Virginia “Ginger” Ormsby Brown Johnson of Laurinburg died peacefully surrounded by loved ones August 6, 2019.
Born May 17, 1922 in Richmond County, she was the beloved only child of Nellie Ormsby and Lewis Henry Brown.
In her 97 years, she witnessed remarkable changes in her country, endured the uncertainties of war and suffered the inevitable loss that comes from the bittersweet milestone of outliving most everyone held dear throughout a lifetime. Through it all, she persisted.
She lived her entire life in the same area of North Carolina first settled by her Scottish ancestors, and those who later farmed the fields and tended the fruit of the textile factories that dotted the region. She began her working career on the factory floor of one such textile plant in Laurinburg, folding bedspreads when they came off the line. But luck and her amenable personality would serve her well, and she was tapped to move to the front office as a switchboard operator. It was a job she worked until retirement, and that gave her the means to raise a son on her own and see him into college. There were very few things in life that made her prouder than that achievement.
Due to a lifelong ritual with Oil of Olay that bordered on an obsession, she enjoyed a complexion of a woman decades younger than her near century of living. She loved ginger snaps and hot dogs, the satisfying memory of painting a room herself, big affectionate dogs that belonged to other people and a good permanent. She reveled in keeping her hair tidy under an invisible, impenetrable net of aerosol hairspray. While she never owned a car, there wasn’t a load of groceries she couldn’t handle with a rolling cart, a sturdy pair of shoes and her signature gumption.
She was the steadiest of women, always tucking back what she could for a rainy day or a good wool suit that would give her years of service. She was once so determined to have a nice set of china, she took a small amount from each paycheck and built up a collection, one Rose Chintz saucer and teacup at a time. By the time she amassed a full set, the glaze of the earliest pieces had already begun to craze. Her doggedness, however, ensured that for years the table bloomed with pink roses at every meal.
She was loyal, fiercely independent and eternally resistant to giving sway to old age. She lived on her own until she was 90, and when she finally relented to moving into Scotia Village, was a tad dumbfounded when she was presented with a list of activities for residents. Perhaps for a woman forged in a lifetime of sacrifice and steadfastness, it might have all sounded a bit frivolous at first. “I did not come here to party!” she insisted.
While never overtly political, she was civic minded. On Election Day during her working years, she would rise early and take her place in line before daybreak. Given that women had retained the right to vote less than two years before she was born, she believed it a responsibility and never missed an election. During the 2016 election, a then 94-year-old Miss Virginia made sure she had a ride from her nursing home to the polls and marveled at casting her vote for a woman for president.
Virginia’s charm stemmed from her earnest love of family and friends, and that she had no capacity for apathy when it came to the things she valued most in life or the people she wanted near. She retained eternal optimism that there was always a bit more left for her to do. Now, for those she leaves behind, the heartbreaking task will be to learn of a new world without her in it.
She is survived by her son, Richard (Amy), as well as three granddaughters and two great-grandchildren.
A memorial service celebrating her life will be held in the Activity Center in Tartan Place at Scotia Village Saturday, August 17 at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her honor to: Ginger’s Glamour Gifts Memorial Fund, attention Mary Taylor, Scotia Village, 2200 Elm Avenue, Laurinburg, NC 28352.
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