Virginia L. Chapman died Saturday, September 18, 2010, at the Rogue Valley Manor Health Care Center, following a brief illness. She was 27 days shy of her 91st birthday. At her request, no services are planned.
Virginia was born October 15, 1919, in Belleville, Kans., the only child of Dr. W.R. Barnard, a veterinarian, and his wife, Bodil Barnard. Virginia spent her childhood in Belleville, graduating from high school in 1937.
After graduation, Virginia attended Kansas State University and joined the Chi Omega sorority. At the end of her freshman year in college, she met Bob Chapman, a poor but promising student who was working his way through school. They dated throughout college, and Virginia fell in love with not only Bob, but also his large, boisterous family. After being raised as an only child by rather reserved parents, she enjoyed the affectionate hustle and bustle and good-natured teasing of a family with five boys and two girls.
Upon receiving her degree in dietetics and institutional management in 1941, Virginia interned at Harper Hospital in Detroit, Mich., and became a registered dietitian. At the end of her schooling, Virginia moved to southern California and married Bob Chapman. It was a marriage that would last for over 59 years and produced three children, Barney, Ken and Russ. After the kids were in school, Virginia went back to work as a dietician in both hospital and school settings.
While generally considered a strict parent, she had a secret soft spot for practical jokes that was not known until one son approached her with a proposal to deal with cookie stealing offenders at summer camp by baking some chocolate laxative cookies. To the son's astonishment, she agreed and produced two plates of cookies one with and one without. After explaining that one plate had the minimum dosage for adolescents and exacting a promise that the offenders would get only one cookie each, she suggested the real coup de grace. After lights were out, someone sneak over to the offender's cabin and turn off the water. Years later, when the son expressed amazement that she actually agreed to the plan, she said, Well, they were stealing your cookies! Her logic, as always, was impeccable.
After her sons were on their own, Virginia ended her career as a dietician and began traveling extensively with her husband, both for business and pleasure. Through Bob's business dealings, and travel within the country, Virginia made many lifelong friends with whom she had a lively correspondence over the years, and then phone conversations when writing became more difficult.
Virginia loved to travel. She and Bob visited all continents except for Antarctica, and kept a map which showed all of their national and international travels, the highlight was an around the world trip on the Concorde.
In 1990, Virginia and Bob moved to the Rogue Valley Manor to be closer to their two sons who lived in the area. They enjoyed getting to go to their grandchildren's activities and having frequent contact with family.
Virginia was quite active in P.E.O. and looked forward to regular meetings with her sisters. She also remained active in the affairs of her college sorority, Chi Omega, and found an instant kinship when she met another member.
In 2001, Virginia started suffering a number of personal tragedies. Her husband of 59 years died after several months of declining health. Four months later, she found out that her oldest son, Barry, had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. He died 16 months later.
Virginia's loss was compensated, in part, by the arrival of great-grandchildren. She delighted in meeting them, and then getting regular infusions of pictures to display in what her sons referred to as her great-grandchildren shrine.
One of Virginia's favorite activities was baking cookies and muffins for her family and for friends at the Manor. She always had a plate of cookies or muffins to give to visitors or family who stopped by to see her. One of her grandsons, upon hearing of Virginia's death, baked seven pans of Grandmother's family-famous cinnamon rolls. A granddaughter said, Heaven must smell of baked goods today.
Last year, Virginia turned 90. Her family held a birthday party for her at the Rogue Valley Country Club. Stories were told; relatives who hadn't seen each other in years had time to get reacquainted, and Virginia got the pure joy of having all six of her great-grandchildren to dote over for several days. Later she would say that the party was her celebration of life, and she got to enjoy it!
In her last days, Virginia remained realistic, positive and resolute. When she talked to one of her sons while in the hospital, she said how much fun she had teaching one of the nurses to read the stock quotes. Later, after entering the Rogue Valley Manor Health Care Center, she got to talk to a nurse she knew well from the medical clinic. The nurse talked about hospice care and after some more conversation, Virginia asked So, how long will this take? She had a stroke the next day and passed peacefully four days later.
Virginia is survived by her son, Russ and wife, Candice, of Ashland, Ore.; son, Ken and his wife, Jan, of Applegate, Ore.; and her daughter-in-law, Pat Chapman, of Normal, Ill. She also had eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Virginia was a dietician, friend, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She knew the birthdays by memory of all of her children and their spouses, grandchildren and their spouses and great-grandchildren. She would recite the basic biographies of hundreds of friends, relatives and their children. As important as those relationships were, however, her life was defined by her relationship with the young man she had fell in love with 72 years ago.
In the last year of her life as she accepted the reality that she would never again see many relatives and friends in person, she would tear up, but quickly say Ah, but I've had a wonderful life. She certainly did.
For those who wish to make memorial contributions, Virginia asked that they be made to P.E.O. Star Scholarship Fund, 3700 Grand Ave., Des Moines, IA, 50312, or a charity of their choice.