Coping with Grief
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Virginia B. Stilwell-Loula
August 15, 1927-Setember 24, 2023
Spring Hill, Florida
Affectionately called Ginny, Virginia, was born in the shadow of the steep mountains of Welch, West Virginia, a thriving coal mining town to parents Crawford and Susan Bolt. With a beaming smile, Ginny often recounted her early years as a member of the band––with her chosen instrument, the French Horn, and when in marching band, she retired her horn for a majorette spot out in front––her white boots highly polished as she marched proudly with her best posture and broad smile. She would strut for anyone if asked, even when using a walker for stability later in life.
John Stilwell, a Navy veteran and 11 years Ginny’s senior, captured her heart following WWII. The newlyweds settled near the high school where they both had graduated. She worked in a hardware store, and he delivered the mail. Wanting more, they journeyed toward the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, where they anchored in the small town of Reliance. Ginny worked as a
phone operator for MA Bell, and John mastered the art of brick, stone, and mortar. In 1952, the couple were blessed with a daughter, Brenda Susan, who captured their loving hearts and
grounded them in the same part of Northern Virginia for the next 30 years. Sadly, in 1977, while on vacation on the island of St Croix in the Caribbean, John fell ill and died following a heart
attack, his second at age 61. Alone and exhausted, Ginny flew home and quickly hugged her only child, Brenda, and together, they faced a new life chapter.
Ginny remained with Ma Bell, now called Verizon, and often sought refuge at her summer home that her husband, John, and others had built along the waters edge of Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia in 1972. In the living room, John artfully crafted the stone fireplace, which became the focal point of the entire home. During these years, Ginny enhanced her skills in golf, cards, bowling, water skiing, and the occasional prank––especially on April Fool’s Day. Happily, Ginny married again.
Stepchildren become integral to the Stilwell mix: First came Connie, Sherry, and Cathy, followed by Denise and Jimmy. In 2002, Randy and Scott joined Ginny’s ever-increasing family. And
too––came little faces of Grandchildren––Niki, Jade, and Frank, then Great Grandchildren: Eisen, Anelie, Oscar, and little Gio. Ginny never tired of embracing each new member––and they, too, returned that same love throughout Ginny’s long life.
In 2002, Ginny chose Florida to lessen Virginia’s cold winter hand. Her daughter and son-in-law, Brenda and Randy, followed Ginny to Florida in 2003. Ginny continued to summer at the Lake
House in Virginia until 2018, when the trip north from Florida became too daunting. Ever patiently, the years began to mount––and Ginny’s golf game slowly waned as did her bowling, but her skill and desire at cards continued. Her weekly poker game was not to be missed. Now widowed in 2007, the threesome, Ginny, Brenda, and Randy, closed ranks, never missing a holiday or an occasion to head to the local Red Lobster for shrimp, Ginny’s favorite. The years mounted, and Ginny remained steadfast and independent in her home with her big TV and electric recliner. Dr. Phil was her favorite. She often gazed outward from the two large windows set equally distant from her TV, which brought the neighborhood inside. Ginny loved her faith, house, and family and often spoke of all three in one sentence.
At age ninety, Ginny announced that she would stop driving as she felt unsafe. To ease her decision, she refused to sell her car, preferring to park it in the garage as a testament and reminder of her many years of motoring and independence. Ginny, with grace, accepted her age and its many pitfalls. And without a drumroll at age 96, Ginny began to fail. In days, her heart could do no more. Brenda and Randy stood close by and helpless as Ginny took her last breath. Her passing was as gentle as Ginny’s touch.
Ginny now rests eternally by the side of John, her first love, at Reliance Cemetery seventy-five miles west of Washington, DC. Ginny favored the color pink and wore the pink dress with a matching silk jacket that Brenda had made for her years earlier. Ginnys casket and vault, too, were pink.
The service at the graveside was attended by many of Ginny’s extended family, friends, and neighbors. Many lamented earlier days when Ginny, a phone operator with her sweet and gentle
southern voice, greeted each caller and then made the manual connection with wire held by a warm hand and smile. That days weather was friendly, and the sky was a majestic blue. To
further enhance the moment, a white picket fence of the cemetery separated Ginny and John from the vast green pastures, not thirty yards in the distance where horses dotted the rolling
The service ended. The many guests stood then lingered––as if listless and unsure. Their goodbyes were gentle and heartfelt. There was sadness, but smiles soon emerged among the
many faces. One by one, their cars quietly exited onto the adjacent highway. Some turned left. Some turned right.
Standing alone, Brenda and Randy felt shaken and unsure. They held hands as they gazed upon the white marble tombstone before them. It was that moment––they both thought it.
The love of Brenda’s parents would now last forever.