Grace Anderson (1891-1950)
Grace Anderson was born into a well-respected Statesville family, the daughter of Dr. Thomas Anderson and Ina McCall Anderson, both of whom raised their children to be involved in their communities. She took an early role in leadership and was elected Vice President of her 9th grade class in a Statesville school. Determination and leadership ran in the Anderson family (Grace’s sister Ina was elected as secretary that same year). Grace attended Winthrop College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and in 1912 she won an award for best oration from a literary society of which she was a part. In 1917, she began her career in education at Mitchell College as a teacher of English, Expression, and the Dramatic Arts. She would continue to lead young minds in creative arts and directed several plays which were performed at Mitchell. She was an active member at her church, Broad Street United Methodist, and helped coordinate entertainment and activities at church picnics and events. She also served as chairman of the Red Cross Roll Call for Iredell County in the 1930s.
Grace always loved nature, gardening, and her community which is why in 1927 she combined all of those things together when she took over as the Director of Landscaping at Oakwood Cemetery. Grace is responsible for most of the trees and shrubs that make Oakwood the beautiful cemetery that it is today. This project was headed by the Civic League of Statesville of which Grace’s mother was president. She continued in her endeavor to beautify Statesville neighborhood parks (one of which would be named after her, Grace Park) and cemeteries until her death.
Grace’s passion for gardening did not stop with simply planting; she made sure her gardens served bigger purposes. In 1931 she and several others hosted open gardens in Statesville for people to view with monetary contributions that would go to funding bird fountains in the cemeteries. Grace’s love for bird led her to organize a local chapter of the National Audubon Society of which she served as president. In the early 1940s she helped pass legislation protecting native birds and made Iredell County a bird sanctuary. In 1943 she sat on the committee to officially name a state bird of North Carolina. After helping to organize several local garden clubs, in 1947 Grace helped create the Statesville Garden Council which would keep the clubs in communication with one another and allow for collaboration on big projects in the county.
Grace Anderson died on October 6, 1950 at the age of 58 from breast cancer. Even after her death she continued to make a difference in her Statesville community. She requested in her will that her property be divided among Oakwood Cemetery, Broad Street Methodist churchyard, and Grace Park. She also continued her work with the Red Cross and saving human lives by contributing a cash bequest to Davis Hospital. She is buried in her beloved Oakwood with her family and there is even a memorial to her placed there by members of the organization she helped create. Grace was truly an inspiration to those who knew her and much can be learned by studying her contributions to the Statesville community which are still visible to us today.