Katherine F. Holcombe
Katherine F. Holcombe
  • October 15, 1922 - April 16, 2017
  • Virginia Beach, Virginia

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Katherine Franks Holcombe's celebration of life will be held at St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church in Virginia Beach, VA, on Friday, April 21, 2017. The family will receive friends from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the church, followed by Mass. A graveside service will be held at Rosewood Memorial Park at 11:30 a.m.

On Resurrection Sunday, April 16, 2017, Katherine Franks Holcombe finished her race, the race she ran excellently, and entered the gates of Heaven. "Well done, good and faithful servant!" is what she heard from Jesus as He embraced her and welcomed her Home.

Katherine was born on October 15, 1922, in Olive Hill, Tennessee, in the county of Savannah, to Lillian Henderson Franks and Roscoe Franks, who were sharecroppers. She was the first of five children, and had three sisters (Inez Franks Robinson, Hazel Franks Smith, and Virginia Franks Albertson) and one brother (Max Franks), all of whom were waiting for her in Heaven.

Life was difficult during the Great Depression, and Katherine's mom, whom she called "Mama," sometimes made their clothes out of potato-sack material. "But we never thought we were poor," Katherine often said. They lived in a simple one-room house that her father built, along with a safe place dug out of the side of a hill where they stayed during storms. Her stories of that time include being picked up by winds from a tornado that tossed both she and her father into the mud near the stables where they kept their horses.

Little did she know then, however, that her humble beginnings hid what turned out to be such a rich and full family history. She was amazed at recent research into her family's genealogy that revealed some of her great-x-great grandparents included Lieutenant Richard Reagan, who served in the American Revolution; Daniel DaFoe, who wrote "Robinson Crusoe"; Queen Anabella of Scotland; Peregrine White, who sailed over on the "Mayflower"; the first Swedish settlers in America; and August Herman Francke, a well-loved German preacher who, among many things, started an orphanage, a school, a dispensary, and a library. As a matter of fact, Katherine has many preachers of various denomination in her line-Quaker, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Puritan, Baptist, and the Church of England. Along with her English, Scottish, German, and Swedish roots, she also has Italian, Norwegian, Irish, and European Jewish blood.

But back to those humble beginnings. Blessings were definitely counted. When Katherine was a child, Christmases weren't extravagant, but they were special. Katherine says she used to get an orange and a penny in her stocking, along with a little doll and something her mom made, such as a knitted scarf. Her mom also saved up to make a coconut cake every Christmas, and that became their tradition. Although Katherine never really took up the hobby of arts and crafts, she appreciated her mom's beautiful work of afghans, embroidery, and quilts. She treasured them and even kept a couple on her bed or on the couch to display them proudly.

One time, a traveling preacher woman came to town and stayed with the Franks Family. Katherine says they all gave their lives to Jesus during her visit, and soon after, little Katherine was seen standing in the middle of the woods on a log or a rock and preaching to her cousins and siblings. She even started going to church by herself. After she was cast in a children's Christmas play at the Presbyterian Church, her parents came to see her and started attending too.

Katherine loved going to the movies. She'd walk to town to see "Tarzan" and "Shirley Temple." One time, on the way home one night, she said she heard someone following her. But every time she stopped, the footsteps stopped. She hurried along and when she got to the top of the hilly road, she looked back and found that it was a dog that had followed her all the way home.

Animals loved Katherine, and she loved taking care of them. As a child, the first animal she remembers rescuing was a baby bird that had fallen out of its nest. She said she carefully picked him up and set him back in the nest while the mama bird kept diving for her head. Later, she'd have plenty of pets at different seasons in her life, including dogs (Blackie, Nipper, and Misty) and birds (Barkley Sr., Barkley Jr., Lucky, and Brodie). They loved her in return and always knew she was their mama.

During World War II, Katherine and her cousin Grace moved to Mobile, Alabama, and lived in a boarding house run by a kind doctor and his wife. Katherine worked with military ships' blueprints. She also started business school, but left that to wait tables at Papageorge's, often working double shifts and taking in a movie in between. She did this so she could help her mom by sending money back to her in Tennessee. Although it had been her dream to someday open her own dress shop, she did see another dream turn into reality. While waiting tables, a certain handsome, charming, and outgoing customer walked in, and the rest is history. Leo Claude Holcombe became the love of her life, and they shared many happy years together. Interestingly, Katherine studied to become a Roman Catholic to get Leo to go back to church. He always credited her for helping him in so many ways, especially in raising their children while he served in the Army.

Together, Katherine and Leo raised four children, Dorothy Holcombe Lathan (married to Woodie Lathan), Theresa Holcombe Heinz (married to William Heinz), Leo Holcombe Jr. (married to Eileen Eckert), and Sandra Holcombe. They also have one son, Sam, whom they lost before birth, but who is now getting to know his mom for the first time in Heaven.

Through their children, Katherine and Leo have 10 grandchildren