Sunday, February 10, 2008

passing of a friend

On a somewhat somber note, I went to a funeral yesterday of an long-time friend. She was a staunch supporter of the arts/craft makers of the area--and she had a great time making art herself!

Virginia was a retired dentist and, as I learned from the obituary, she was the first woman to practice pediatric dentistry in Atlanta. She moved to Gainesville in the 1960s or so, and I met her soon afterwards as she became involved in the arts community of north Georgia. I learned quickly that she was definitely unique!

Virginia was always up to try new things and was so excited about them as she delved into those activities. Before she retired from her dentistry practice she'd begun to dabble in art making herself, in addition to being a patron. She really blossomed artistically in her retirement years as she made beautiful pots, dyed glorious silks, wove complicated weave structures, enjoyed spinning, became active in a woodcarvers group. She also loved traveling, scuba diving and photography, and just generally having a good time--often with cocktails in the afternoon/evening and cigarettes throughout the day!! And all the time she would be giving her running pithy commentaries about life to anyone who was nearby!

She truly enjoyed laughing at herself and others--never making fun of but always appreciating the humor in any situation. For instance, one of my favorite stories that she told on herself was about when she took a bobbin lace class from Robin Lewis-Wilde. Virginia said she took a cardboard center from a bolt of fabric to the class (you know the kind yards of fabric are rolled upon at the store?) so she could wind up the bobbin lace she made on it!

Telling me about it later, she said: "All I brought home from the class was a piece of lace sample about 1/2" wide and 1" long!! I thought I'd sit and do yards and yards of bobbin lace in the boat while Frank fished!!" Then she'd chuckle with her dusky smokers laugh...going on and on about her various escapades.

And was she ever happy to learn that she could take classes at the college for free when she was over 62! Not that she needed the money but she was quite frugal. She always liked a bargain. So, from the early 1990s until 2000 or so she audited classes at NGCSU. In fact, sometimes she'd take them for credit...if she felt like it! She must have amassed enough hours to have earned a degree if she'd been pursuing one.

She took weaving and pottery mostly. She was in my weaving class at least twice, maybe three times. When she'd audit classes, rather than taking them for credit, she didn't let class attendance get in the way of her trips for diving or other purposes!

Virginia was an active member of our local fiber arts guild through the 25 years it was in existence. She was involved in all of the guild's activities and she loved to attend the regional conferences. I particularly remember one in Aiken, SC that several of our members attended. The first night we were there we went to a Pizza Hut for dinner. Virginia ordered a pitcher of beer for the table and the young waitress asked to see her ID...well, did THAT request ever bring a guffaw from Virginia! She had the young woman blushing and giggling as Virginia ragged on her about how she should see the ages, for identification, from all the gray heads around the table!!

Virginia had been on oxygen for a couple of years. She also used one of those walker/seat contraptions to get herself around--yet she continued to travel whenever and wherever she could. She was 80 years old when she died last Monday...and I think, based on my view of Virginia, she probably enjoyed life as much as anyone I've even known. She was seemingly undaunted as she tried out new things, always eager to learn and also to share what she was experiencing. And, as much as anything, her sense of the ridiculous in situations that could seem to be embarrassing or uncomfortable for others is a lesson I've learned from her. She lived life to the fullest and had a grand time along the way! I am fortunate to have known her.

1 comment:

Glenda said...

Such a beautiful tribute to a dear friend. Virginia sounds like the person I want to be (except for the smoking.)
I imagine she never had regrets for what she didn't do in her life.
I'm sure you miss her, Tommye. My condolences on this anniversary of her death.