For those of you who have read this column for a number of years, stories of my great-grandpa Charlie are familiar fodder. It is with respect and sadness that I write of the passing of his only remaining child from our midst.
Just two days shy of her 91st birthday, my great-aunt Virginia Myers Patterson passed away March 4. She had been born March 6, 1918.
Virginia, the youngest sister of my dad’s mother, described herself as a tomboy in her youth, always wanting to help her father on the farm. “I spent many years helping in the fields,” she is quoted in the Myers family history.
Dressed in bib overalls and a straw hat, she could make the work horses do anything that needed to be done on the farm. During my lifetime, I grew to know her as my father’s beloved aunt. Because his own mother had died so young — she was 36 when she died during a tonsillectomy in 1946 — my father always urged us to hold his Aunt Virginia in high regard.
She had attended Sherwood Music Conservatory in Chicago upon her high school graduation and returned home to a group of music students already waiting for her, thanks to her big sister Helen’s advertising.
Virginia remembered the day their very own piano was delivered to their home as the two sisters were lying in bed, sick with measles. “Someone fingered the keys so we knew what an addition was being made to our lives,” Virginia once said. She had been 5 years old, and Helen was 12.
Music was a big part of their world. My sisters and I were among Virginia’s many students over her 63 years of teaching piano and organ. She was patient with us even though I feel certain we stretched her patience mighty thin.
I remember her sharpened pencil guiding our fingers back to the correct keys, and we were reminded to practice exceptionally hard for the annual musical recitals held at the church.
With an equal mix of spunk, curiosity and intelligence, Virginia worked as newspaper correspondent for 42 years, reporting news from her hometown of Hayesville, Ohio. She also authored two books, The Early History of Hayesville and Vermillion Township, followed several years later by the sequel, Hayesville Past and Present.
The proceeds from the sequel were to benefit the Hayesville Opera House, saved by the community and still in operation today.
That old opera house had once hosted her father Charlie in what was described as a hilarious comedy, a musical penned by his son-in-law, my grandfather R.H. Young. Virginia, of course, played the piano for the musical and Charlie did most of the singing. There was a packed house for each night of the show.
Virginia Myers Patterson was considered the Hayesville Village historian, the United Methodist Church historian and the Hayesville High School alumni historian. In spite of these accolades, she once told me her most enjoyable role was that of grandmother, and later great-grandmother.
She will be missed by her family — and by an entire community — for many years to come.