Catawbian Profile: Patty Starkey

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Patty Starkey

Tina and I both were feeling the effects of traveling from our home of twenty years in Greensboro, North Carolina doing a 2-hour visit/interview with cousin Christine Shepherd Kanode Trumbull and a 2 1/2-hour luncheon with two more cousins, Hilda Wright and Kathleen Peery.  Our visits were two-fold: most importantly, to visit socially and enjoy each other’s company, but also to get input for future blog articles for the Echoes from Catawba blog that we started publishing April 14, 2018. Those morning and afternoon visits, while wonderful, do leave you hoarse and emotionally drained. So, as we motored across Catawba mountain to our 3 pm appointment, we were feeling both tired and joyful.

Once cresting the mountain and descending the north side I was home again. The muscle/mental memory of familiarity kicked in as we waved at Keffer’s store, passed the Morgan Farm now known as the Homeplace Restaurant and turned left on the Creek road. I know that the sign said Blacksburg road (as do your home addresses) but it is the Creek road to me. And while we are at it, the road named Newport road is the Back road to me. Up the Creek road we went, Tina driving and me trying to figure out who lived where they used to and seeing some houses that were new to me. I was very relieved a short time later to see the Bill and Net Starkey home looking the same as it did decades ago.


Pattys house (2)
Starkey Home Place     Photo credit Herb Grisso


Patty graciously came out and met us just as her mother Net would have done years ago. Tina and I had talked to Patty at Mama’s funeral services, so it was not like a first sighting since forever.

Bill and Net Starkey

I’ve known Patty since childhood as well as her mother Net and father Bill, also brothers Larry and Johnny.  Her parents are deceased, and in 2012 Johnny went to join them in Heaven, much too early. I have always felt that the Starkey family of five that I have just mentioned was one of the finest Christian families I have ever known. Bill and Net were both active in the Catawba Methodist church during their lifetime, doing whatever needed to be done.  They were active in Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, Easter Pageants, Christmas Plays and mentoring the young folks in the Methodist Youth Fellowship.  When it came time to build a new church, they helped lead the effort. You could always count on those two folks!

Larry, Net, Bill, Patty and Johnny: Parents 50th Wedding Anniversary

My Dad Clarence and Bill were friends and worked with the organization of the first ever Boy Scout Troop in Catawba as well as the Ruritan Club. Larry, Patty, and Johnny were active in everything youth-oriented possessing great character that remains a part of them today.

As Patty came out to greet us, I experienced a flashback of this nice family. But today it was a time to renew our friendship with Patty and see what she was doing with the outstanding FaceBook group “Remember In Catawba When.” Tina and I were amazed at what we learned over the next three hours!

Patty, having lived in Texas over a period of time returned to Catawba in the year 2000 to care for her very ill mother Net. Net passed away in 2002.  Beginning with her return to Catawba she became aware that no books were available on Catawba people and history, no organized effort in preserving the history of Catawba and no collection of photos that she had seen in neighboring communities like New Castle and Craig County. Patty has a strong love for her birthplace of Catawba, Virginia, especially the kind, caring, loving people. Although there were many great families that created the Catawba we know today, Patty feels that we are all related in some way, however distant that may be.  In a sense there is one huge family—-the Catawba family.  She was motivated and inspired at that time to do what she could to record Catawba’s history in pictures.

The Mission Begins

She started with family pictures, and it expanded as word got around that Catawba had a “shutterbug” named Patty Starkey.   With Smartphone and computer technologies advancing at a fast pace, making it easy to transport a picture, Patty started receiving more and more pictures.   As of 2018 she has in my estimation thousands of pictures from the vast majority of families with Catawba addresses or who have genuine Catawba family ties. She has already organized individual family photo albums and shared them with family members to enjoy and copy.  Patty has spent countless hours and significant expense over the last 18 years researching articles, documents, photos, and conversations to sort out the intertwining genealogies in Catawba Valley.

Patty has a reason to be smiling with all of the many photo albums she has put together.

Patty has developed over time an astounding memory of who is related to whom. In casual conversation, she can recite family genealogies on many different families.  Her passion for doing photo and document research has a long time ago morphed into a “Calling”.  Her home has literally stacks of albums, containers of photos and things placed about on shelves and tabletops. She shared some frustration in that it sometimes is overwhelming. Patty also ponders what to do with or how to handle these valuable resources. I believe she underestimates the impact that she has already made upon many people, maybe hundreds, who enjoy reliving the past through the photos she has collected.

The Fruits of Her Labor

In 2013 she founded a private group on FaceBook called Remember In Catawba When, whereas, people with connections to Catawba through family ties could enjoy their heritage through articles and photos of all things Catawba over three centuries. This Group now in its sixth year has over 250 members. Members can share old pictures, obituaries, and documents with one another. Patty in the meantime has an endless reservoir of items (mainly photos) that she releases that are of interest to all and priceless to many. I have no idea how many people have benefitted by viewing these posts by Patty and others. The pictures of years gone by are ageless and can be viewed multiple times, bringing smiles, tears, or just a warm feeling to us.

Patty and Ted
Patty and Ted

Patty is currently working with Tina and me by providing photos for the Echoes From Catawba Blog so that our posts are enhanced by her photos to provide interesting and informative articles. So the effort to preserve Catawba’s heritage now has three advocates: Patty providing the pictures and family information, Ted the authorship of articles and Tina the website designer and manager.

Patty started all of this and Catawba should be thankful that someone decided to not just talk about preserving our heritage but to do something about it. Thank you Patty Starkey!