Following decades of service to others, Irene Westbooks McCollom was laid to rest on Monday following her funeral at New Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Orangeburg.

Those who spoke at her funeral talked about her devotion to Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., particularly to the Beta Zeta Omega Chapter in Orangeburg.

“We looked to her for guidance and direction,” said Barbara Elliott Kirkland, president of the Beta Zeta Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.

“In spite of her refined social graces, she had a veneer of toughness, but she was full of love and compassion,” Kirkland said.

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“We hope your new heavenly home is so astonishingly beautiful that you will be there in a pink house that has an address that might be something like ‘1908 Ivy Boulevard.’ Where the streets are paved with silver, gold, pearls, emeralds and diamonds. And you will find yourself right at home,” Kirkland said, describing a heavenly home adorned with Alpha Kappa Alpha themes.

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McCollom died Tuesday, March 28. She was 89.

“Everything she did was to glorify and honor God,” said Sylvia B. Robinson, president of United Women in Faith at Trinity United Methodist Church in Orangeburg.

Robinson said McCollom was a “very active and loyal member of the church.”

Robinson said McCollom diligently served as a collection steward, chaired the children’s learning center and faithfully attended Sunday morning services and Sunday school.

She noted that McCollom enjoyed going to spiritual growth retreats of the United Methodist Church at Lake Junaluska in North Carolina.

Robinson said if she had two choose two words to describe McCollom, those words would be: faithful and generous.

McCollom is also remembered for her contributions to local education.

She was the first African American woman to be elected president of the South Carolina Elementary and Middle School Principals Association.

Then-Governor James Hodges appointed McCollom to the Low Country Citizens Advisory Committee for the South Carolina Judicial Merit Selection Commission.

She was a 1954 graduate of Allen University and moved to Orangeburg thereafter where she embarked a 35-year career in education.

She earned her masters of education degree in school administration from what was then known as South Carolina State College in 1975.

McCollom taught English at Wilkinson High School in Orangeburg and G.W. Carver High School in Cordova.

She also taught at Whittaker and Marshall elementary schools.

In 1975, she was named principal at Mellichamp Elementary and retired in 1988 as principal of Nix Elementary.

Her commitment to local education continued even in her retirement.

She established and directed the first Artistically Gifted and Talented Consortium program for students in Orangeburg and Calhoun counties.

Karyn A. Moss, an Orangeburg County School District teacher, spoke about the Orangeburg-Calhoun Summer Arts Consortium and her years of knowing McCollom.

Moss and McCollom’s only child, Janice, were in the first grade together.

Moss said that when she was a child, she didn’t think of McCollom as a “warm and fuzzy person.”

But that changed when McCollom selected her to help with the first summer arts consortium.

Moss recalled when McCollom introduced her to a room full of Orangeburg’s best artists, she described her as growing up with Janice. She then said, “Karyn is like my other daughter.”

“She inspired me to be the best,” Moss said.

“She led with a firm hand and a heart of gold,” she added.

“You left a huge footprint in this community, this state and beyond,” Moss said.

“You will be greatly missed. I love you, Mom,” Moss added.

Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler called McCollom a “trailblazer.”

An S.C. House of Representatives resolution was read in her honor as well as one on behalf of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.

Ministers who participated in McCollom’s funeral include: the Rev. Dr. Eddie C. Williams, pastor, Trinity United Methodist Church; the Rev. Larry D. McCutcheon; the Rev. Mack C. McClam and the Rev. William Smith.

Musical selections included “That Name,” “Help Somebody,” “May the Work I Do Speak for Me,” “It is Well,” “Stand” and “Soon and Very Soon.”

Contact the writer: or 803-533-5545. Follow on Twitter: @MRBrownTandD

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