Dr. Grace Vernell Hill Norbrey died peacefully on Wednesday, March 27, 2013, in Winston-Salem, N.C. Born on Nov. 8, 1925, in Hanover County, Grace was the seventh of eight children born to Elijah, a minister, and Ethel Hill, a homemaker.
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Following her graduation from Virginia Union University in 1944 with a major in chemistry and a major in mathematics, Grace taught science and mathematics in Spotsylvania and Stafford counties, for nine years. The family moved from Fredericksburg to Petersburg in 1960, and Grace taught in the Petersburg High School system for 20 years where she held the position of teacher of chemistry and mathematics and later, as chairperson of the science department. She obtained a Master of Science degree from Virginia State University in 1965. Later, in 1980, she retired from the Petersburg school system and while working on her doctoral degree, she taught briefly at James Monroe High School in Fredericksburg. By 1983, she had completed her Doctorate of Education degree in Higher Education at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Next, she accepted a position as coordinator of the Virginia Land Ownership Information Project of the Cooperative Extension Service at Virginia State University. In that position, she traveled throughout Virginia conducting workshops and organizing information sessions which informed landowners of their property rights. Additionally, she authored several land loss and small farm property ownership publications. In 1994, she retired from the Extension Service as an assistant professor and then joined retiree groups which visited countries throughout the world, including China, Australia, and New Zealand and South Africa.
A faithful member of Zion Baptist Church since the family moved from Fredericksburg to Petersburg in 1960, Grace sat on the church's Board of Trustees and was an active member throughout the church. She volunteered as an assistant superintendent of the Sunday school in 1964 and in the year 2000, she and her husband Maurice received an award from the Sunday school for their dedication and service. She co-founded the Rosemond Smith Women's Senate, taught in the Zion summer enrichment program, and chaired appreciation services and Women's Day programs. For a number of years during each Easter and Christmas celebration, she sang first soprano in the J. B. Brown Memorial choir's rendition of "The Messiah".
Her civic accomplishments extended deeply into the communities in which she lived. In Fredericksburg, she worked diligently for New Site Baptist Church and enjoyed membership in the Progressives Club. As a Petersburg resident, she held a number of leadership positions in the social organization The Moles Inc., such as National Editor of Yearbook, National Resolutions Chairman, and president of the Petersburg chapter of the Moles. She was charter president of the Petersburg Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, founded and was first president of the Chesterfield Alumni Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, served as president of the Petersburg Alumni Chapter and charter member of the Fredericksburg Alumni Chapter. In the Chums Organization, she was a charter member of the Petersburg chapter.
In 2007, Grace moved to Richmond and reactivated her membership in Nazarene Baptist Church in Mechanicsville, the church that her grandfather founded. At Nazarene, she served with dedication as a substitute Sunday school teacher in the adult church school class, chaired the Ethel Hill scholarship fund, and was the speaker for the 2010 Women's Day program.
For over 20 years, Grace planned fundraising activities for her beloved alma mater, Virginia Union University, and served on the University's National Alumni Board of Directors. Having received numerous awards for civic service, one of the most coveted was a first place award she received for designing an outstanding model Land-Loss program among Black Land Grant Universities. Throughout her life, she was devoted to her deceased husband, Maurice of 51 years, church and community with great passion.
She joins her husband of 51 years and will live in the memories of her devoted daughters, Muriel Beth Hopkins (David) of Winston-Salem, N.C., and Nancy Mauricee Holmes (Robert) of Richmond; three beloved grandchildren, Michelle and David Hopkins of Winston-Salem, N.C., and Camilla Holmes of Richmond; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, church family and loving friends.
A memorial service for Dr. Grace V. Norbrey will be held 12:30 p.m., Monday, April 1, 2013, at Zion Baptist Church, 225 Byrne St., Petersburg, the Rev. Dr. Archie German Sr., interim pastor and the Rev. Dr. Andrew J. White Sr., eulogist. The inurnment to follow at Shiloh Church Cemetery, Fredericksburg.
The Delta Sigma Theta Omega Omega Ceremony, The Moles Inc. and family visitation will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday, April 1, 2013, at church the day of the services.
Family members and friends are invited to pay final tribute to Dr. Norbrey at www.jmwilkersonsince1874.com.
Funeral arrangements entrusted to the staff of J.M. Wilkerson Funeral Establishment Inc., 102 South Ave., Petersburg, 804-732-8911, www.jmwilkersonsince1874.com.
Published in The Progress-Index from Mar. 28 to Mar. 30, 2013