Monday, April 30, 2018

Laura Blanche Howard Jolliff (1919-2018)

Regular readers of this blog will remember many posts about Cousin Blanche.

Blanche on her porch, 2015
Photo by Peter Vankevich

The Ocracoke community was saddened to learn that Blanche died this past Thursday. She was 98 years old.

Blanche had a prodigious memory and a generous spirit. Many an afternoon and evening I walked across the lane to sit on her pizer or in her living room, listening to her sharing stories about days gone by. She told me stories about island churches, schoolhouses, general stores, post offices, and prominent islanders. Among so many other subjects, she recalled tales of shipwrecks, schooners, and the iron men who sailed them. She remembered walking to the beach to view the 1925 wreck of the four-masted schooner, Victoria S.

In 2015 Blanche received the Ocracoke Cultural Heritage Award from the Ocracoke Preservation Society for her many contributions toward preserving the history, culture and traditions of Ocracoke Island.

Several posts about Blanche that I published on this blog are available here.

As a tribute to Blanche and her lasting contributions to her island home I am printing the words to one of many poems and hymns that embodied Blanche's spirit, and that she committed to memory and often recited for me:

"A Psalm of Life"
 by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou are, to dust thou returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, - act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sand of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Farewell Blanche! We miss you.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke Lodge No. 194, Independent Order of Odd Fellows. You can read the Newsletter here:


  1. I'm so very very sorry. She was a wonderful woman. My wife and I will always cherish the time that we spent chatting with her. She will be sorely missed by all of us.

  2. Condolences to all who knew and loved Blanche. What a treasure to have had her in our lives !! I felt as though I knew her through your posts. What a wonderful life she had !!

  3. Anonymous9:52 AM

    Haven't kept up with the blog for awhile, but I'm a long-time reader and glad I caught the news today of Cousin Blanche's passing. Your efforts to share the tales of her life over the years helped her touch and influence so many others--her recitation of the Longfellow poem, for example. I share just a bit of the loss that you who knew and loved her surely feel, but I'm happy to have crossed paths with her here via your forum. Thanks for that and for all you continue to do to help others understand Ocracoke and island life just a little bit more each day--as always. And best wishes to all who mourn the loss yet cherish their memories of Cousin Blanche.

  4. Anonymous11:48 AM

    I am so very sorry for your loss. Such a long wonderful life she lived! Stan and I had a conversation with her one morning at Pony Island and will always remember it.

  5. Lou Ann Homan8:00 PM

    Loved her dearly.

  6. Tom Pahl7:28 AM

    Thank you, Phillip for introducing me to Blanche a few years ago. We had a long and full conversation in her living room that afternoon. The next time I saw her, she was walking down Howard Street and I pulled my car over to say hi. I started to remind her of our conversation, but unnecessarily, because she picked it up again, right where we had left off almost two months earlier! So sorry for her passing, Phillip, I know how much you cherished each other.

  7. Anonymous9:04 AM

    Did anyone record on tape herstory of the island? Someone must have an audio recording of her telling a story or two? My deepest sympathies to her bereaved family and friends. May she rest in peace and her memory a mainstay.

    1. I have several videos and they are on youtube. Here is one of my favorites!!

    2. Also, the NC State University Language and Life Project made a recording of Blanche. It is available on their CD, Ocracoke Still Speaks.

  8. Anonymous11:08 AM

    Philip, I am so sorry for you and your families loss. It must have been her spirit that made our Thursday to Sunday stay in the Gakin/O'Neil (?) house on Howard St., some of the most special I've ever lived, as this was my first visit to your fair Island and blog (today). Peace to you, your family and wonderful community.