Kirk Mariner’s legacy to the Eastern Shore of Virginia Regional Library and Heritage Center has brightened the end of 2020 at a time when we need such good news. Bequeathing his collection, Frances Bibbins Latimer’s collection documenting four centuries of African-American history on the Shore, and other valuable historical collections ensures researchers have access to important documents relating to Shore heritage.
I was fortunate to count Kirk as a friendly competitor in the Accomack County Spelling Bee in the ninth and 10th grades of school (1959 and 1960), even though we were at different schools —he at Atlantic and I at Parksley. He won the bee the first year we competed, though I don’t recall the word he spelled correctly to win —nor the word I had earlier misspelled, which eliminated me from competition. In 1960, when the contest came down to the two of us, I had the easy part: Kirk misspelled the word “supersede” with a “c” instead of the second “s” — which was the sure-fire clue to me of the only alternative, an “s” — so I won and went on to Norfolk for the regional competition (at which I did not place).
Although I saw him a couple of times on the Shore in recent years, it was our 1974 reunion that brings a smile to my face: Kirk was pastor of Williamsburg United Methodist Church, where he presided at the funeral of my friend Marion Hamner Hawkes (who, as Earl Hamner’s sister, inspired the strong character of Mary Ellen on television’s “The Waltons”). After the service, when I reintroduced myself to Kirk, he insisted on introducing me to everyone around as “the girl who whipped me in the county spelling bee” — while I tried to insist he had beaten me the previous year!
The Shore lost an ever-gracious and ever-generous human being in Kirk Mariner. His legacy will live on at a time when libraries are needed more than ever — not only for their “hard-copy” books and documents such as those Kirk left behind but also for their important digital resources.
Martha Wessells Steger, Midlothian