1924 - 2013
Virginia Sponsler was born June 7, 1924 to Grant and Mary Snethen in Grand River, Iowa and died Feb. 18 near Tehachapi. The oldest of seven children, she grew up in a 480 square foot house without electricity, running water, or insulation on a small farm near Blythedale, Mo.
Despite its limitations this house was a center of neighborhood hospitality and later, Virginia could remember few times when the family was not joined for dinner by friends or neighbors. Hardly feasts – Virginia first ate beef at age 12 after the family cow broke its leg on an icy pond - these twinned privations and open hospitality undoubtedly contributed to Virginia’s life-long habits of thrift, industry, and friendship.
At age five, alone but for instructions to cross the field and turn right at the creek, and assured that she would see the school over the next rise, Virginia began her education in a one-room country schoolhouse, continuing it there until she moved to the nearby town of Lamoni, Iowa to attend high school.
Virginia also graduated from at Graceland College, after which she taught at a one-room school of her own, and from Iowa State College with a degree in Home Economics.
Following graduation, she interviewed for a job as the Wayne County Iowa Extension Home Economist and was hired despite the urgings of one member of the interview committee, local farmer James Sponsler.
Despite his recommendations to others, he pursued her for himself, and they were married March 26, 1950.
James had saved nearly all of his war-time pay and with it had purchased a small farm near his birthplace near Humeston, Iowa. Together they set about meeting the challenges of making the operation successful. To Virginia’s chagrin, that task began with the trading of her stylish ’49 Plymouth coupe for a piece of farming equipment James thought necessary.
Over the next 50 years, Virginia worked hard in and out of the home. She kept the books for the farm, and for a related business they formed to deliver fertilizer to area farmers. She kept a large garden, sold encyclopedias and reported news for the local paper. She later edited that paper, in it writing a weekly column commenting upon the challenges and triumphs of her small community.
Virginia and James had four children. Grant, in 1951, Joy in 1953, Brian in 1955, and John, in 1966. Virginia was a 4-H leader and a Den Mother. She compiled a large home library and sought out, obtained and used all manners of educational materials to enrich the learning of her children.
Until her final decline following a stroke last summer, Virginia was a woman of great vigor and physical strength. In her 70’s, she excavated at an archeological dig, at age 80, she could carry a five-gallon bucket of water in each hand, upstairs. She studied and implemented natural diets and remedies throughout her life, and she outlived a doctor’s prognosis by nearly twenty years. She had a sharp mind and a remarkable memory. She enjoyed playing the piano and researching family history.
Virginia was an open and hospitable lady. She introduced herself easily and sought to be helpful in any gathering. Her genuine interest in others and its resulting hospitality was never feigned.
Virginia was predeceased by her parents, a brother, her husband James, and their son Grant. She is survived by her daughter Joy Moore and husband Tom of Joplin, Missouri, son Brian and wife Cathy of Tehachapi, by her son John, of Kansas City, and by nine grand and great-grandchildren.
Following her husband’s death, Virginia moved to Tehachapi to be near Brian and Cathy and their five children, James, Joe, Molly, Dan, and Frank. During her time in Tehachapi, she especially enjoyed the fellowship of the Beta Sigma Phi Sorority, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the United Methodist Church as well as the concerts of the Tehachapi Symphony Orchestra.
Her remains were interred at Green Bay Cemetery, near Humeston.