“Sweet Beulah Land, Sweet Beulah Land, On Thee I Stand”.
On July 10, 2019, Velma Lawhon Toler, 87, took her Savior’s hand, permanently stepped on her Sweet Beulah Land, reuniting with her beloved husband, parents, family and friends. She passed away peacefully and calmly at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. Her health declined when hospitalized for a broken femur in February. She battled a lifelong rare skin disease, Stevens Johnson Syndrome, caused by antibiotics; severe allergic reactions to blue dye; along with fibromyalgia. In her last months, she suffered horrendously with this disease that finally claimed her life, even though she fought hard to live as long as she could.
She was born January 29, 1932 in Smithfield to the late Dossie Vaden Lawhon and late Viola Hayes Adams Lawhon. The last living sibling of ten children, she was preceded in death by seven brothers: David Vaden Lawhon, Edward Lee Lawhon, Clarence “Bud” Adams, Johnny Adams, Elmer Adams, Floyd Adams and stillborn baby brother; two sisters: Myrtle Adams Lara and Thelma Adams Johnson.
The family was sharecroppers, tending farms throughout Johnston County, along with her father’s brother and family, Alec and Bertha Lawhon and their thirteen children. Although raised poor, with her father’s excellent farming skills, hard work ethics, surviving off the land through the Great Depression, she was independent and strong willed. Her favorite saying was “who’s getting old. I’m not getting old”, and she did not like for anyone to say she was old. She remained forever young in her mind even as her body deteriorated.
She attended Smithfield School until the family moved in the early 1940’s to Neuse Islands in the Princeton area. She attended Princeton School and graduated with the Class of 1951. She loved Princeton School and was an excellent student.
After high school graduation, she worked at the Goldsboro Stock Yard. She attended Crumpler’s Business School in Goldsboro; after graduation, she taught business at the school. At this time she lived at Taylor’s Boarding House, and by coincidence so did a handsome young man from Pamlico County. Here she met her future husband, Charles Thomas Toler, who came to Goldsboro under the GI Bill to attend business school, and of all things, was one of her students.
It truly was a love story at first sight. Charles knew the first time he saw her, he was going to marry her; and Velma knew the first time she saw him, she was going to marry him. After marrying on June 26, 1955, they resided in Johnston County until the early 1970’s, when they became longtime residents of Wayne County.
Velma also worked for L.E. Pearson Insurance Company on Mulberry Street in Goldsboro for decades and retired in 1988, after the company dissolved. She was also a member of the Goldsboro Wayne County Chapter No. 45 DAV Auxiliary.
Favorite things in life were cooking, gardening, church and singing in the choir at Riverside FWB Church. A long time member, she began attending at age 12 until her health declined in 2016, when she required permanent skilled care.
Known as the “collard lady”, no one cooked collards like she could; she had her own special way. Velma was asked to bring collards to all church functions which she gladly did. Although it took all day to cook them her special way, she loved giving them away to family and friends.
She loved gardening, raising her own vegetables, freezing, pickling; even tending an acre all by herself, because “no one could do it but her”. No one ever left her home without Velma giving them something from her freezer. She enjoyed giving to others more then receiving. She was one who wanted to do it her way or no way, and she did right up until the very end.
Velma and Charles enjoyed traveling with Louise Overbee Tours in Four Oaks and special friends, Bo and LaVerne Rhodes, until Charles’ health declined. They travelled to Canada, and a cruise to the Bahamas, which was a highlight in their lives. She was captivated by the beauty of the Caribbean waters. She loved eating at Western Sizzlin in Goldsboro and Holts Lake in Smithfield, having their favorite waitresses. At Western Sizzlin, a very special waitress, Terri, gave them the nickname, Mr. & Mrs. Popsicle.
In May 2016, Velma went to Cherry Point Bay Nursing & Rehab in Havelock, where Charles was residing. Here they met wonderful staff and visitors from other churches, and a very special young man, Josh Maragni, who she called “son”, and wife, Sarah; children Kylie and Josiah. The facility dropped the VA contract, so to keep Velma and Charles together, they moved to Manor Care in Pinehurst. Here they were adopted by Trinity Christian Fellowship Church of Pinehurst and their wonderful visitation team, including Bob Brown.
On January 6, 2017; she lost the love of her life of more than 61 years. After his death, she moved to Ayden Court Nursing & Rehab in Ayden for two years, blessed with many special roommates. The only activity Velma loved was when A.J. Outlaw, alias, “Elvis”, came and performed. She enjoyed Dr. Franklin Baggett of Elm Grove FWB Church services and their cards each month. By Divine Providence, her path crossed with Covenant United Methodist Church of Winterville who adopted her with loving arms, including beloved friends, Pastor Bob Wynn, Phyllis Nixon, Donna Sheets, Kim Harris, Cheryl Harris, and Frankie Brock. Divine Providence continued when her path crossed unplanned with special friend, Carol Dydowicz, from Grifton United Methodist Church. Then a young man, Tyler McGinley, became her care partner who she loved deeply and adopted as her “son”.
After falling, breaking a femur, hospitalized thirteen days; falling again fracturing the same leg, hospitalized seventeen more days, she was moved to Signature of Kinston. A month later, she returned to Vidant with an infection, spending her last twenty-two days in Palliative Care. The family wishes to thank all the caring, compassionate nurses, care partners and Dr. Pravin P. Chacko in the Palliative Care Unit on the 2nd floor.
Velma is survived by one daughter, Marcia Lane Toler-McCullen and son-in-law, Charles Randy McCullen of Princeton; two sisters-in-law, Linda Toler Lupton of Arapahoe and Dorothy McCullen Lawhon of Goldsboro; two uncles-in-law, Rev. Lee Toler of Alliance and Oscar Whitehurst of New Bern; two aunts-in-law, Ella Toler of Bayboro and Polly Whitehurst of New Bern; and the family pets, Zac, Spud and Charlie. Velma is also survived by numerous special nieces, nephews, cousins and loving friends, including Peggy Wilkins of Four Oaks and Louise Cappalo of Newport News, VA.
The family extends loving gratitude to special friends, James and Mary Lois Neel, Penny McCullen, Greg Coty and Linda Fields of Goldsboro; Barbara Williford Fletcher of Princeton; sister-in-law, Linda Toler Lupton; niece, Terry Johnson Jones of Smithfield; for all their love, compassion and assistance during Velma’s hospitalizations and in nursing facilities.
Funeral services will be held, Thursday, July 18, 2019 at 1:00pm at Riverside FWB Church with the Rev. Billy Nowell and Rev. Kevin Phillips officiating. The body will lie in state at the church from 11:00am until 1:00pm with informal visitation during this time. Burial will follow the service at Evergreen Cemetery on Highway 70 in Princeton beside her beloved husband.
Velma and the family request no flowers and memorial gifts may be directed to Covenant Church, Encouragement Ministry, 4005 Corey Road, Winterville, NC 28590.
Shumate-Faulk Funeral Home and Crematory is serving the Toler family and online condolences may be sent to www.shumate-faulk.com.