By Missy Schrott | [email protected]
Vance Hall, a former Foreign Service officer who spent his retirement years volunteering with a variety of Alexandria nonprofits, died Jan. 6 at age 87.
Walter Vance Hall Jr. was born in 1930 in Emmerton, Virginia, to Walter Vance Hall Sr. and Emma Lemoine Griffith. He graduated from Hampden-Sydney College, served in the U.S. Navy, and then earned a degree in Foreign Service at Georgetown University.
Hall served as a Foreign Service officer in Seoul, South Korea; Naples, Italy; Suva, Fiji and Vienna, Austria. After retiring in 1982, he continued to work in the State Department on FOIA cases until 2000.
Over the past 20 years, Hall’s volunteer work included serving as a Historic Alexandria Foundation board member, tutor for the Alexandria Tutoring Consortium and usher for St. Paul’s Episcopal church. In addition, he was on the board of the Alexandria Library Company, served two terms on the Alexandria Archeology Commission and was a member of the Metropolitan Club. He was also a lifelong member of North Farnham Parish Church in Farnham, Virginia.
Hall married his wife, Julia Elizabeth Ramberg Hall, in Rome in 1963. After retiring, the two spent 20 years dedicating their time to the tutoring consortium.
“The tutoring consortium, we gave [Vance] and Julia an award in November,” Doris Ablard, a close friend who met Hall in 1959, said. “They tutored for over 20 years, which really was an absolute record.”
Hall also was an avid gardener, reader, entertainer, cook and traveler.
“He was a great cook, had a great sense of humor, very knowledgeable about books, great fun to be with,” Ablard said.
Mary Sterling, executive director of the Historic Alexandria Foundation, worked closely with Hall for 20 years. She said she admired his sharp wit, trustworthiness and contributions to the finance committee as treasurer.
“He was, in my opinion being a southerner, the consummate southern gentleman. And I think that’s what defined his character more than anything else. He was from Virginia; he was always a Virginia gentleman,” Sterling said.
She said her favorite memory of Hall was going on excursions to buy party supplies for Historic Alexandria’s two fundraisers each year.
“He liked to call us ‘rum runners’ because we went out to buy the liquor together,” Sterling said. “We would pack up our cars full of wine and goodies to take to the party and even up until last year, he could pick up huge boxes. I mean, he was in the most amazing shape for an 87-year-old I think I’ve ever seen … I’m going to miss my wingman and rum runner.”
The Rev. Oran Warder, rector of St. Paul’s, also worked closely with Hall through the church.
“Every time the [church’s] doors opened, he was there, ready to serve in some way,” Warder said.
Warder said Vance and Julia Hall standing on the sidewalk outside of St. Paul’s welcoming parishioners is one of his fondest images of the couple.
“He always wore a hat. Summer, spring, winter – he had straw ones for the hot summer and felt ones for the wintertime. That’s part of the gentleman image,” Warder said. “He was a true, true gentleman in just every sense. Always kind, very thoughtful, generous spirit, humble, interested in you and an interesting person himself, very engaging.”
Both Warder and Sterling said Hall and his wife were always together.
“They were basically inseparable and quite devoted to one another,” Sterling said.
“He was just a very special man and I will sorely miss him, as will all our board,” Sterling said. “He was just a delight to work with. He was always a gentleman, and he had such a dry wit, and that’s a wonderful attribute to have. Vance was a true delight.”
Hall is survived by his wife, Julia; two sons, John Ramberg Hall (and his wife, Denise Ann Hall) of Hackettstown, New Jersey, and Walter Vance Hall III of Chesapeake, Virginia; and grandsons, Lleyton Vance Hall and Anders John Hall.
A liturgy was held at St. Paul’s on Jan. 14, and an interment took place at North Farnham Parish Church on Jan. 15. Memorial contributions may be made to The Saint Paul’s Foundation.