January 19, 2021

Patrick and Heather with Libby Cole
Christmas, 1974

HOW LIBBY FILLED A GAP

Libby lived in a brick bungalow on Trenholm Road, just across our hidden back yard, with her mother and two older sisters.  One of the first things we learned about her was that her late father had been the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina.  He died of a heart attack at age 54 when Libby (the youngest of six children) was just 8 years old.  The shock of his death and the sudden loss of their status as the Bishop’s family took an emotional and financial toll on the family—especially his widow and three daughters. 

After Tom and I separated, I took a job as Director of Medical Records at Providence Hospital—and the mad scramble to arrange child care for Heather (6) and Patrick (3) began.  How do you ever find someone you can trust to care for your precious little ones when you are at work? Over the years there were many different arrangements and caregivers—some wonderful and some a bit offbeat or weird. One saving grace was that my mother spent long stints of time with us and loved caring for them. 

Libby had already babysat occasionally when Tom and I went out for an evening.  Her best friend was another neighbor, Julia, whose mother Alicia was a close friend of mine. Alicia connected us with the Coles.  As I began working and adjusting to life as a single mom, Libby was a lifesaver.  She was about 19 and unsure of what path she should follow.  She had a magical connection with children—Heather and Patrick adored her.  With her beautiful, dark long hair (sometimes down, sometimes up), she was a calming but playful companion during this transitional time. 

That fall I decided it would be a good idea to take Heather and Patrick somewhere for a weekend.  Hickory Knob was a state park that had recently opened a resort with a lodge and swimming pool.  Everything seemed to be a first—and stressful—so I asked Libby if she would go with us for the weekend.  It was a good time together—and that experience gave me the confidence to take Heather and Patrick the next spring to Disney World in Orlando—alone.

We moved to an apartment at Quail Run—and eventually to our house in Williamsburg West. Other babysitters came and went—and finally none was needed.  Libby became a respiratory therapist, worked in Greenville, and continued to love and work with children.  One Sunday afternoon—perhaps in the late 1980s—Libby called to say she was in town and would like to stop by.  We were delighted to see her!  She sat on the sofa with Heather and Patrick all those years later—and they laughed together and reminisced about the fun they shared during those shaky days when she had helped them see that they too could get through a time of confusion and loss.

In 2002, Alicia was living in Florida and called me at Christmas time.  She broke the news that Libby had died in April—at 47.  A nephew was helping her move in Greenville and she suddenly collapsed—her heart gave out.  We were so sad to know she was gone.  Hers was a good and kind heart.

At Hickory Knob

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