Vidalia Loses Treasured Citizen, Helen Threlkeld Darby
With the passing of Helen Threlkeld Darby, 102, on January 27, the community lost one of its most treasured citizens. The wife of the late James Darby, she was well known for her generous nature and willingness to step up to volunteer where she was needed. When she was named Vidalia Lady of the Year in 1983 Mrs. Darby was lauded as “charming, loving, sincere and unselfish.” In an interview published in The Advance when continued from page
she was 95, Mrs. Darby spoke about the importance of family, and recalled the pleasure she derived from playing the organ at First Methodist Church. She filled the role of church organist for 40 years.
In addition to her devotion to her church, Mrs. Darby was active in the community in many other ways. She was a member of the local Recreation Board, the Bank Board, the Garden Club, the Women’s Club, a bridge club, the Vidalia Library Board, and the Vidalia Beautification Committee. She was a charter member of both the Franklinia Playhouse and Beta Sigma Phi Sorority. She was also a Girl Scout leader and a fundraiser for the American Heart Association and Cancer Society.
Both Mrs. Darby and her husband grew up in Vidalia. Mr. Darby, who passed away in 1991, was President and Chairman of the Board of Darby Bank and Trust, a local financial institution founded in 1927. He was also Mayor of Vidalia, Chairman of the Toombs County Board of Commissioners and a State Senator, among many other public duties.
In the interview in The Advance, Mrs. Darby laughingly recalled the years of her husband’s political career. “I lived with politics all my married life. They can really be dirty at times, but you learn to live with it. You kind of forget what you hear people say. You have to or you’d go crazy!”
Born in 1918 to H.A. Threlkeld and Lillian Brice Threlkeld, who resided on Church Street in Vidalia, Mrs. Darby grew up placing an emphasis on education. “My mother had me taking piano lessons when I was in the first grade,” she said. She attended Brewton- Parker Institute for one year and then earned a working scholarship to Shorter College in Rome where she studied music and graduated in 1938. “My college was nothing but work. I had to work four hours a day in the music room as part of the scholarship and spent the rest of my time practicing. They kept a record, and they’d check to see if you were practicing when you were supposed to be.” When she returned home after college, she began playing the organ at First Methodist.
She married James Darby in 1940. When they started dating, Mr. Darby was working with his father at Darby Bank and at Darby Supply Company. “We dated about four or five years. I had to finish college before we married.” The Darbys had a daughter, Connie, who married Dick Williams, CEO of Bernard Williams Insurance Company. The Williamses live in Savannah and have three children and several grandchildren.
At the time of her death, Mrs. Darby was matriarch of both the Threlkeld and Darby families. “My family is very important to me, yes Ma’am! I guess you could say that’s what I live for,” Mrs. Darby said in the newspaper interview. Referencing a photo of her great-grandchildren on the table next to her, Mrs. Darby remarked, “Aren’t they cute? They are sweet children and I sure do love them! When we all get together, it’s a lively place!” A memorial service honoring Mrs. Darby will be held at a later date.