Progress 2019: Four sections highlighting Greensboro’s strengths ââ Inside
HIGH POINT — At High Point Central, you couldn’t miss them. When you saw one, you saw the other.
They are, as their classmates called them, the “Riley twins.”
Chloe is three minutes older than Lauren — “Three precious minutes,” Chloe likes to say — and they’ve grown up side by side. They share the same room, wear the same clothes, take the same classes, finish each other’s sentences and have the same love for swimming and softball.
They’ve had a big month. On June 8, they graduated from High Point Central. Then, for the first time in their lives, they’ll go their separate ways — Lauren to High Point University; Chloe to UNC-Chapel Hill.
They’ve both earned scholarships that will cover every penny of college. When they found out, they almost cried. With one phone call and one email, the stress of paying for college disappeared.
Lauren is a Say Yes Scholar, and she wants to study biology and become a veterinarian. Chloe received the Williamson Distinguished Scholarship, and she wants to study education and become a teacher.
Both scholarships are geared toward smart students from low-income families who need the financial help to make college a reality. And both Chloe and Lauren do need the help. They’re smart, savvy, both proven school leaders. But this past year has been rough.
Chloe and Lauren lost their mom.
In November, Alicia Riley died in a High Point hospital from kidney failure. She was 52. She worked as an elderly caregiver, and she left her two daughters with a car she called “Linc” as well as many good memories of singing, laughing and carrying on.
It always had been just the three of them. Now, the Riley family is down to two.
Chloe and Lauren.
They’re working hard to make it.
It was an early Saturday morning when Lauren and Chloe huddled by their mother’s hospital bed.
Chloe held her mom’s left hand; Lauren, the right. Doctors at High Point Regional had tearfully told them the bad news. Their mom’s heart had stopped, and her organs were shutting down. Chloe and Lauren now faced the inevitability of losing their mom, the effervescent Alicia Riley.
She was the one with the bright red, curly hair. Her personality could fill any room. She had what her daughters called a “hippie sense” when it came to clothes — clogs and sandals, paisley prints and shirts with bat sleeves.
She was quick with a sarcastic comment, and she didn’t mind going up to a drive-through window at a fast-food restaurant, seeing a cashier’s fancy fingernails and saying, “Your nails are so on fleek!”
She loved Lyle Lovett, Adele, Pink Floyd and Van Halen. That is, Van Halen with David Lee Roth. She also loved her girls.
Chloe and Lauren never really knew their father when they were younger. He wasn’t in their lives. It was always the three of them working hard and loving life on their mom’s caregiver salary.
“Remember, there are going to be haters in the world, but you don’t need to tear each other down,” she’d tell them. “You are all each other have.”
That thought resonated on that November Saturday, six days before Thanksgiving, with Chloe and Lauren beside their mom’s hospital bed. When they were freshmen, they lost their maternal grandmother, Jean Riley, their Mammaw.
Now, their mom.
“She was the only person we had,” Chloe said the other day. “It was always the three of us since we were babies. But when she died, you felt like we lost a third of us. We kept thinking, ‘What is this going to change?’ Well, it would change everything.”
Both Chloe and Lauren wrote about their mother’s death in their college essay.
From Lauren: “It’s hard to explain to people about losing a parent at such a young age. It is even harder to explain your situation when people ask about your mom. The hardest part is when people ask, ‘How are you doing?’
“I want to be truthful and tell them I’m not doing okay, that I’m struggling and grieving and that I just want my mother back.”
From Chloe: “My love for her will never fade. When things get hard, all I need to do is remember her quirks, her crazy fashion sense, and her witty sayings. It will get better. One day.”
How that has happened says much about the Riley twins.
They rely on each other. They rely on their Aunt Cathy and Uncle Ronnie, their mom’s brother. They also rely on their godmother, Melody Holder. She helps them, as the Riley twins say, “adult.”
Then there are their teachers. Like Hardy Floyd, their AP English teacher and yearbook adviser. And Sheila White, the guidance counselor at High Point Central. She has been key, they say.
“Mrs. White has been there,” Lauren says. “She’d let us come into her office and get a lot off our chest. That’s been a good thing.”
During the fall when their mom was in and out of the hospital, Floyd asked them to help with High Point Central’s yearbook, “Pemican.” They agreed.
Chloe sold ads, and Lauren designed every page and came up with the cover that referenced the school’s mascot, Bison.
She called the yearbook, “Ya Herd.”
“When it comes to the creative thing, I’m the one who can do that,” Lauren says. “Chloe has no art skills whatsoever.”
“No!” Chloe responds instantly.
So it goes with the Riley twins. Never a dull moment.
Since their sophomore year, they’ve been class officers together. Chloe has been president; Lauren, vice president. This year, Chloe was president of the student body, and Lauren was vice president.
They swam freestyle for High Point Central — they learned to swim in their Uncle Ronnie’s pool. They also played volleyball and basketball. And, of course, softball.
