Virginia Kaufman

Virginia Kaufman

Virginia Lee Straw was born in rural Madison, South Dakota on July 16, 1942. Her middle name, according to her Mom, was in honor of a good friend. As the fifth of seven children, Virginia was the only one unexpectedly born at home. Her Dad supported his family by working in an auction house while, with a family of nine, her Mom was kept busy as a homemaker. The children were spread out over several years with the older three and younger two teaming up, leaving Virginia and her brother Roger, who was older by two years, as a pair. The two were very close and he became her greatest influence. They did a lot of things together with Virginia routinely accepting any challenge Roger threw at her. Virginia is proud to report she never broke a bone and welcomed the excitement that her brother instigated. Most of their escapades, one that included a dare to jump off the barn roof, were kept from their Mom, who was the strict matriarch of their Nazarene family. As was the case with most "farm kids," Virginia was taught by her Dad to drive at a very early age. She started with the family tractor and progressed to the automobile around age twelve. Her skill at the wheel proved invaluable when she was able to pull her Dad out of a snowbank.

More "tom-boy" than "girly-girl," Virginia set her sights at a tender age to leave home. Being raised in a rigid religious household where church activities and obligations took precedence over other interests, she only hoped to "escape" as soon as she could. Virginia attended school in Madison and graduated high school in May of 1959. With a mid-summer birthday, she was forced to wait until her eighteenth birthday that July, before enlisting in the U.S. Army. She soon found herself in Alabama for Basic Training before heading to Texas where she trained as a medic. After she completed her studies, she was sent to Augusta, Georgia, her first duty station. Joining the military turned out to be Virginia's fork in the road. She was finally out from under the control of her parents, meeting new people and working in a field she loved. Even the snakes and humidity weren't enough to deter her because she was finally seeing new terrain!

While in Georgia, Virginia met and fell in love with a serviceman whom she married. When it became apparent a baby was on the way, she was honorably discharged. Her husband followed soon after and joined her in civilian life. Although it was never Virginia's dream to be a wife and mother, she was content and very happy…..for a while. Unfortunately, the marriage didn't last but seven years, and by then, there were two children, a daughter and a son. Her daughter chose to stay with her Dad so Virginia became a single parent to her younger child. Not one to give up easily on romance, Virginia finally married a man who was quite infatuated with her, treated her like a queen and with whom she eventually came to love. This man cherished her and they were an exceedingly happy couple until his untimely death some time later. They were inseparable.

The most important lesson Virginia would share with a younger woman would be, "Always be honest." Any regrets she has would have to be the time she wasted by being married to someone who didn't treat her with respect and wasn't someone she could count on.

Through the years, Virginia has taken the opportunity to travel, most usually solo. Besides the usual Canada, Mexico and several of the contiguous states, she can claim England, Germany (twice) and Czechoslovakia. Having a son actively serving in the military opened many doors for her. Two countries that most people don't get the chance to explore were North and South Korea. Because of her son's service status, Virginia was allowed special access to some of the more sensitive areas of these countries. Traveling under the watchful eye of armed guards might not be everyone's cup of tea, but Virginia welcomed the experience. Although she feels lucky to have seen so many different places, she no longer yearns to pack her suitcase but prefers, instead, to go on her daily walks around her neighborhood, listen to Country music or read something new from one of her current favorite authors.

While her children were young, Virginia was a stay-at-home Mom, but later returned to the workforce as a single parent. She secured employment in Seattle at Nordstrom and worked in customer service and retail sales. Eventually, she rose to the position of Supervisor of the Cash Room. Nordstrom was a great employer who paid a fair wage, provided good benefits and so she stayed with this company for thirty-two years until she retired.

In 2003, after being transferred to Ft. Wainwright with the Army, Virginia's son, Jeffery, invited her for a visit and she never left! She found a little house on Refinery Loop here in North Pole and lived there until 2014 before relocating to Holiday Heights, where she lives now. She is very happy there and especially likes the residents. When I asked her what she disliked about apartment living, she had no answer because, "I like it here." She remains close to Jeff, who is reportedly a VERY good cook. He and his wife live nearby. Virginia is also the proud grandma of two. One is in the military and the other is working in the Tacoma, Washington area.

Virginia joined Santa's Seniors in 2010 and has worked in the Gift Shop, has helped on many committees and fundraising events, worked in the kitchen, helped decorate the Center and is currently serving on our Board of Directors.

I was surprised to learn Virginia is an accomplished seamstress who sewed her own and her children's clothing for many years but admitted she wouldn't turn down an all-expense paid shopping trip to Nordstrom in Anchorage! She also gardens, knits and crochets.

When I asked Virginia how she would like to be remembered she said, "That I was a nice person." I seriously doubt anybody would argue with that. Additionally, according to two of her neighbors, another positive trait of hers is that she is, "Loyal." I'd also add she has a great sense of humor and is very careful of others' feelings. I truly believe this sort of kindness comes from her heart and her life experience.

Interview by Francie Cork 8/4/16. Photo by Santa's Seniors.

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