A woman’s work is never done

Published 10:00 am Friday, July 20, 2012

Katharine Harville, from left, shares a moment with her son, Edward, and granddaughter, Katie Harville. The elder Harville raised four adopted children -- Gwen Albers | Tidewater News

COURTLAND—Katharine Harville doesn’t think she did anything special in her lifetime.

Her son, Edward, begs to differ.

A younger Katharine Harville wanted a large family, but she and her late husband, Bill, couldn’t have children. They opted for adoption.

“Inside your heart you know the first time you hold (a baby), it felt like it was ours,” the 86-year-old Courtland woman said about the four newborns the couple adopted over a period of 14 years beginning in the mid-1950s.

“When you adopt a child, somehow I knew that child would be ours,” she said.

“I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for her,” Edward Harville said.

All of the adopted children had brown hair and brown eyes. All graduated from college. All have professional careers.

All know they are adopted. Only one looked for her birth parents, only to complete paperwork for teaching overseas; she never met them.

Katharine and Bill Harville, who was superintendent for Southampton County Public Schools for 15 years, were left childless after five years of marriage. They chose adoption.

“I sat up in bed one night and something told me that’s what we were supposed to do,” Katharine Harville said. “I went to social services the next day and three months later, we got Martha.”

Martha Harville was adopted at 6 weeks of age. The 57-year-old is a librarian at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

One year later, they adopted 1-week-old Billy Harville. The 56-year-old is director of maintenance for a lumber company in Statesboro, Ga.

When Billy and Nancy were 9 and 10 years old, the Harvilles adopted 3-month-old Nancy Gomez. She is 47 and living in North Carolina.

Finally, they adopted Edward when he was 3 weeks old.

The 43-year-old remembers his mother tossing the football with him, teaching him to ride a bike and following him in her car as part of his training to be a long-distance runner in high school.

“Just because you can have kids, doesn’t make you a mother,” said Harville, a sergeant with the Suffolk Sheriff’s Office. “She raised four different people and kept it together. All of us put her through trials and tribulations that many would walk away from. She always did what a mom and wife are supposed to do.”

Edward Harville never looked for his birth parents because he never felt the need.

“If I ever had the opportunity, it wouldn’t have been out of a quest to replace her,” he said.

Today, Katharine Harville suffers from COPD, a lung disease that makes it difficult to breathe. Her granddaughter, Katie Harville, moved in to care for her. Katie is Edward Harville’s daughter.

A rising senior at Southampton High School, Katie takes her grandmother to the doctor, gets her groceries and runs other errands.

“It’s wonderful for me,” Katharine Harville said. “I’m very grateful, but also aggravated I can’t do for myself. I couldn’t have any better care.”

Before raising her family, Katharine Harville graduated from Greensboro College and taught music in Petersburg. She also taught at the former Ivor and Drewryville elementary schools.