Catherine Holmes Harrison

Published 3:30 pm Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Catherine Holmes Harrison died at 5:23 p.m., April 7, 2021, in her home, 934 Rocky Bottom Road, Spring Grove. She was lovingly attended to by her children, nieces, nephews, relatives, and friends.

Mrs. Harrison was the widow of Melvin Gordon Harrison and daughter of the late Robert Lee Holmes and Lula Mae Brooks Holmes. She is also a descendant of several family lines of Surry County-born, free persons of color. Catherine was born in the winter just before Christmas in a federal-style farmhouse on the family’s farm along what was then called New Design Road, Dendron (Carsley). Maple trees were planted that year to shade the front porch for the next 98 years and beyond. Catherine was bereft just before her second birthday with the death of her mother and left to be cared for by her father, older siblings, and grandmothers, Annie Turner Holmes and Lucy Holmes Brooks.

Catherine Harrison expressed belief in the Historical Man Jesus and came to understand the meaning of his life, embracing a faith in the Resurrected Christ. She became a member of the Jerusalem Baptist Church in the Carsley section of Surry County and nurtured that member-relationship for above 88 years. While a member, she served many ministries, namely, Deaconess, Missionaries, Choirs, Hospitality, Seniors, and Ushers. Recently, she was honored with the title “Mother of the Church.”

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Catherine Harrison began her lifelong education in the Surry County public school system, attending the one-room school for Blacks only, Ruff School in Carsley. She attended Surry County Training School and completed the course of study in 1956 with the Spratley School of Beauty and Culture in Newport News. Formal education became assimilated into and emphasized in the Holmes household with the introduction of her late step-mother and supervising teacher for public education among county Blacks, Gertrude Ruffin Holmes. This idea, along with a very intense commitment to a strong work ethic, shaped the lives of Catherine’s siblings and many others who found lodging in the home. As a young lady and mother, she enjoyed the fosterage of a second step-mother, the late Florence Sykes Holmes.

Catherine Harrison was wed with Sergeant, U.S. Army, Melvin G. Harrison in the fall of 1957 in the family home of the Rev. Dr. William Lamb at Claremont, and witnessed by members of the Lamb and Harrison families. The couple immediately began residency in the home of Melvin’s parents, the Rev. William B. Harrison and Parthenia Taylor Harrison at Spring Grove. Catherine continued to serve her father with the family’s farm and clerking in his country store, Robert Holmes’ Store, as well as serving her parents-in-law, Rev. and Mrs. Harrison. She and Melvin soon became the proud parents of four children born at local military installations, Fort Eustis (Warwick County) and Fort Lee (Prince George County).

Catherine Harrison’s primary occupation for life was that of rearing her children and nurturing her nieces and nephews. She molded and shaped the lives of an Army general officer, a librarian, a social worker, and a pastor/denominational leader. She also worked as a greeting card sorter in a New York Industry, a beautician in Newport News, a food service worker with the Surry Elementary School, and a final employ preceding retirement with John and Julia Curtis at Pleasant Point in Surry. Following retirement, she became a full-time “Granny Mom,” supporting fully, giving advice, making suggestions and stepping away. Catherine also found much fulfillment attending the Surry Senior Citizens Program, participating in singing, crafting, and other activities.

Catherine Harrison was predeceased by her parents and siblings, of whom she was the youngest: Rosa H. Byrd, Marilee H. Haskett, Moses T. Holmes, Pearline H. Davis, Queen H. Johnson, Mabel A. Holmes, and Essie Mae H. McQueen. Conjointly remaining to celebrate her life and mourn her passing are her children, Michael T. Harrison Sr. (Alissa), of Williamsburg; Deborah H. Dawson, of Surry; James M. Harrison (Cathy), of Surry; and Sheila H. McFadden (Willie J.), of Madison, Ala.; grandchildren: Jason P. McFadden (Anthonique), of Lakenheath Air Force Base, England; Cassandra W. Diggs (Adron), of Slidell, La.; Catherine J. Dawson, of Surry; Lauren M. Harrison Scott (Desmond), of Durham, N.C.; Michael T. Harrison Jr. (Pei Han), of Tokyo, Japan; Jesse L. Earls, of MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.; Jarrod M. Harrison, of Durham, N.C.; Mitchell L. Harrison (Jessica), of Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, N.C.; and Caitlin N. McFadden, of Birmingham, Ala.; great-grandchildren: Bryson A. E. McFadden, Catherine E. Dawson, Nova J. McFadden, and Kannon J. Diggs; wonderful and loving nieces and nephews; a host of cousins, friends and church family.

Services were held Saturday, April 17, 2021. Memorial contributions may be made in honor of Mrs. Harrison to either of the following 501c3 non-profit organizations:

American Baptist Churches of the South (ABCOTS), ABC Related Schools Project (supporting historically Black Seminaries Samuel D. Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University; Shaw University Divinity School; Morehouse School of Religion) 443-551-3045. Make checks payable to ABCOTS or see website at Click on the “Celebrate & Support” tab to make your donation.

Surry Elementary School “Feed Our Future Program.” Providing a weekend supply of nutritious food for children at Surry Elementary School. Donations must be sent with a check to Surry Elementary School (ATTN: Principal, Mrs. Ann Marie Nelin), 1600 Hollybush Road, Dendron, VA 23839. You will receive confirmation of your donation and instructions for tax reporting purposes. Please include on the memo line of your check “Feed Our Future.”

Professional services entrusted to the staff of Whiting’s Funeral Home, 7005 Pocahontas Trail, Williamsburg, VA 23185. 757-229-3011