A community says goodbye to Virginia’s longest-serving registrar.
HENRY COUNTY – When some people go to work, they can’t wait to be finished. That wasn’t the case with Elizabeth “Liz” Stone. In 1975, she became Henry County’s assistant general registrar. Only four years later, she became the general registrar – a job she worked for the next four decades.
Stone’s son, E.C. Stone was a teenager when his mom got the job. At the time, he expressed that he never thought she’d be in the same career for 45 years. However, as time went on, her love for the work became apparent to him and others – so much so that she made it clear that she never planned to stop.
“She was a workaholic and never wanted to retire,” E.C. said. “In fact, some people would kind of hint, once she got in her 70s, and they would say, ‘Liz, when are you going to retire?’ She’d snap back and say, ‘I’ll retire when I get old enough.’”
Not going into work wasn’t on Liz’s mind, even after she became ill earlier in the year. Rather than put in her resignation, the registrar worked through the 2020 election and passed away peacefully at her Horsepasture home on Veterans Day. She was 83 years old.
Liz inspired and impacted generations of Virginia residents. For decades, she encouraged high school seniors to register to vote. She even passed her voting vigor down through her own family line.
“The importance of voting. Obviously, that’s something that meant a lot to her,” said Taylor Iacobucci, one of Liz’s granddaughters. “That’s something that she always would talk to us about and encourage us to do.”
Matt Duffy, one of Liz’s grandsons, seconded the sentiment. He stated that he, Iacobucci, the other grandchildren and even Liz’s great grandchildren spent many an evening at the registrar’s office.
Committed to her post
All-told, Liz worked 12 presidential elections, 11 gubernatorial elections and hundreds of state and local elections.
During October and the beginning of November each year, Liz’s grandkids didn’t visit her at home. They went straight to the registrar’s office.
“We all grew up there, like Taylor said, working – or pretending like we were working – in the office,” Duffy said.
Traditionally, as election season grew closer, Liz’s days grew longer.
“We knew that a couple months out from the election, especially a big election, we always knew that she was going to work Monday through Friday from 8 [a.m.] to 5 [p.m.] and Saturdays would be from 9 [a.m.] to 2 or 3 [p.m.],” Duffy said. “Sundays, she would go to church, go to Clarence’s [Steak and Seafood House] and then go to work. We knew that at election times and the months leading up to it that our grandma was going to be extremely busy. If you wanted to see her, the [Henry County] Administration Building was probably where you were going to see her.”
Even while facing personal health issues this year, Liz displayed her commitment to her role as registrar.
“As far as her work ethic, it was unreal. Even back in June, the primary, she went to bed at 11:30 [p.m.]. [She] got up at 3 in the morning. She was at the office at 4 [a.m.] and she came home at midnight that night. She was 82 at the time,” E.C. said. “Over the years, she’s spent many.a nights in that office, leading up to an election. She was pretty much there from like 6 in the morning until 10 o’clock at night. That would go on for weeks before the election.”
A community remembers
For years, Liz worked alongside others in the county’s administration building. Coworkers recalled her vivacity and attention to detail.
“Liz was the quintessential public servant,” said County Administrator Tim Hall. “She was most diligent about ensuring democracy through constitutionally sound and fair elections. She possessed the highest sense of integrity and commitment. I loved working with Liz and I will miss her.”
Deputy County Administrator Dale Wagoner spoke of Liz’s dedication to her job and community.
“Stone was a true patriot and a strong advocate for democracy,” Wagoner said. “I never saw Liz when she wasn’t wearing the patriotic colors of red, white and blue. [I] remember Liz saying ‘Every candidate who walks through this door, I treat them fairly – and the same, no matter who they are. I treat every voter with the same respect and opportunity.’ She was the mother-figure in our building; she will be greatly missed.”
E.C. confirmed that his mother’s wardrobe intentionally contained American colors.
“She dressed the part,” E.C. said.
Knowing the books
Liz also had a wealth of knowledge.
“She was dead-on any little thing, as far as business-wise, especially with her job. She knew that job inside and out,” E.C. said. “It was a guy here the other day that worked in her office a lot. He said any question you asked, she probably couldn’t tell you where it was in the law book, but she could quote it verbatim, how the law read.”
Her work ethic also impacted others throughout the community.
“I’ve known Liz for nine years during my tenure as Martinsville’s general registrar,” said Cynthia Barbour. “It was saddening to hear of her passing. Her kindness and sense of humor will be remembered. She spoke lovingly of her family and grandchildren.”
Barbour noted that she would miss Liz’s check-in calls during the next election season.
“She was dedicated to elections, voters and candidates in providing fair and equitable elections, along with the other many voter registration duties,” Barbour said. “It’s apparent serving in this position since 1975, she definitely enjoyed this profession and experienced all the changes in elections in a span of approximately 45 years – an abundance of knowledge.”
Jim Adams, Chairman of the Henry County Board of Supervisors, spoke highly of Liz’s commitment. He also expressed sympathies toward those that knew her best.
“This news deeply saddens us,” Adams said. “Liz Stone continuously upheld the values of trust, accountability, caring, commitment and excellence. On behalf of the Board of Supervisors and all of the residents of Henry County, I extend my deepest condolences to her family and friends.”
A favorite possession
One of Liz’s proudest talking points often took place outside of her vehicle. Stone was the longest-serving general registrar in the Commonwealth of Virginia, an accomplishment noted by her official Virginia license plate with only a “1” as the number. For decades, Liz worked toward the accomplishment.
“She always said that she was going to be the registrar until she had that number 1 tag. Basically, the number 1 tag means that you’ve been the general registrar in the state of Virginia longer than anyone else,” E.C. said. “So she had that tag, I don’t know how long – probably close to 10 years or more.”
As one of her last acts as general registrar, Liz performed her duties on Nov. 3, Election Day.
“She actually closed the polls at 7 p.m. the day of the election by a text,” E.C. said. “It was, ‘Hear ye, hear ye: the polls are closed at 7 p.m.’”
45 years of service
Liz’s impressive four-and-a-half decade tenure impacted Iacobucci.
“She did pave the way for women,” Iacobucci said. “She had an important job here for a really long time.”
However, the lessons Liz taught Iacobucci went beyond her career. Iacobucci noted that her grandmother taught her how to be a strong woman.
“Probably everyone that knew her would say that she was unapologetically herself,” Iacobucci said. “She would tell it like it was. She would stand up for herself if she needed to.”
The registrar’s impact on the community caused county leaders to call for a special remembrance symbol. Officials lowered the Henry County flag at all county-owned facilities through the completion of her memorial service.
“It meant a lot, to be that respected by Tim Hall, the county administrator,” E.C. said. “That was a very kind thing for him to do. It showed a lot of respect.”
A family remembers
To thousands of people, Liz served as registrar. To her family, she was mom, Mimi, great-Mimi, sister, wife, daughter, aunt and so much more.
“She never really got mad at us as a grandmother,” Duffy said. “If we broke a window or something, she’d say, ‘Well, I always needed to replace that window anyway.’ There was never anything that we could do wrong, in her opinion. She was always just caring to us.”
Iacobucci dubbed Liz as “the matriarch.” However, she didn’t enjoy everything a traditional homemaker might.
“We would always joke about that,” Iacobucci said. “I would say, ‘Well you know I hate to cook,’ and she would say, ‘Me too and that’s just fine.’”
As her son, E.C. won the mother jackpot.
“She was really a great mom. I couldn’t really ask for better,” E.C. said. “Anything she could do, she’d do for you. She was a doer for other people her whole life.”
Amie Knowles reports for The Dogwood. You can reach her at [email protected]