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'A Joyful, Shining Light’

Springfield resident Elaine Albin died on Nov. 9 at age 59.

Marty Wessman remembered her friend’s love of card games. Miriam Bradley remembered her mother’s dedication to music. Linda Vretos recalled a colleague and friend who shared a passion for learning.

All those who knew Elaine K. Albin remember her for one thing, however — a deep faith and strong, yet quiet, presence.

Albin died on Nov. 9 at Fairfax Hospital at age 59. She lived a life full of learning, music and giving, according to those who knew her.

"She was a woman with such deep faith that you just saw it all the time," said Wessman, who attended Kirkwood Presbyterian Church

Albin was born Elaine King in Ohio and attended Valley Forge High School, graduating in 1963 as the valedictorian of her high-school class. She earned M.A. degrees in English and library science from the University of Chicago, after graduating from Western College, now Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio. In 1971, she married Michael Albin in Chicago, and moved to Egypt. After returning to the United States briefly, Albin and her husband returned to Egypt, where they lived off and on, from 1976 to 1985.

In 1979, the Albins bought a home in Springfield, where they lived from 1985 on. Their two children, Miriam and Matthew, graduated from West Springfield High School. From 1972-98, Elaine Albin either worked or volunteered as a librarian, in locales as varied as Ohio, Texas, Egypt and Springfield, where she worked at West Springfield High School, both on staff and as a volunteer.

"Elaine was a wonderful volunteer, and a very caring person," said Vretos, who worked with Albin at West Springfield in the library. "She was very curious, interested in so many things."

Vretos recalled Albin's interest in all kinds of literature, especially the British novelist Jane Austen. Vretos said that she, Albin and other friends went to see the film adaptation of Austen's novel "Sense and Sensibility" when it came to the theaters.

"We had lots of discussions about books we had read," said Vretos. "She was a voracious reader."

After Vretos moved on, to work in the library at Thomas Jefferson School for Science and Technology in Fairfax, she said Albin remained in touch throughout the years.

"I will miss her forever," she said. "It's a real loss."

ONCE IN Springfield, Albin was dedicated to her home church, Kirkwood Presbyterian. She taught Sunday School there, and sang in the church choir up until a month before her death. She also served an 18-month term as a Ruling Elder of Kirkwood. During that time, she headed the Mission Committee and led outreach initiatives, including blood drives and the Adopt-a-School program between Kirkwood and Henry T. Blow Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

"She was kind of a very joyful, shining light to everybody who knew her, an extremely joyful, authentic, spirit-filled person," said Kirkwood pastor Larry C. Lees. "Her presence was just as important to people as the things she did."

Albin's daughter, Miriam Bradley, said her mother’s involvement in the Concerts from Kirkwood free concert series, which took place at the church, helped the program get off the ground.

"She had limited music training, but she loved music. She and my dad both supported us, taking us to music lessons," said Bradley. "She was very supportive of our musical endeavors. She was a great listener of music."

Albin also supported the program by leading the church’s fund drive to purchase a new grand piano.

"She felt very strongly that we needed to do away with our old upright, that we needed to have something of quality that could enhance the service," said Bradley.

In 1996, Albin was diagnosed with cancer, and she battled it for eight years. She underwent a mastectomy in 1997, and a bone marrow transplant.

Those who knew Albin said if anything, the cancer strengthened her faith.

"Even when we knew how ill she was, she wanted to know how we were doing, and our kids were doing," said Wessman. "I feel blessed that I got to be her friend for a few years."

Albin continued to travel, and volunteer, and worked in the 1990s with the Parent Teacher Student Association in Fairfax County Public Schools, and assisted students with their work.

The cancer did not slow her down.

"She lived every day to the fullest, especially these last eight years when she was battling it," said Bradley. "She really took the phrase ‘carpe diem’ to heart in the way she lived every day."

Albin was one of two members of Kirkwood selected recently for an Honorary Life Membership in Presbyterian Women, the national women's organization of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A (PCUSA). Albin is survived by her husband, Michael Albin; daughter Miriam Bradley and son-in-law Matthew Bradley; son Matthew Albin; brother Norman King; sister Barbara Ebright; niece Tamara Connor; and nephew Bradford King. Her family has asked that contributions be made in lieu of flowers to Kirkwood Presbyterian Church, 8336 Carrleigh Parkway, Springfield, VA 22152, in memory of Elaine K. Albin.