Shortly before my parents divorced, my soon-to-be step-mother introduced us to our soon-to-be step-grandparents. At the time the three of us kids didn’t know if we would ever get to see our mother or her side of the family ever again. Well, we didn’t know - it’s not like the divorce gods give kids a manual on what to expect during divorces.... Anyway...
I don’t remember the first time I met Virginia. However, I won’t forget the first time someone asked if I was named after her. No, I wasn’t named after her. I was named after the drink - Gin. At least that’s what Mommo told me during one of her more “clear” days.
Some Saturday during my early teenage years Virginia invited me to go to Seattle with her, we were going to visit Pioneer Square. This would be my first trip to Pioneer Square - actually the only trip with Virginia of just the two of us. We visited the Paper Cat. At the time the store was the most amazing to me because of the vast collection of rubber stamps.
I collected rubber stamps while in middle and high school. I used to stamp all of my notebook paper. I did this for three reasons: I could see my paper easily in a stack of papers on the teacher’s desk, boys wouldn’t ask me for notebook paper because my paper had pink butterflies, and girls wouldn’t ask me for notebook paper because I had blue baseballs in the upper right hand of the page. I think the stamps are still at my dad’s house.
Saturday at Pioneer Square also included a stop to the hat shop, where we spent the majority of our time. We tried on “quaint” hats, manly hats, rain hats, warm hats, sun hats, and finally a propellor hat. I got a kick out of the hat. Apparently, Virginia did too! She bought me that had, and a pair of glow-in-the-dark boxer shorts - which were all the rage at the time.
For lunch I remember that we ordered water, and it arrived with lemon in it. I thought it was the most disgusting thing ever. Who would want lemons in their water. Virginia explained it was to hide the chlorine taste. She was right. Now, I love to pack the lemons in my cold water.
After I graduated from high school I moved into Lowell and Virginia’s house. Whatever possessed them to take in a stepdaughter college student is still beyond me. I suppose I was the perfect combination of a stray cat, child, and a grown-up.
My curfew was 30 minutes earlier than the one I had when I lived with my dad: 10:30 p.m. My then boyfriend live about 30 minutes away. There were plenty of nights that I <
I don’t remember much about the day I found out my mother passed away. They didn’t know her very well, and what they did know about her was a bit distorted because it was from Dad and Liz’s point of view, which is understandable. I was able to tell Virginia about the funny things my mom did, and that Liz also did -when it came to raising children. We didn’t focus on that too much - we focused on the very little things we had in common. Which, as I try to think about it - we didn’t have too much in common.
She didn’t like to cook. I did.
For her, camping took place at hotels. I backpacked during the summer.
I liked coffee. She liked tea.
We liked chocolate, shopping, and talking about Europe. We both hated to do laundry.
When I announced that I was going away for the summer to work at Robbinswold, there seemed to be quiet excitement. I would be gone for the whole summer. No 10:30 p.m. curfew, I wouldn’t be coming and going all the time...their house would become theirs again. What they didn’t expect was that I would be breaking up with a longtime boyfriend, showing up at the family reunion with a girl (who seriously was just a friend), and announcing that I wouldn’t be coming back to live with them. I was moving on, working as a nanny as I continued classes, and working at the coffee shop. A lot of changes - not all would stick.
After summer camp, and at the end of fall quarter, I looked to Lowell and Virginia again. The nanny thing wasn’t working out as planned. In fact, the kids were a nightmare, (No more a nightmare I hear) and my classes suffered terribly from all of the nanny drama. I had made a decision to follow my favorite art professor, a unknown-to-me-but-well-known-to-others theater professor, and a very good friend to Europe. What Lowell and Virginia didn’t expect was me to show up with my head shaved.
I went from long, flowing brown hair to nothing in a matter of weeks. I wasn’t sick, just tired. The guy had been dating for a few weeks was on my very last nerve. To get rid of him, I just shaved my head and he was gone. So simple! Virginia was not amused, not at all. How could I cut that beautiful hair?! The curls, the waves...the waste! And, since my ears are not pierced, how could you really tell I was still a girl?
The hair grew back. Virginia got over the dramatic hair loss. My grades went up, I took a second job to get spending money for Europe. Then, I got sick - over and over and over again. In listening to Virginia, from what seemed like death’s bed - I was doing too much. Too much school (an extra class), too much work (about 40 hours a week), and too much goofing off during the weekend (hanging out at coffee shops). Taking her advice, I dropped the extra job, dropped the PE class, and quickly got better.
When I received my acceptance letter to Evergreen, she was excited for me. I explained that I wanted to live on campus, so after I got back from Europe, I would be in Bremerton for a few more weeks. I would be moving to Olympia. By the time I got back from Europe, there was this part of me that was sad about moving away from Bremerton. I had come to enjoy it, and I had come to enjoy them.
She loved her cats, she loved other’s cats. She enjoyed sitting on the patio during the summer and complaining about the heat. She enjoyed sitting in the chair by the heater during the winter, complaining about the rain. She loved Markie - oh my - how she loved Markie! When he was teeny-tiny she loved to carry him around, buy him clothes, toys. When you think of the overactive grandmother - think Virginia.
And, when you think of the formal definition of a lady, picture Virginia.
Virginia Parnell, 83
January 5, 2005
June 26, 1921 — Jan. 1, 2005
Virginia Parnell, 83, passed away on New Year's Day 2005 at Bremerton Health and Rehabilitation Center following a stroke.
She was born on June 26, 1921, in Tacoma, Wash., the only child of Clarence and Lottie (Eckert) Deabill. The family lived in many places, but among Virginia's happiest times were the two years they stayed with her maternal grandparents, Grapeview pioneers Adam and Sarah Eckert, at their Stretch Island home. While there, Virginia attended the old Grapeview School for the seventh and eighth grades.
The family then moved to Shelton where she graduated from Irene S. Reed High School in 1939.
Virginia worked for many years in Seattle and at Bremerton's Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. In 1954, she married Lowell Parnell, settling in Bremerton. They had one daughter, Elizabeth.
Virginia loved to collect and study antique dolls and was a founding member of Bremerton's former Olympic Doll Club. She was also a truly gifted creator of miniature furniture, exhibiting her work at public shows. She loved cats and provided care and adoptive homes for many, many strays.
A third-generation Christian Scientist, Virginia was a 60-year member of Bremerton's First Church of Christ, Scientist and of the Mother Church in Boston. She was a dedicated church volunteer, serving many years as a Reading Room attendant and church custodian.
In her later years, she loved being a step-grandma to Ginny-Marie, Tyler and Trudi Case, and later a joyful grandma to Mark Case.
In her final months, Virginia resided at Bremerton Health and Rehabilitation Center as a result of complications of radiation treatment. Her family is grateful for the attendants who gave her tender, understanding care during this long and difficult time.
She is survived by her husband, Lowell, of the family home; daughter, Liz and her husband, Wayne Case, of Belfair; and grandchildren, Ginny-Marie Case of Los Angeles, Tyler Case of Olalla, Trudi Baca of Shelton and Mark Case of Belfair.
At her request, there will be no services. Cremation is under the direction of Rill Chapel with her ashes to be scattered at a later date.
Virginia's family notes that the most worthwhile things she did were never, ever convenient or easy or cheap. Anyone who wishes to make a memorial to Virginia might consider providing care and an adoptive placement for a stray animal; spending time with family, especially children, and talking with them on the phone often; and scheduling regular volunteer time with a church, school or charity. Although Virginia was often astonished at the amount of time and money she sacrificed for these things, she never regretted a bit of it — and neither will any who choose to remember her in this way.
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