Glen N. Abernathy wore many different hats in decades of service to the citizens of the town of South Boston and Halifax County as a long-time pharmacist and as a member of city and town council and mayor of South Boston.
Abernathy died early Tuesday morning at the age of 72.
As of press time Tuesday afternoon, funeral arrangements were incomplete.
The community and civic leader shared three loves in his life – community, family and pharmacy.
He started his community involvement in high school through Farmville Baptist Church and DeMolay. Returning to Farmville after college, he joined the Farmville Jaycees and was a charter member of the Farmville Exchange Club.
After arriving in South Boston, his civic responsibilities never lessened as he served as a member of the board of directors of Halifax County Cancer Association for 20 years and on the board of directors for Halifax United Way.
He joined the South Boston Rotary Club in the mid 1970s serving as president from 1983 to 1984, and he became a Paul Harris Fellow.
In 1984 he became co-chairman of South Boston’s Downtown Revitalization Committee. He also served as a charter member of the organizational board for the first hospice services provided in the area.
Abernathy served a total of 16 years on South Boston City and Town Council first being elected to city council in 1988 and serving until 1995, part of that tenure as vice-mayor from 1990-1995.
He retired from council in 1995 and returned to the ballot in 1996 as a candidate for mayor for the newly created town of South Boston.
He defeated sitting Mayor Josephine Marshall for mayor that year and served as mayor of South Boston serving eight years until 2004, when he retired only to return to council to fill an unexpired term from 2005-2006.
Prior to his death, Abernathy said he was proud of the town’s achievements over those years, but most proud of the town’s return to financial stability for its citizens.
He also said he was proud to preside over at the time the largest in area boundary adjustment in Virginia history.
Consequently, no additional adjustment has been necessary since that time.
Abernathy also was instrumental in the effort to place computer learning in every classroom and served as a board member of the Continuing Education Center.
He also served on the board to establish and develop the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center that he viewed as a crowning achievement for the community and all its citizens.
Abernathy’s love of family prompted him to do extensive genealogical research and with the help of others, he traced his Abernathy roots back 12 generations to their arrival in Jamestown in 1652 as well as some additional work finding ancestors in England and Scotland as far back as the 12th century.
He traced his Nichols heritage to before the Revolutionary War in Halifax County, and his Walden roots date as far back as the Doomsday Book in 1066.
Abernathy loved listening and talking with family about the “old days.” Most of all he recalled enjoying the visits of his niece and nephews from the time they were about 2-years old and their playtime at the drug store.
“They always had their fill: bacon, bacon-cheeseburger, bacon, grilled toast, bacon, milk shakes of any and all flavors, and of course, bacon,” he once said.
Abernathy’s other fond memories included buying trips with family and friends especially to New York, Washington, D.C. and Atlanta, Georgia.
His third love of pharmacy began early in life when he was in elementary school.
He pursued that love doing odd jobs in the drug store until he graduated from high school and then began working in the pharmacy itself.
He attended the University of Richmond and graduated from the Medical College of Virginia in 1971.
He went back to his hometown of Farmville where he practiced for one year before coming to South Boston in 1972 and working as a relief pharmacist at Perkins Drug Store and Faulkner and Lawson Drug Company, later adding Halifax Pharmacy.
He continued this type of practice until 1979 when he purchased Faulkner and Lawson from Jennie Phipps Lawson and practiced there until 1999.
During the years of practice in South Boston, he assisted over 40 young people in their desire to attend pharmacy school or as a mentor during their formal education as a summer preceptor or as an adjunct clinical professor of pharmacy during the school year for students in their final year of education.
He often said his greatest rewards in the pharmacy practice was the ability to help others, be it a patient who did not understand their medication or a young soon to be pharmacist who needed guidance in preparing for their own practice and career in pharmacy.
One of his many mentees, Pamela Irby Dawson remembers Abernathy at Faulkner and Lawson Drug Store more than most.
He took a chance and hired her to work at the drug store when she was only 15 years old.
“Faulkner and Lawson was such a special place. Glen opened many doors for me, and along the way, he also let me know when it was time to close some. Most people say most everything they ever really needed to know they learned in kindergarten. But for me, Glen taught me everything I ever really needed to know,” said Dawson.
“His presence in my life has been huge, and his absence will be also,” she added.
Another of his protégés, pharmacist Vicky Tyler, said she got her first taste of what a pharmacy was all about from Abernathy, who hired her when she was about 17.
“He was such a character,” said Tyler. “He always had such a wonderful sense of humor and was stubborn as a mule. Glen was one of the most intelligent people I have ever known. He taught me so much about pharmacy but even more about life.”
During her time with him, Tyler said Abernathy taught her how to enjoy the small things and how to never take anything for granted “because you never know when it might be gone,” said Tyler. “I am glad he is no longer suffering, but he sure has left a void in all those who knew him. I am so glad I had the pleasure of having him in my life for so many years. I’m a better person because of it.”
Next door to Faulkner and Lawson was Fuller’s Men Shop from roughly 1959 to 1990, and Wayne Fuller remembers those days well.
“He was a friend to me and all of us in downtown South Boston,” said Fuller. “Not only was he a great friend, but they had fantastic food and was known for his long time coffee club.”
He also remembers his famous basket sales.
“Glen was just a big part of South Boston,” said Fuller, who said the pharmacist was known for being a good person who could give better medical advice than some doctors.”
Tom Raab, South Boston town manager, who worked with Abernathy when he served on town council, called him a “visionary” who was a “dedicated public servant.”
During his time on council, Raab said Abernathy was instrumental in guiding the town during the reversion from a city to town and helping to consolidate services such as the libraries and E-911.
“He led the town through boundary adjustments. It was a critical time,” said Raab.
He also was credited for helping to ensure The Prizery was established and was “very involved” in what is now known as the SVHEC.
In a time before the establishment of the Halifax County Service Authority, Raab said Abernathy also made sure residents in the town and county who wanted water and sewer had water and sewer.
“He just always tried to do what was best for the town and the county,” said Raab. “I enjoyed serving with him, and I learned a lot from him. He was a great leader, and I am just sorry that he is gone from us. We have lost a good one.”