Margaret Ann Payne Witt peacefully departed this life on the evening of April 30, 2020 while surrounded by her children.
She was preceded in death by her Husband, Dr. H. Nelson Witt; her parents, Rev. Gerald H. Payne and Nancy Johnson Payne and her sisters, Winston Payne MacMillan and Mary Jane Payne.
Born on September 10, 1923 in Bluefield, WVa, she was the daughter of a Baptist Minister, who pastored churches in Bluefield, WVa, Vinton, VA and Portsmouth, VA. After losing her father to a stroke, at age 15 in 1938, she moved with her mother to Jefferson City, TN. Her mother had received and advanced degree in Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania and had been asked to create, staff and run an infirmary and health center on the campus of Carson Newman College.
Mrs. Witt completed her secondary education and graduated from Carson Newman College with a degree in Music and Domestic Studies by age 19. She was shortly approached by a family friend who inquired as to her plans and offered her a job with the Signal Corp in Washington DC. She worked there for three years during WWII while sharing a room in a boarding house with her sister Mary Jane. Mrs. Witt never talked much about her time in Washington until around 2017 when Liz Mundy published her book “Code Girls”. At that point Mrs. Witt had opened up to her children that she, in fact, was one of the 5000 “Code Girls” who ultimately broke the Japanese codes during the war. She (and all of the others) had been sworn to secrecy about their work in Washington, DC and she kept that promise until the book was published. She was invited to a reception at the Library of Congress in March of 2019 to honor the “Code Girls” but was unable to attend due to declining health. The women recruited for the project were all young female college graduates.
After the war she accepted a position as church secretary and choir director for Vinton Baptist Church. It was there that she met her husband (Nelson) of 53 years at a reception for returning G.I.’s. After she married and while Nelson was finishing his undergraduate work at Virginia Tech and Roanoke College, she became church secretary and choir director at First Baptist Church in Martinsville, VA. Upon Nelson’s acceptance to Veterinary School at the University of Georgia, she accepted the position of church secretary and choir director at the First Baptist Church in Athens, GA.
In 1954, Margaret and Nelson, relocated to Stuart, VA, where they started their family and where they both worked to start Nelson’s veterinary practice.
Mrs. Witt became Minister of Music at Stuart Baptist Church in 1955 and continued in that position for 26 years. Mrs. Witt had a passion for Sacred Music and took great pride in the music programs (7 choirs) at Stuart Baptist Church. She considered all of her youth choir members as “her children” and celebrated the musical careers of several of her students. During her early musical career she sang at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC and in the Christmas Pageant at Biltmore House in Ashville, NC.
Mrs. Witt’s greatest achievements, by her own accounting, were her children and family. She showed unconditional love and an unshakeable faith in Jesus Christ. She was smart and looked for the best in everyone. As the Matriarch of the family, she will be missed beyond words.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Fellowship Fund at Kings Grant in Martinsville, VA in her honor. She will be laid to rest in a private family service on Sunday May 3, 2020 (due to the current social guidelines). The service will be officiated by Reverend Danny Redman and Chaplain Paul Johnson.
Arrangements are by McKee-Stone Funeral Home-Martinsville, VA