Cover photo for Virginia "Ginny" Gross's Obituary
Virginia "Ginny" Gross Profile Photo
1928 Virginia 2022

Virginia "Ginny" Gross

August 15, 1928 — August 11, 2022

Virginia "Ginny" Thomson Gross, 93, died Thursday evening, August 11, 2022 at Beacon Pointe Assisted Living in Richland just days before she would have celebrated her 94th birthday. A Richland village resident since 2007, she was preceded in death by her husband A. Richard Gross who passed away in 2016 at the age of 88.

Ginny's story began on August 15, 1928, the first child born to Mabel (Alderman) and William Noble Thomson in Pittsfield, MA. Her only sibling, Roderick "Rod" Noble was born two years later in 1930. Ginny's life journey was made richer from the people she met and places she lived over her long life. After Pittsfield, her family moved first to Albany, NY then to Milwaukee . It's there that Ginny attended Washington High School and met at age sixteen, Richard "Dick" Gross, her sweetheart then, and later her husband of 64 years. For 71 years they celebrated the anniversary of their first date, "a girl asks boy dance", November 6, 1944. Photos of Ginny as a child and young adult capture her happy, engaging smile and her blossoming from the little girl with a pixie hair cut to lovely young woman.

After high school Ginny attended Smith College while Dick attended the University of Wisconsin, both graduated, Ginny with a degree in economics in 1950. Ginny went to work for Gimbels in Milwaukee, and then when her parents moved, followed them to New York in the Fall of 1951 where she worked in personnel for Speary and Hudson on Fifth Avenue. Meanwhile, because potential employers were reluctant to hire young men of draft age (Korean conflict), Dick chose to enlist in the army in April of 1951. In June of 1951 Dick was stationed at Fort Benjamin Harrison. Despite the geographical challenges, Ginny and Dick became engaged and were married on September 13, 1952 in the lovely "Stepping Stones" gardens of her parent's home in Port Chester, NY. The newlyweds resided in Indianapolis until Dick left the service in January 1953
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The next move for Ginny was to Madison, WI where Dick attended UW on the GI bill working toward his MBA and working as purchasing manager with Madison General Hospital. Ginny set up a household in an impossibly small first apartment and later that first year, she and Dick welcomed their first of five children, Katherine "Kay". Four other children followed in quick succession, Richard "Rick", Anne, David and Elizabeth "Beth". The joke was since Dick was employed at Madison General hospital they received a special employee discount. Ginny's father is famous for his oft quoted comment about the number of children, "You know Sis, they only come in girl or boy". Somehow Ginny and Dick managed this growing family, moves to two new homes in Madison, and then in 1961, a new job and career path for Dick, meant another city for Ginny, this time to Park Ridge, Il.

While managing a household of seven, Ginny began a lifelong service of volunteering in the communities where she lived. She was active in the PTA, the church, and girl scouts serving as Brownie Leader for Kay and Anne's troops. Ginny loved Christmas. Every year, every place she lived the house was lovingly transformed with treasured decorations, outdoor lights and a tree overflowing with gifts. Always the same number of packages for each child. Magical. Joyful. Getting ready for church included polishing shoes - saddle shoe (white and black polish) or patent leather (Vaseline) for the girls; brown Kiwi for the boys. Making it to Church 'just in time', the family often sat in the front row where best behavior was strictly enforced. During this time, Ginny developed the habit of job lists – what you had to do each week to get your allowance (which could be cancelled if you messed up). Ultimately this led to the practice of leaving a 'Job List' on the counter for everyone to check off before they did something else (including going to your own job!); guests knew they were part of the family when their name showed up on the 'Job List'.

An avid reader, bridge player, and knitter (and cocktail lover) she found time to enjoy these pleasures, sometimes simultaneously, a testament to her multi-tasking skills and love of a good time. She shared her love of reading with all her kids, endlessly rereading their favorite stories. Ginny learned to cook out of necessity, someone had to feed all those kids and Dick. She had some misadventures along the way, "cooking an egg in its own juice" and neglecting to add the tuna to the tuna casserole, but perhaps the latter was a cost saving measure, as Ginny was frugal with the dollar. She knit all of her kids Christmas stockings and did it again years later when the first ones wore out. She knit stockings for each of the "outlaws" as her children married and then for each of the grandchildren. Ski sweaters too. And walked all her kids to swim lessons at the YMCA.