Lauren played second base, and Chloe played behind her in right field. Lauren batted third; Chloe, fifth. On a Wednesday in April, when High Point Central beat Winston-Salem’s Parkland High 15-0, Lauren hit a home run.
On the first pitch of the next inning, Chloe did the same thing.
“It was one of those where you don’t know it’s going over because it wasn’t my home run swing,” Chloe says. “So, I was surprised. When I saw it go over the fence, I put up my hands like Superman.”
Lauren saw it from the stands beside Uncle Ronnie. She was happy for her sister. A second later, though, she realized what her sister had done.
“That was mine,” Lauren says. “I wanted the team to talk about my home run. Not hers.”
Wait a minute. A sister likes stealing her fraternal twin’s moment?
“Absolutely,” Chloe says, laughing. “In the best way.”
Chloe and Lauren may be separated in age by three minutes. But it might as well be three years. Chloe has always been the mom in their relationship, and since their mom’s death, Chloe has taken care of life’s little details for her little sister she calls “Bud.”
Chloe cleans, drives and keeps them both on a schedule. Lauren is the cook.
“I’m winging it,” Chloe says. “Sometimes, I don’t know what I’m doing, and that’s scary.”
“She shouldn’t be,” Lauren says, smiling. “She’s doing a really good job.”
They’re both 18, considered adults under the law, so they can live on their own where they rent now. When they go to college, they’ll move into an apartment above Uncle Ronnie’s garage. When they do, they won’t have to worry about college expenses.
UNC-CH, High Point University and Say Yes Guilford ensured that.
“All that stress about paying for college was gone,” Lauren says. “I was over the moon.”
Lauren was at her Uncle Ronnie’s house playing with his dog, a German shepherd named Stormy, when she got a phone call. She heard she received a Say Yes scholarship to attend HPU.
The next week, Chloe read an email from UNC-CH right after a softball game. That’s how she found out she received UNC’s Williamson Distinguished Scholarship. She cried.
But now comes the big move.
In August, for the first time in their lives, they won’t be steps away from one another.
“I’ll have to get sick of her, so I don’t miss her,” Lauren says.
“Your country accent is coming out, Bud,” she says.
A second later, Chloe gets serious.
“I’m going to take it way worse,” she says. “I can cook and clean for myself, but it’s the stress of being alone. With Lauren, I always knew I’d have someone to talk to. We’ve never had a fist fight, we’ve been completely inseparable, and that has been amazing.”
Chloe shakes her head.
“I’ve never been alone in the world. It’s not easy being alone.”
A breed apart: Raymond the mule is famous for brash personality, feistiness and loud calls in Corolla herd. Page A11
GREENSBORO — The fading grave marker might simply list birth and death dates for a Dr. George Howland Swain.
But within the covers of “Tales from the New Garden Friends Graveyard” is a more compelling portrait of Swain, a young Guilford County abolitionist in the early 1800s South who helped a slave successfully use the legal system for the first time in this country to gain his freedom.
Swain (1768-1852) was one of three members of the New Garden Quaker abolitionist community who took up the case of Benjamin Benson, a free black man who in 1817 was kidnapped in Delaware and sold to Greensboro businessman John Thompson. After Swain, Vestal Coffin and Enoch Macy took up his case, Thompson sold Benson to a Georgia slave owner. Swain and the others later convinced a judge to order Benson back to Guilford County, where he later argued his own case in Superior Court and won.
A historical marker stands outside the International Civil Rights Center & Museum downtown.
“Of course, some of it had to do with the stance Quakers had taken in N.C. by the late 1770s: Any participation in slavery was inconsistent with Christian testimony,” the book’s co-author and retired Guilford College professor Max Carter said of the involvement of the three local Quakers. “I think some of it might have had to do with youthful idealism.”
Swain’s is one of the book’s 46 biographical sketches with photos and maps of historical sites. The book includes stories that have long been part of Carter’s Halloween lantern walking tour of the historic New Garden Friends Meeting Cemetery. Some of those profiled helped slaves plot their escape. Some offered a “safe house” along the Underground Railroad for slaves who needed a respite or food as they made their way north. Others, such as former college presidents, had interesting tales of their own.
Many of the last names — including Doak, Boren and Hinshaw — remain familiar.
“On the tours, people would always ask, ‘Is this written down anywhere?’ ” said Carter, the former director of the Friends Center at Guilford College.
The first shipment of the $10 book sold out at Scuppernong Books and has since been replenished. It is also available at the New Garden Friends Meeting office.
“People come in looking for it,” said Scuppernong store manager Shannon Jones. “It’s definitely had a lot of interest.”
Carter has a fierce knowledge of everything Quaker — even when the topic is the announcement earlier this month of the closing of the American Hebrew Academy, an international Jewish boarding school in Greensboro.
