Annie Lou Gelzer Abernathy
Annie Lou Gelzer Abernathy was born in Allendale, South Carolina, on May 5, 1917, the daughter of Kathleen Dunbar Gelzer and Dwight Hughes Gelzer. When she was three years old, her father died; her mother raised Annie Lou and her two brothers while serving as Allendale County supervisor for a WPA project teaching home economics. Her mother was a model of integrity, common sense, and self-reliance, as well as humorous wit, traits passed on to Annie Lou. Growing up, Annie Lou was surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins who were close and important parts of her extended family. While in high school, she was chosen the Allendale County Azalea Festival Princess for her beauty and grace, and rode on the South Carolina float in the pageant in Savannah, Georgia.
Annie Lou attended Brenau College (now Brenau University) in Gainesville, Georgia and held administrative positions in Allendale and in Charlotte, North Carolina. She met her husband, Henry Herman Abernathy, in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1940, when he was beginning his life-long career at the DuPont Company. They married in 1941 and had four children who kept them busy with school, scouts, sports, and lessons. Annie Lou shared her musical and artistic talents with her children, encouraging their creative pursuits. In 1968, the family hosted an American Field Service student, Jayshree Shah (Mehta), who attended Tower Hill School. This began a lifelong family friendship.
Annie Lou had a gift for entertaining and was an accomplished cook. She was known for her sense of humor, wonderful story-telling and great energy. Her style was evident in the homes she renovated and decorated. A guide at Winterthur Museum, she appreciated fine antiques and took care to display them to best effect in her home.
Annie Lou was a lively chaperone for the European trip of Girl Scout Troop 72 in 1959 and remained involved in the Girl Scout Council. When Herman was transferred to Japan in 1963, the family moved overseas and embraced the joys of Japanese culture, art, language, cooking, doll making, and flower arranging. They made many new friends and enthusiastically attended the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The Abernathy's returned to the U.S. via Asia and the USSR, then behind the "iron curtain," and through rarely visited countries such as Cambodia, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan - a world tour that was a life-shaping experience for the family. Many trips followed to visit their daughters Janet in England; Martha in Egypt, Pakistan, and Jordan; and Jayshree in India.
Annie Lou was a founder of the Green Show at Christ Episcopal Church in Greenville, participated actively in the Delaware Flower Market, and was an engaged member of the Brandywine Doll Club, Colonial Dames, and the Huguenot Society. The Abernathy's were members of the DuBarry Dance Club and founding members of the Greenville Country Club and the Snuff Mill Swim Club.
Annie Lou and Herman had a long and happy life together with their shared southern background and their love of family and friends. Their hard work and energetic support provided many opportunities for their children, for which they are very grateful.
The family thanks all of Mrs. Abernathy's friends, who were an important part of her later years, as well as caregivers at The Methodist Country House, where she resided.
She is survived by her children, Janet Abernathy Robertson of New York; Henry Herman Abernathy, Jr. of New York; Martha Abernathy Guichard of Walnut Creek, California; and Ann Kathleen Abernathy of Dallas, Texas; and by eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held on July 26, 2014 at 1:30 p.m. at Christ Church Christiana Hundred, 505 E. Buck Road, Wilmington, DE 19807. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Christ Church Christiana Hundred, in honor of Annie Lou Abernathy.