The next move took Ginny and family to Austin, MN in 1966 where Dick became publisher of the local newspaper. Finally, she lived in a city with family nearby, her brother Rod and his wife Jean and their three kids, (Jennifer, Bill and Ken) were also living there. This was the beginning of many shared family birthdays, holidays and historical events. Watching the moon landing in the basement rec room of Rod and Jean's was a highlight. Winters were cold in Minnesota, but fresh air and a break for Ginny, meant bundling the five kids up in layers. The only rule being the kids stayed outside at least as long as the time it took to dress us all.
Ginny continued to volunteer at the church, the PTA and the community. She and 'Aunt Jean' Thomson were active in the League of Women Voters and organized a program on "Why the US should recognize Red China" – revolutionary at the time (and precedent of Nixon's overtures!). They also had a misadventure of trying to make doll clothes for Beth and Jenny… mixing sewing small seams and cocktails did not go well!

She and Dick made lasting connections and friendships in all the places they lived. They welcomed strangers into their home as extended family. You were never sure who would be at dinner on Sunday and she learned how to stretch the meal (slice meat thinner, cook another vegetable). Her hosting of international visitors, including visiting journalists from Japan and Ghana and later, international students from Finland and France led to lifelong friendships.

It's 1969 and Ginny is packing boxes once again. Next stop Council Bluffs, IA; a lot of life happened in those next 16 years. The most challenging time when Ginny had five teenagers (three in college) was working fulltime as a caseworker for Douglas County (Omaha, NE) Child Protective services and returning to college to earn her Masters in Guidance and Counseling. In 1978, she received her degree from Iowa State University. In all the time in between, Ginny continued her volunteer work in the community on the city planning and zoning board and the Children's Square USA board; playing bridge; attending the symphony and local theatre productions and having dinner parties. And planning and organizing the annual family vacation to Table Rock Lake in the Ozarks.

The family loved the vacation to the "cabin on the lake", none more so than Ginny. She took up and mastered water skiing, yes even slaloming, on that clear, warm smooth water. Quite a change up from snow on the fourth of July in the Rocky Mountains, the site of the family's last "western camping vacation". Imagine traveling west to the Rocky's from Minnesota in 1968, station wagon, five kids, two tents and one weeks' vacation. Before retiring, Ginny saw her children graduate from the same high school, all receive college degrees and three of them marry. The year they left (1988), both Ginny and Dick were named Community Service honorees and the Grand Marshalls for the annual Community Pride Week Parade, a recognition for all their years of volunteer service to the community.

Where they would retire had been decided years before. With twenty years of great vacation memories, Ginny and Dick chose Table Rock Lake, near Shell Knob, MO as the place to retire. A house was built, in part with Dick's help, included a huge master bath with a jacuzzi bathtub, a deck with an expansive view of 'Ginny's Lake' and plenty of room for family and friends to visit. Ginny and Dick hosted a family reunion in 1988 for their 60th birthdays. Ginny celebrated her 65th birthday on water skis! For five years they enjoyed lake living, making new friends and many visits from friends and family. But they missed being closer to their kids and the grandkids so they moved again, close but not too close.

In 1993 they chose Danville, KY, Ginny agreed, as long as she could have an inground swimming pool. A compromise for leaving the lake she loved. Moving to a "dry" county was a new experience, but Ginny was resourceful and managed this bump with her usual panache, "it is what it is". Ginny found her source for bourbon; a necessary ingredient for a Manhattan. Again, Ginny and Dick embraced their new community. Ginny actively involved in city planning and zoning, child welfare and church. Both enjoyed the many new friends, dinner parties, attending music and theatre productions at Centre college (and swim meets for their oldest granddaughter), the Brass Band Festival and travel. Visits from kids and grandkids were treasured events, the highlight being the family celebration of Ginny and Dicks 50th wedding anniversary in 2002 and during the summer months, her grandchildren came to Danville to attend "Camp Grandma." Ginny loved to travel and she and Dick took many trips during this time visiting family, friends and seeing a bit of the larger world. Centre college trips to Scotland, Paris, Provence, France were favorites. Many happy times, but Ginny's moving days had yet another chapter.

