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HOVA UNDERWOOD
Calhoun County lost another friend this week, Hovah Underwood.

Hovah Hall Underwood, wife of former governor Cecil Underwood, died on Friday, Sept. 24, in Charleston. She has played such an important role in Calhoun County memories that we choose to honor her today.

She was born in April 12, 1919, in Grantsville, and lived in a house at the site of the present Laundromat. Her father was Roche Hall and her mother was Theodocia Betts. She was a niece of Miss Ola Betts, who had a great influence on her life. She was in the first class at the new Grantsville Grade School. Miss Davis was the first grade teacher. Hovah and her family attended Knotts Methodist Church on Main Street. She was an accomplished musician, playing the piano and later giving private lessons. She also played saxophone, sitting by Ola Jarvis in the high school band.

Hovah was a 1937 graduate of Calhoun County High School. She was a regular at the class reunions. Her stories about the class, their activities and pranks made her a favorite any time she was in town. It seems that she and Ola Jarvis Stalfort were ring leaders, aided by my husband Carl and Andy Stemple. Some others in their group were Murdayne Marshall, Virginia Proudfoot, Elva Wright, Dorothy Elliott, Ann Hardman, Parker McDonald, Jim Rothwell, Bob Wise (not the governor) and L.C. Hamilton. This group did not date, but were always together and had life-long friendships.

Hovah earned an AB degree from Salem College and a Certificate in Social Work from West Virginia University. She taught at Grantsville Grade School. She also worked in a defense plant during World War II.

She met her husband, Cecil Underwood, through her two sisters when they were classmates at Salem College. Hovah was a child welfare worker for the Dept. of Public Assistance and worked at St. Marys, where Cecil was a teacher. She was stood up for her first date with him, when he forgot, and walked another teacher home. He could never complain about his wife’s driving, because she taught him to drive.

While courting Hovah, Cecil was in Elizabeth and planning to come to Grantsville. He got on the Creston Ferry and made it across, but when he reached the Annamoriah Ferry, it had closed for the night. He was marooned between Creston and Annamoriah. He stopped for directions at a bar, where he was told to go straight. He went straight until he reached Hur, where there was no way to go straight with several intersections. He saw a light and turned toward it and was met by dogs and a farmer with a shotgun. The farmer gave him directions into town. Cecil made a vow that if ever elected governor, he would see that there were bridges between Elizabeth and Grantsville. Governor Underwood had the pleasure of opening a bridge in 1957, while serving as youngest governor of West Virginia.

In most places, the Underwoods would be known as “the governor and his wife.” In Calhoun County he was shown respect, but it was always, “Hovah and her husband.”

Hovah’s evidence of love for Calhoun County was shown when she “chose to return” for her wedding on July 25, 1948. This was held at Knotts Methodist Church, next door to the home of Dr. Morford, who had delivered her. Dr. Morford’s funeral was held at his home at the same time as her wedding.

Hovah has been honored here by Calhoun County Committee on Aging, Minnie Hamilton Health Care Center, Calhoun Middle/ High School, Calhoun Historical Society and Republican Executive Committee.

She was on the board of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Cammack Children’s Center, Huntington Museum of Art, Marshall Univer-sity Artist Series, United Methodist Foundation and America’s Promise. She was a member of United Methodist Women, Charleston Garden Club, Governor’s Mansion Preservation Foundation, Daughters of American Revolution, Delta Kappa Gamma Society, Kanawha County Republican Women, West Virginia Republican Women, Charleston Women’s Club, West Virginia Symphony League, Hadassah of Charleston, Breast Cancer Awareness, Kids Count, and American Association of Social Workers.

I knew her through my husband, but after his death, we became friends on our own. She has been here several times to become aware of Historical Society restorations. Her stories about the Stevens school, in particular, showed us that she was proud to be a Calhouner.

She has made many gifts of family photos, information and artifacts to the Calhoun Historical Society to use in their new museum and Family History Center. Even in her death, she was giving, having donated her body to the Marshall University School of Medicine.

We will miss Hovah, but we are grateful that God allowed her to have such a part in our lives and the history of Calhoun County.

References: Ola Stalfort, Video of Calhoun Republican Committee, Flame of Sept. 1948 (magazine of Cabot Corp.), and recollections of conversations.

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