Sunday, October 31, 2004
She was a world traveler, family woman
Beneath the perfectly coiffed exterior of Mildred Poff beat the heart of an adventurer.
Her daughter, Jean Galloway, said she often teased her mother about the frequent trips around the country and to Europe. "If somebody said go, she was gone," Galloway said.
Poff's children said goodbye to her for the last time on the morning of Oct. 21 when she died of respiratory failure. She was 90.
Poff was born in West Virginia's coal fields in 1914 and lost her mine supervisor father four years later in a rock slide. The family moved to the New River Valley where Poff's mother later remarried.
Poff married her childhood sweetheart, C.W. Poff, in 1939 and moved to his farm in the Sugar Grove section of Montgomery County.
As a mother, she was kind, caring and a lot of fun, her children say. Galloway couldn't remember a time when her mother got really angry at the children and said her mother never gave them a curfew. Miraculously, the children always came home at a reasonable hour, Galloway said.
Poff only ever really got worked up when her younger sons got into a scuffle. Then she would take off her shoe and whack them with it until they stopped fighting, Galloway said.
In the 1950s the family founded Poff Construction and set about building a new life in town. Mildred Poff always supported her husband's dream, even during the lean years.
Son Bob Poff said he doesn't remember his family taking many vacations, except for one trip to Jamestown and a trip to visit family in Maine. The family was too busy working to think about traveling.
"She took care of the home as he worked hard to provide a living for us four children. She was as handy with a screwdriver and paintbrush around the house as she was with her quilting needles and cooking utensils," he said.
And yet, she never came in dirty or sweaty from the garden or stepped away from painting a wall with a drop of paint on her clothes, daughter-in-law Joyce Poff said.
"She was a prissy little lady actually," Galloway said. "But she was fun and she was game for anything."
Twenty years ago, Joyce Poff asked her mother-in-law to go to England with her. It was the first of many European tours, including Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Spain.
A few years ago, Galloway took a Sunshine bus trip to Alaska with her mother and father. She didn't expect a 4,000-plus-mile bus trip to be much fun, but her mother made it "maybe the most fun I ever had in my life. It was a moving party," she said.
Age never slowed her down. In the past two years, Poff had taken a ride in a hot air balloon and on an airboat in the Florida Everglades.
Poff infused her adventurous spirit into her four children, all of whom grew up to be entrepreneurs. Tom Poff took over sole control of Poff Construction when his father died three years ago; Bob Poff owns a real estate management company; Bill Poff owns an e-commerce company; and Galloway has made a living as an artist for most of her adult life.
In fact, Galloway grew up learning needle and craft work from Poff and credits her mother as a major artistic influence.
"She was my first art instructor," Galloway said.
Poff told her pastor Neal Turner the day before she died that her four children were the "crown jewel" of her life.
"She was the definition of a wife and mother," he said.