teaching. She was a kindergarten assistant at the Ruth, Rutherfordton, Union Mills, and New Hope elementary schools. Mary Bergin and Vera started the first federally-funded kindergarten at Ruth elementary School. Right before Troy passed away, she started working for the preschool program at St. Francis and she is still a consultant and does the bulletin boards.

When Troy was sick for six and a half years, the church family really helped Vera through it all. The first time Troy walked down the aisle at St. Francis following his illness the organist played the hymn “Amazing Grace.” It was part of the music played at Troy’s funeral, along with “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.” These are two of Vera’s favorite songs.

The Scroggs family has had close relationships with all the ministers at St. Francis. Many of them have been to dinner at their house. “Father Chaplin would sit and eat with us and when he got home his wife Spencer would have something fixed and he wouldn’t be hungry. He loved Ronnie and Kenneth. Spencer would take them to swimming lessons when she went to visit her mother.” As one might expect, Vera’s favorite foods are North Carolina favorites: chicken, potatoes, and banana pudding.

Many of the younger generations of St. Francis know Vera through the day school and because she baby-sat for many of the church families. All the children she kept she says, “Feel like my own children.” And Vera has a large family of her own: in addition to her two sons, she has four grandchildren (Steve, Erick, Drew and Tori) and two great-grandchildren (Ashley and Little Erick).

Vera’s faith is a strong one. She says, “My faith in God has helped me more than I can say. God has blessed me by giving me all my friends at St. Francis.” The people of St. Francis are also blessed by having Vera Scroggs as a friend and as St. Francis’ longest attending member.

Interviewer and writer Nancy Bole

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