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A display honoring the life and accomplishments of the late Ina Faye Woestemeyer Van Noppen
is currently on exhibit at the Watauga County Library in Boone.

Originally published: 2014-03-17 12:19:40
Last modified: 2014-03-17 12:34:22

Ina Faye Woestemeyer Van Noppen: Outstanding woman of history

Ina Faye Woestemeyer Van Noppen was a woman who left an indelible mark upon the town of Boone, Appalachian State University, local history, countless students, her family, friends and colleagues. 

That was the sentiment behind a special commemoration by the Daniel Boone Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution during its regularly scheduled meeting on March 11. 

Members of the organization, as well as Van Noppen's grandson, Robert Millsaps of Coal City, Ind., local historian and professor, Richard Howe, and special guests, including Boone Mayor Andy Ball, and NCSDAR District 11 director, Vicky Clodfelter from Hickory, attended the event, which was held at the Watauga County Public Library.

Van Noppen had, earlier this year, been nominated by the local NSDAR chapter and accepted for a national award honoring outstanding women in history.

The commemoration ceremony was scheduled for the organization's March meeting, which, coincidentally, landed just a few days following the death and funeral of Van Noppen's daughter, Anne Van Noppen Millsaps, who was also active in the DAR. 

Millsaps most recently served as the group's regent, or chief administrative officer, whose responsibility it is to see that the business of the chapter is properly transacted.

Mary E. Moretz of Boone, who currently serves as regent, presided over Tuesday's event and called it an honor, on behalf of the NSDAR, to have nominated Van Noppen to the National NSDAR for the award. 

Furthermore, Moretz said, "it is truly an honor to have her grandson here with us today, although we are very sorry for the occasion of his mother's death and funeral, which brought him to town last week."  

Moretz joined Moretz in recognizing the contributions made to the area by both Ina Van Noppen and Anne Millsaps.

Robert Millsaps expressed his sincere appreciation for the support shown by the DAR during his mother's illness and subsequent death, and for the way the organization is currently honoring the memory of his grandmother. 

Howe, who was recognized by Moretz as "someone who knew Ina Van Noppen very well," shared his memories as a former student of Van Noppen and how she impacted not only his life as a college professor, but that of the South, in general, and in particularly, the Boone area. 

In addition to sharing fond personal memories, Howe read from an earlier biographical sketch that he had written about Van Noppen, which appeared in the "History of Watauga County, Vol. 1." 

Ina Faye Woestemeyer Van Noppen, who was born in 1906 and died in 1980, at age 73, was a trailblazer for local history, Howe said. 

Not only was she a distinguished professor of history and noted author of several books and articles, she was also recognized by her peers as an expert in the fields of Southern, North Carolina and frontier history. 

Van Noppen was born in Bethel, Kan., the daughter of Henry F. and Clara Belle Woestemeyer. She received her education at the University of Kansas (B.S., 1930), and Teachers College, Columbia University (M.A. 1933 and Ed.D. 1937). 

"Dr. Ina," as she was affectionately known, began her career as an educator in Kansas City at Wyandoitte High School, where she taught from 1932 to 1936.  She served as assistant principal and head of the history department at North Plainfield High School in New Jersey from 1936 to 1939.  

The year 1939 proved an important one for Van Noppen, as that year saw the publication of her first book, "The Westward Movement," and her marriage on Aug. 12 to John James Van Noppen III of Madison, N.C., who also earned his Ed.D. degree at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Howe told how the couple became engaged the same night they met. 

Van Noppen took a temporary leave from her teaching career from 1939 to 1945 to be at home with the couple's three children, twins Mary Louise and Anne Faye, and John James IV. 

In 1946, she returned to education, joining her husband on the faculty at Youngstown College as an associate professor of history. The Van Noppens remained on the faculty at Youngstown until 1947, at which time they moved to Boone to teach at Appalachian State Teachers College, now Appalachian State University.

The Boone years were quite rewarding for Van Noppen, said Howe, adding, "A popular teacher, she taught social studies and history to both undergraduate and graduate students. I took every class that she taught." 

In 1958, she published "The South: A Documentary History," followed in 1961 by "Stoneman's Last Raid," which was published by the N.C. Historical Association and for which, a year later, she received the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Award.  She also wrote with her husband "Daniel Boone, Backwoodsman," which was published in 1966. 

She was one of two professors to receive the first Distinguished Teaching Award by Appalachian State University, Howe said, and was later awarded the Maple Leaf honor by the Appalachian Consortium.

Howe remembered that she was active in the Boone Presbyterian Church and the League of Women Voters, as well as the Southern Historical Association.

"Along with her husband," Howe said, "she organized several summer study trips to Europe during the 1960s and 1970s.

Van Noppen retired in 1972 as professor emerita, Howe said.

After her retirement, she was able to complete a work that had occupied her time for several years, "Western North Carolina Since The Civil War," which, published in 1973, was also co-written with her husband and garnered her a second Thomas Wolfe Memorial Award, he said.

Upon her death, Van Noppen was buried at the Millsaps Cemetery in the western Watauga County community of Bethel.

Copies of her books are available in the Watauga County Library, with the most recent additions donated by her grandson during his recent visit. 

Van Noppen's work, which includes "The Ina Van Noppen Papers" (articles and reference notes), are also available at the Belk Library at ASU.

During March, which is National Women's History Month, a display depicting Van Noppen's life and accomplishments is featured at the Watauga County Public Library in Boone.