Jones’ passing leaves hole in Holland

Published 9:25 pm Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Holland community lost a dynamo last month when 93-year-old Sarah Leigh Jones died at home.

Jones’ late husband, James C. Jones, was mayor of Holland when it was its own town, prior to the formation of the current city of Suffolk. After Holland became part of the city, and even after her husband’s death, Sarah Leigh, as she was simply called by people who knew her, took it upon herself to become the unofficial mayor of Holland.

“She deemed it her responsibility to take care of Holland, one way or another,” said City Councilman Tim Johnson, who now represents the area. “She was the ‘acting mayor.’ She wanted that community to be what she thought it should be.”

Sarah Leigh made it happen by being active in community organizations and contacting the proper authorities whenever there was anything that needed attention, even down to parking problems and bushes that needed trimming so people could see to pull out of their driveways.

Sarah Leigh was a member of the Holland Woman’s Club and the Pilot Club of Suffolk, said her son, Russell Turner.

“The town of Holland was hers and James’,” he said, referring to his mother and stepfather. “They loved that town. They took care of the residents there. If there were any problems, they stepped up and did what was necessary to make sure the town of Holland was a place people wanted to live.”

He remembered that his mother was “kind of everybody’s mom” in his formative years.
“They all took care of the kids in the small village of Holland,” he said. “The parents always took care of each other’s kids, wherever they might be. I could leave the house in the morning, and she knew where I was, because I was probably at somebody’s house that was a friend of hers.”

Born in Whaleyville, Sarah Leigh embraced Holland after her marriage to its mayor. She worked as a secretary in the Holland public schools and, later, at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy.

“She really knew the people to call,” said her daughter, Carla Jones. “If there was anything going on in Holland, she made sure Holland was taken care of, regardless of what she had to do.”

Friends who live in Holland also recalled Sarah Leigh’s work to make sure Holland was taken care of.

“She was always aware of things that were going on around here,” said Mae Burke. She remembered that Jones would always take new neighbors a plate of food, while also explaining, politely but firmly, that Holland families were expected to keep their houses and yards presentable.

“Those who did not know her missed out on a lot of things,” Burke said.

Ann Dalton also recalled working with Sarah Leigh on many community initiatives.

“She’s just been a very close, dear friend for many years,” Dalton said. “She was always interested in the village.”

Johnson said Sarah Leigh was an “icon” and will be missed in the community.

“I had the utmost respect for her,” he said. “When she called, I always jumped.”