By this time Ginny was a professional packer and unpacker of households, a skill all her children would attest to as she and Dick assisted with many cross-country moves. So, the move to Richland, MI in 2007 was old hat and made easier with the assistance of Kay and Gary. Once again Ginny was living in the same town as family. Ginny embraced her new community and asked to join the Planning and Zoning Committee. They preferred that she join the Richland Village Council – there was an unforeseen opening. She told them she would be out of town on the date of the next meeting when the appointment would be made – not a problem, they delayed the appointment to the next meeting! The following year she was elected to a full term on the Council – she refused to campaign – and was eventually named President. In Richland she was part of two bridge clubs, three book clubs (one in her neighborhood), and helped out with the Presbyterian Church Rummage Sales (mostly to keep Dick from buying stuff!). She a founding member of the "wine night" in her neighborhood… a tradition that continued during Covid (outdoors with spacing!).

Ginny loved a good party and was in her element for the celebration of her and Dick's 80th birthdays (2008) and her 90th (2018) birthday with family and friends in attendance at the Kellogg Manor House on Gull Lake. Still an amazing and attractive woman at 90. She loved going to teas and dinners at the Manor House – especially at Christmas – and enjoyed concerts on the grounds during the summer. She also enjoyed sitting on the deck at Kay and Gary's to look at the lake and the trip to Lake Michigan now and then.

Ginny's last journey was the move to a new assisted living community, Beacon Pointe, in Richland. She had learned through her connections on the Village Council that plans for the community were underway, so she contacted the builder and owner and picked out her room from the construction sketches! Covid delayed the completion and because she had already sold her condo, she began a 'traveling assisted living' tour, hosted by her kids in Columbus OH, Louisville KY, and Morgantown WV before settling into her 'dorm room' at Kay and Gary's in Richland. She was glad to finally move into her own spacious place, in November 2020.

She made new friends and was the center of the slowly developing social life – even found a few people to drink wine with her in the evenings! There were many trips to the Pub (onion rings a favorite), Kitchen House (a favorite of hers and Dicks), and anyplace that served seafood in the area. She enjoyed many Sunday dinners at Kay and Gary's where she worked on Crossword puzzles with family.

Ginny savored the good things that life had to offer, family, friends, travel, the arts, dinning out and of course she never passed up a sweet dessert. Ginny's glass was always full, an example for all of us left to cherish her memory.

Ginny is remembered and loved by those here to honor her life. Three daughters, Dr. Katherine Gross (Dr. Gary Mittelbach) of Richland, Anne (Jeff) Allen of Powell, OH and Elizabeth Gross of Louisville, KY; two sons, Dr. Richard (Laura) Gross of Morgantown, WV and David Gross (Tracy Martin) of East Hardwick, VT; She was a loving grandmother to John and Mark Mittelbach, Richard and Michael Allen, Sarah Chen, Thomson, Wilson, and Emmaline Gross, nine great grandchildren, sisters in law, Jean Thomson and Helene Gross, and two nieces and nephews.

Ginny joins family who left before her: her husband of 64 years, A. Richard "Dick" Gross; her parents, Mabel and William Noble Thomson; her brother, Roderick Thomson; her brothers-in-law, Phillip and Peter Gross; sister-in-law, Jeanne Kalupa; son-in-law Douglas Fenn; and niece Karen Bryan.

Friends are invited to a Celebration of Life on Monday evening, August 22nd from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm at the Farley-Estes & Dowdle Funeral home in Richland and a Memorial Service on Tuesday, August 23 at 11 am at First Presbyterian Church, 8047 Church St, Richland. Longtime family friend Rev. Claudia Henderson of Tampa, FL will be officiating the service. The service will be livestreamed and may be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/First-Presbyterian-Church-Richland-Michigan-164149746972183.

The family suggests the following memorials for Ginny: Richland Community Library, 8951 Park St, Richland MI 49083
Beacon Point Assisted Living, 8774 32nd St, Richland, MI 49083 for the Staff appreciation fund or an organization of your choice which supports the wellbeing of children and families in your community. The family is being assisted by Farley Estes & Dowdle Funeral Home & Cremation Care. Personal messages for the family may be placed in the Memory Book at www.farleyestesdowdle.com.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Visitation

Monday, August 22, 2022

5:00 - 7:00 pm (Eastern time)

Farley Estes Dowdle Funeral Home & Cremation Care, Richland

9170 E D Ave, Richland, MI 49083

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Memorial Service

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)

First Presbyterian Church of Richland

8047 Church St, Richland, MI 49083

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