The world lost a shining light on July 13, 2023, as Margaret Penrose Harrell (“Dale”) passed away peacefully to join her late husband of 63 years, Herbert Hathaway Harrell Sr. (“Herb”), in eternal rest. Dale led an extraordinary life and will be remembered by those who knew her for a legacy of kindness, empathy, and love.
Born on July 9, 1937, Dale spent much of her childhood in Beirut, Lebanon, where her father served as President of the American University of Beirut. Upon graduating from high school, she returned to the United States to attend Whitman College, where she earned a B.A. in sociology. Subsequently, Dale earned a master’s degree in sociology from Duke University, which is also where she met her future husband, Herb.
Dale and Herb happily resided in Chesapeake, VA for more than fifty years, where they raised their two children, instilling in them a devotion to family and a lifelong love of learning. Dale’s dedication to her children was boundless and she fiercely championed their aspirations, ensuring they had every opportunity to succeed.
Professionally, Dale’s commitment to education led her to work as a librarian for more than 20 years at Crestwood Elementary and Great Bridge High Schools in Chesapeake, VA. As a librarian, she cultivated meaningful relationships with students, treating each one with genuine respect and understanding. While helping students conduct research in the library, she also enjoyed sharing stories with them about famous people she met while living abroad such as Hellen Keller and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Beyond her professional calling, Dale volunteered her time and efforts to numerous causes close to her heart. For more than 25 years, she greeted visitors at the front desk of Chesapeake Regional Hospital, touching the lives of countless people with her sparkly personality during their time of need. Her passion for reading led her to become a volunteer at the Chesapeake Public Library, where she served as a long-time board member. In recognition for her dedication and service, she was recognized by the Virginia Library Association with their Outstanding Trustee Library Award.
In her spare time, Dale loved listening to music and enjoyed singing with the Great Bridge United Methodist Church choir. For many years, she sang in and helped organize community productions of Handel’s Messiah during the Christmas season. Dale had a wide circle of friends, some of whom she met as a member of the Four Flags Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving history and promoting education. Dale also enjoyed keeping in touch with old friends and served as her class representative for Whitman College for more than 60 years.
Dale had an extraordinary gift for connecting with people and making them feel seen and heard and her absence will be deeply felt by all who had the privilege of knowing her. In honor of her remarkable life, a memorial service will be held at Great Bridge United Methodist Church on Saturday, August 19th at 11:30 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Great Bridge United Methodist Church Memorial Prayer Garden, a cause that held a special place in Dale’s heart.
Dale is survived by her younger brother, Dr. Stephen Penrose of Dallas, Texas, her daughter Kathy (Jeffrey) Babin of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, her son Bud (Anne) Harrell of Annandale, Virginia, and her grandchildren, Drew Babin of Washington, D.C., Liza Babin of Los Angeles, California and Carter Harrell of Annandale, Virginia.
Finally, the family would like to extend a special thanks to Wings Over Virginia Hospice for the extraordinarily professional and loving care they provided Dale in the final months of her life. Sara Williams, who worked with both Dale and Herb as their primary Wings Over Virginia Hospice nurse, exemplified compassionate caregiving at its finest.