Talmadge Thomas Hinnant died Monday, November 3, 2014, at the Rosewood Health Center of the Cypress of Raleigh. A Christmas baby, she was born on December 25, 1927, at Duke Raleigh's predecessor, The Mary Elizabeth Hospital. She was the only child of Ernest Foster Thomas and Ruth Ermine Webb Thomas.
Called Talmadge as a child and then shortened to Tal as a teen, she was raised in Louisburg, NC. Her paternal grandfather founded The Franklin Times where her father also worked his entire career. This gave Tal the privilege of rubbing elbows with some of the greatest athletes of the 20th century. Two of Tal's most prized possessions were a photograph of her being held by Babe Ruth and a photo with Lou Gehrig--her head lowered because she was embarrassed to look up at the baseball player she considered most handsome. Traveling to Washington to watch the Senators host the Yankees was a father/daughter adventure never to be forgotten.
In addition to being an ardent sports fan, Tal was an excellent pianist--in spite of having her knuckles frequently whacked with a pencil by her piano instructor. She attended Mills High School in Louisburg where she played basketball and was the editor of the school magazine. Tal graduated as the valedictorian of her class at the age of 16.
In the fall of 1944 Tal enrolled at Duke University where she pledged Kappa Delta. She eventually served as rush chairman and president of her beloved sorority. While attending summer school at Duke in 1946, Tal caught the eye of a handsome World War II army veteran who had returned to Duke after the war to complete the final two years of his collegiate education. Though Tal's father & mother were initially skeptical about their precious only-child's dating a "city slicker" from Raleigh, it was clear that Harvey & Tal were destined to be together. In 1948 Tal graduated from Duke with a degree in English and education. A few months later she moved to Raleigh where she worked in agricultural research until April 1949 when she & Harvey were married with the blessing of her parents…a union that lasted 65 years.
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Tal spent 3 1/2 years working for a woman whom she revered as a mentor, Bess Ballentine, the Executive Secretary of the NC Automobile Dealers Association. Then she moved on to work for the US Attorney’s office dictating Grand Jury testimony via short hand. When her friend Jim Dorsett asked her to help at the firm when a secretary departed to have a baby, Tal then went to work for Smith Leach Anderson & Dorsett.
After the birth of her first child in 1956, Tal turned her attention to creating a warm & welcoming home on Lakeview Drive--her front yard's carpet of green grass slowly giving over to paths of orange clay as Tal relented & allowed the base of her front porch to serve as home plate for the Lakeview & Riddick Drive neighborhood kick-ball games. Furthermore, she didn't flinch when her daughters & their friends would race their Flexi-Flyer sleds right over one of her precious shrubs in the side yard as Tal understood the importance of extending the snowy run from the Willard's house two doors up all the way into the far corner of the Hinnant back yard. And she even encouraged her youngest daughter's penchant for going on “archaeological digs" up & down the large embankment on the side of the yard adjacent to the Carolina Country Club driving range. What would have been a wonderful bank of foliage developed into a slick rock & dirt path. Nevertheless, whenever "artifacts" were brought home by her daughter, Tal allowed them to be displayed prominently on the side porch. Tal was equally accepting of her children’s imaginative transformations to the interior of the home, be it allowing her eldest daughter to host tea with her dolls in the Hinnant formal living room, or allowing her youngest daughter to convert the same living room into an army fort poised for a re-enactment of a WWII battle.
In an era when most mothers stayed out of the work force after having children, Tal continued to use her clerical & financial acumen to work part-time well into her 40's for such notable places as the NC General Assembly, the law firm of Maupin Taylor & Ellis, and Wake Stone Corporation. She was a fastidious record-keeper who took responsibility for the payment of the family’s monthly bills, the preparation of the family’s income taxes, and the decisions surrounding the family’s stock market investments. These “life skills” Tal passed down to her two daughters…and their spouses are grateful for the gesture.
Tal and Harvey worshipped for many years as members of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, where both of their daughters were married and where Tal served on the Vestry. Tal greatly enjoyed being the organist for the pre-school children’s Sunday worship service in St. Michael’s All Angels Chapel. And after completing five years in Bible Study Fellowship, she played the piano numerous years for Saint Michael's Cornerstone Bible Study which was led by Tal's dear friend and former Lakeview Drive next-door neighbor. Later in life Tal & Harvey joined Church of the Holy Cross-Anglican, which was a grandmother’s dream: enjoying Sunday worship every week flanked on either side by two of her three grandchildren.
Tal & Harvey were members of the Carolina Country Club where Tal enjoyed playing golf and bridge. She and Harvey also were members of the Carrousel Club and The Assembly. And after her children outgrew kick ball, Tal worked tirelessly to transform her Lakeview Drive yard into a beautiful lawn of green grass, red Camellia, English Boxwood, blue Hydrangea, hundreds of colorful Impatiens, and her favorite: Siberian Iris.
In addition to her parents, Tal was predeceased her husband Harvey on July 30, 2014, and by an infant son in 1957. Tal is survived by her eldest daughter Mary Jackson Hinnant DeLuca (husband Jim), to whom she passed on her affection for knitting & her talent in music; and her youngest daughter Talmadge Hinnant Mangum (husband Michael), to whom she instilled an appreciation for proper grammar and a passion for Duke. “Nana” was a grandmother always at the ready to babysit her grandchildren as infants & toddlers, and then get “into their world” as they grew older. She loved to talk sports with her grandson Walker Franklin Mangum, talk literature with her granddaughter Caroline Connalley (“Calley”) Mangum, and talk cars with her grandson William Thomas DeLuca. And Nana witnessed her grandchildren’s performing in more piano recitals, strings & band concerts, and sporting events than can reasonably be counted.
Lest one get the impression that Tal was “practically perfect in every way,” mention must be made that she was without question the most loyal (one might argue obnoxious) Duke sports fan ever born. On one occasion in the late 1960’s when Tal created a “stir” while attending a Duke-South Carolina basketball game with Harvey and the girls, the Duke Chronicle later wrote a column apologizing to the visiting South Carolina fans in attendance for the unsportsmanlike behavior by one of the adults in section 13. So much was her commitment to Duke basketball that she kept an official scorer’s book every season, and her children & grandchildren knew never to phone her while Duke basketball was on the air.
Just as her own mother had done, Tal supported her spouse through his lengthy debilitating illness. And also like her mother when faced with her own declining health, Tal fixed her eyes on Jesus and never wavered in her faith of eternal life to come.
The family will receive friends on Wednesday, November 5, 2014, from 5-7pm at Tal’s villa at The Cypress of Raleigh, 8821 Cypress Lakes Drive, #511 in Building C. A memorial service officiated by the Rev. Jon Minns will be held Thursday November 6 at 11:00am at Church of the Holy Cross-Anglican, 2301 W. Millbrook Road in Raleigh. Tal will be interred in the Hinnant family plot in a private ceremony at Historic Oakwood Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Transitions LifeCare (formerly Hospice of Wake County), 250 Hospice Circle, Raleigh, NC 27607.
Arrangements by Bryan-Lee Funeral Home, Raleigh. On-line condolences to www.bryan-leefuneralhome.com