Photo courtesy of Patricia Honea-Fleming.
Vadie Honea and her daughters took a trip to Sarasota, Florida with four pictures from when she lived there with her husband in the 1940s. They used the photos to reconstruct the story of Honea’s life there.
Vadie Honea’s interest in history started with her close relationship with her mother, who kept journals from her teenage years until her death. This interest eventually led her to found the Hoover Historical Society around her kitchen table in 1989.
Honea passed away on May 1, two days before her 95th birthday. She left behind three daughters, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, as well as a legacy of hard work and achievement.
“She had some core values beyond her faith, which included a deep appreciation of beauty and grace. She was a lady. And achievement — she was all about achievement,” said Dr. Patricia Honea-Fleming, her middle daughter.
These achievements included growing the Historical Society from its initial meetings in Honea’s home and Green Valley Baptist Church to its current archives at Arts on the Bluff. Honea visited historic homes in the area to gather their stories and saved extensive records on the people and places of early Hoover.
“She was a little eager beaver. She worked and she got you involved. She had a way of involving people in what she was doing. And she was a very pleasant person to work with,” said Inez McCollum, one of the early members of the historical society.
When something was going on in Hoover, McCollum said Honea was among the first to know. Honea was always at work on a project, whether gathering records for a book or visiting historic sites.
“She was just always around and busy, and we definitely missed her when she got to where she could no longer do that,” McCollum said.
Honea and her husband, Hiram James Honea, moved to Hoover in the 1970s from Georgia. They were married 68 years until Hiram passed away in 2010. She was involved in many organizations throughout Birmingham, including the Hoover Art Association, Alabama Watercolor Society and the National League of American Pen Women. Honea-Fleming said her mother loved the “detective work” of history and genealogy, as well as bringing historical records together to tell a person’s story.
Her greatest achievement, in Honea’s own estimation, was completing a biography of her mother, “Sowing Seeds of Love.” Honea spent six years researching her mother and extended family, and Honea-Fleming helped edit the information into a single story. It was published in 2009, which was all the more impressive because Honea had to learn to use a computer for the first time.
“She got her first computer when she was 86, and she mastered word processing on the computer and printing and all of that. So that was her first challenge, but her love, her pleasure was in crafting the story from the information,” Honea-Fleming said. “This [book] is what she felt was her personal historical contribution to our family.”
Independence was a family trait, something Honea learned from her mother and passed on to her children. She stayed involved in the Historical Society until 2014 and adamantly refused any suggestion of moving to an assisted living facility.
“I think she would consider it an achievement and a mark of her character that she lived independently right to the very end,” Honea-Fleming said. “She was still in charge and she was not going anywhere.”
That strong will was a defining characteristic of Vadie Honea’s life.
“Her story is the story of achievement,” Honea-Fleming said. “Balanced with grace.”