“Something that has intrigued me about AHA’s location is that it sits on the site of the former farm of Vestal and Alethea Coffin, the first conductors on the Underground Railroad in N.C. It’s where they met with John Dimrey in 1819 to plot his escape from kidnappers,” Carter said.
The Coffins (Vestal, 1792-1826 and Alethea, 1798-1891) are buried in the New Garden cemetery.
Retirement gave Carter the time he would need to write it all down. So he’d go over to the cemetery, sit at each of the graves — some of which were put there before headstones were allowed — and jot down what came to him. It was mostly what he picked up over the years from his own research and conversations with families.
Then he started handing out his notes at the end of his tours throughout the year.
Gertrude Beal, a researcher at Guilford College, soon got involved. She is also the author of “The Underground Railroad in Guilford County.”
“Gertrude got her hands on a copy and said, ‘Several people are missing,’ ” Carter said with a laugh.
“One of the people I wanted to include was a distant relative of mine,” Beal, seated on the other side of the table, said, also with a laugh. Her relative, David Sampson (1845-1916), was a blind preacher who founded the Winston-Salem Friends Meeting and served as its first pastor.
Beal then contributed essays. She also has a longer history with the New Garden Friends Meeting — her family worshiped there as far back as her grandparents — and knew of people buried in the adjoining cemetery whose histories Carter didn’t know.
“I thought I had done enough to get a free book,” Beal said. Carter thought her contribution was more significant — so he added her name to the cover.
The co-authors, members of the N.C. Friends Historical Society, said they hope the book will spur others to do the same for other cemeteries.
Among the rows of graves at New Garden are non-Quakers, including Vance Havner, the North Carolina-born “boy preacher” who grew up to become a popular Christian author, and a Jewish couple who escaped Nazi Germany with the help of Quakers. The husband, Curt Victorius, known as “Dr. Vickie,” later chaired Guilford College’s economics department. (Information has been corrected to fix an error. See correction at end of the story. June 25, 11:28 a.m.)
The graveyard includes the remains of two unknown Union soldiers who escaped from a Confederate prison and made their way to the New Garden community where, in spite of attention by Quaker doctors, they died, according to the book.
Elsewhere in the cemetery are the mass graves of more than 125 British and American soldiers who died in the Revolutionary War Battle of New Garden in 1781.
Graves are also marked for Richard Benjamin “Rick” Ferrell (1905-1995) and his brother Wesley C. “Wes” Ferrell (1908-1976), considered two of the best professional ballplayers of their era. Rick Ferrell was later elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, according to Carter and Beal’s book.
The cremated remains of Greensboro-born Quaker Mary Nicholson (1905-1943) are buried there. A Royal Air Force auxiliary pilot, Nicholson crashed in England while ferrying a plane from the warehouse to the airport. On the same row are the cremated remains of four members of the Knight family, who all died a few months later when a Navy pilot ferrying a plane from the factory to the airport crashed into their Greensboro farmhouse. The father saw the plane go down from the field. A daughter was able to jump out of a window.
Carter had previously interviewed some of the people whose stories he tells in the book.
Former Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Co. executive Seth Macon (1919-2016) spent time with Carter at the various historical sites connected to his family. When Macon was a boy, his father leased the fields surrounding their northern Randolph County homestead after fall harvests to wealthy people from the North, like the powerful banker J.P. Morgan, who would bring friends in their personal Pullman railroad cars to hunt pheasant, quail and rabbits, according to the book.
“We were fascinated by the famous people who hunted on our land,” Macon is quoted as saying, “but it meant that father wouldn’t allow us to hunt, lest the much-needed extra income would be threatened by a lack of game!”
Carter also found surprises when he started research for the book. He had been giving tours for nearly 15 years when he discovered Swain’s grave, which had a toppled marker. Not all Friends, for example, went as far as Swain and the others did regarding Benson.
“They were all in their late teens, early 20s,” Carter said. “But much of it had to do with the rightness of their actions. It was simply the right thing to do, and they had already committed themselves to anti-slavery action with such groups as the Manumission Society.
“I also think they were inspired by the Quakers who went before them: Anthony Benezet, John Woolman, and Benjamin Lay — who took radical action in the early and mid-1700s to oppose slavery and the degradation of fellow humans.”
Carter later discovered one of his favorites, poet Randall Jarrell (1914-1965), who was a significant figure in local and national history and once taught at UNCG. The non-Quaker who served in the military and wrote the poem “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner,” had asked to be buried among Quakers.
The book also recounts the story of Mary Mendenhall Hobbs (1852-1930), one of the most important women of her age and the wife of the first president of Guilford College, who petitioned the legislature and lobbied people of influence for educational opportunities for females, with the resulting Woman’s College — now UNCG — opening in 1891.
Carter and Beal know some might question why others weren’t included. They agree that some of the most captivating stories might still be out there.
“We could have done 46 more,” Beal said. “Maybe that’s for the next one.”
Correction: 'Dr. Vickie' was initially identified as the wife of the couple.