SYLACAUGA -- The face of downtown changed dramatically over the 50 years Virginia West served as director for the Sylacauga Housing Authority.
Sylacauga grew from a dusty agricultural and textile town to a beautiful small city with the help of federal funds West helped obtain.
West, 98, died Thursday at Coosa Valley Medical Center. Graveside service will be Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 1 p.m. at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church Cemetery in Fayette County.
Ted and Shirley Spears called West a giant in the history of Sylacauga.
“Ted and I have the greatest respect for her work with the housing authority, her support of the arts and for her intellect,” Shirley Spears said. “Virginia masterminded the revitalization of our downtown during the 1970s, and the library would not be where it is today if she had not been interested in having the new library in the heart of our town.”
The retired Comer Library director said she thinks so often how on-target West and then librarian Carolyn Goff were to want the center of knowledge and learning located right there for everyone who comes down Alabama 21 to see.
“Having the library so visible says a great deal about our town and the emphasis that our city leaders place on supporting quality of life for all,” Spears said. “Look at the difference having behind-the-store parking has made for our downtown. I don’t know another small town in the area that has the look of vitality that our business district has, and I think that plan had a great deal to do with our present appearance. I’ve had so many people say, ‘Sylacauga still looks busy and alive.’”
West graduated from Fayette County High School and Auburn University.
“She went on to have a successful career in a world that was dominated by men. She was designated in the 1990s as a Distinguished Auburn Woman Graduate,” said retired educator Ted Spears.
West was the director of the Sylacauga Housing Authority for 50 years. After graduating from Auburn in June 1941, she came to Sylacauga the following month to work as project auditor for the construction of war housing. She had no idea it would be the only job she would ever hold.
She was a member of Broadway Church of Christ and numerous civic clubs, including the Sylacauga Arts Council. She was past president of the Sylacauga Garden Club and the Business and Professional Women’s Club.
West was the first female president of the Alabama Association of Housing Authorities and the Southeastern Regional Council of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Authorities.
“Virginia was a caregiver with great concern for her parents and for her extended family,” Shirley Spears said. “She loved her church, the Church of Christ on Broadway, and she revered Pastor Mike Kiser and Dolly.
“Virginia’s physical strength may have declined, but all who knew her admired her sharp mind and her obvious plan for her old age -- which she executed with grace, remaining in her beautiful home with its immaculate yard until just before her death.”
West supported the Comer Library financially, as well as the Sylacauga Arts Council, the Beautification Council and other organizations.
West managed and did grants for Sylacauga revitalization projects, along with watershed projects. In recognition of her contributions, a public housing complex in Sylacauga and lake in Talladega County were named after her.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to a favorite charity.
Online memorials may be made at www.curtisandsonfh.com.
Curtis and Son North Chapel will direct the service.