In Memory


  Rilla Caye Lequire Edwards

March 7, 1931 – September 1, 2017



Rilla Lequire Edwards was born on March 7th, 1931 in Tuskeegee, NC, the sixth of Johnny and Lelia Lequire’s seven daughters. Rilla attended public schools in Graham County, North Carolina, where, in 1950, she shared the title of Valedictorian for the graduating class of Stecoah High School with her best friend. The first girl from her high school and the first one in her family to attend and graduate from college, Rilla received a scholarship to attend Western Carolina College, where she worked in the library to help pay for her education.

While pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education, Rilla completed her student teaching in Franklin, NC, and married T. J. Edwards, her high school sweetheart, during her sophomore and his junior year. She gave birth to their first child just over two months before her graduation on May 31st, 1954. T.J. stayed home to take care of their infant son while she participated in graduation ceremonies. Rilla gave birth to a second child in 1955, soon after beginning her first teaching position in Highlands and before moving with her young family to Union Mills to take a position with Alexander Schools and beginning a 29-year career in the public schools of Rutherford County.

During her first years at Alexander Schools, Rilla taught both 4th and 7th graders, though in later years she enjoyed the challenge of working with first graders. After over a decade of teaching and now a mother of four, Rilla began attending summer school at Appalachian State University, taking advantage of a new program offered by the state to certify public school librarians. Upon completion of the program, she began a new position as Librarian for Rutherfordton Elementary School in 1969 and continued in this position until she retired in 1986.

When they first joined the Alexander Schools faculty, Rilla and T.J. lived with Jay and Joy in a campus apartment and later, when Lynn and Pam came along, they moved into a house owned by the school and just across from Louise and Bill Bagnall. The school provided meals and students and faculty living on and off campus befriended the Edwards family. Around 1965, Rilla and T.J. purchased a farm just a few miles up Box Creek Road from the school and the farm became, in a manner of speaking, another member of the family.  While T.J. and young Jay raised Angus beef cattle, Rilla took up housekeeping in earnest and organized the girls as helpmates. Her talents included everything from cooking and sharing three nutritious meals a day with her family to processing a bountiful harvest each summer and fall.  Drawing on her agricultural Appalachian heritage, Rilla canned beans, put up corn, made delectable strawberry freezer and canned jams, peaches, tomatoes and more. Together the family picked blackberries in June, strung beans in July, and hulled walnuts in October. While raising her own family, Rilla incorporated her aging mother, Lelia, and In-laws into her family circle and made sure her children knew their aunts, uncles, and cousins. Friendships too wrapped the family in a circle of love and support.

Having grown up in a devoted Christian family, Rilla built her life and her own family on an unwavering Christian faith. The Edwards family began attending Round Hill Baptist Church as soon as they arrived in Union Mills, all their children were baptized there, and Rilla attended her community Baptist church until she passed away on September 1, 2017. While she continued her full-time professional career and kept her household and the farm operating efficiently, Rilla served as a Sunday School instructor at Round Hill and for several years headed the Baptist “Girls in Action” or GAs for the church. Additionally, she participated in Bible studies, attended church services and events, and joined the choir.

As her children grew up and Rilla and T.J. retired, they continued to work the land together. With fewer family and professional responsibilities, Rilla had more time for hobbies, including painting, quilting, reading, cooking, and traveling, often in the company of her sisters and brother-in-laws. She loved the beach and slipped away with T.J. to enjoy the beautiful Carolina coast as often as she could get him to take a break from farming.  T.J. and Rilla continued to be active members of the community, visiting shut-ins and those that were ill, remembering birthdays with cakes and cards and sharing the love they had for each other with friends and family.








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