Optimist, adventurer, jazz-lover
Virginia “Ginny” Elizabeth Hart, an always cheerful and optimistic resident of Claremont for over 40 years, died peacefully in Santa Maria, California on October 4, 2014, just shy of her 96th birthday.
In a life that started the year that WWI ended, she grew up during the Depression in Heron Lake, Minnesota, one of five brothers and sisters, of whom she was the last living. In the 1940s, she realized a longtime dream to travel and, with her older brother George, drove to Seattle and lived at the YWCA while working as a medical receptionist.
She found her entrée to travel by becoming one of the first seven stewardesses to fly with PanAmerican from Seattle to Alaska during the late ‘40s. Although her PanAm handle to the pilots and crews was “Battery Cart Hart,” her father called her his Little Clipper after the nickname for the DC3s in which she flew for so many years. She gathered wonderful tales of arctic adventures, including playing boogie-woogie piano in the Baronof Hotel in Juneau. She would recount tales of miners coming in from their gold mines offering her small bags of gold dust as payment for her piano playing; giving an Eskimo child his first orange; watching a crew off-load a grand piano only to see it sink completely in to the thawed permafrost; and spending nights fascinated by the shimmering Aurora Borealis. During those post-WWII years in Seattle, she met and married Chuck Hart. After she left PanAm, they travelled up and down the west coast on Mr. Hart’s business trips.
Chuck and Ginna, as she was known, moved to southern California and ultimately settled Claremont where her two daughters, Mary and Carla, attended Our Lady of the Assumption School and then Claremont High. Mrs. Hart was active as a Girl Scout Troop Leader, known as Miss Ginna. While her daughters attended school at OLA, Miss Ginna took great delight in organizing camping trips and outdoor events. After Chuck died unexpectedly in November of 1966, and against the objection of her family, Virginia took her young daughters on month-long camping trips for three successive summers, imbuing in them both a love of the outdoors, camping and travel. The trips were full of adventure, including burning out the clutch of a VW camper the first summer and learning to park with a trailer attached to a ’59 Cadillac convertible the second summer, but she managed everything beautifully, creating wonderful memories for all three of the Hart girls.
The Harts were avid skiers, going to Telluride and Squaw Valley regularly. After moving to Claremont, Virginia wanted to take advantage of a storm that dropped a great snowfall on Mount Baldy, so she grabbed her skies, drove up as far as she could without chains and parked. Being both enterprising and experienced, she found a young man struggling with getting chains on his tires, and traded a ride to the ski lift in exchange for getting his chains on. Her personality was so engaging that people were always attracted to her and interested in helping out.
Mrs. Hart loved Claremont, both for being the “Home of Trees and PhDs” and also for the tremendous diversity that the colleges provide. She regularly attended lectures, art events and music and dance performances, and was an active member of the Women’s Club and the Soroptimist Society. She was a big fan of Michael Ryan and his wonderful guitar work, and attended many of his performances. She had an unwavering faith in God and was a very regular member of Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church. She constantly delighted friends and family with her many mantras, two of which were, “I’m on the No-Stress Express” and “You can’t box in a Gypsy,” and she would often promise to spin the Tibetan Prayer Wheel for those in need of a helping hand.
After retiring from the California Highway Patrol where she worked for 11-plus years, Virginia enjoyed visiting her daughters in the San Diego and Arroyo Grande areas, as well as her brother and her PanAm pals in Seattle. Driven by her love of Dixieland jazz bands, she spent almost 25 Thanksgivings sharing Thanksgiving Day in San Diego with daughter Mary and son-in-law Bill Kohr, then spending the rest of the weekend at the Towne and Country Hotel in Mission Valley attending the annual Dixieland Jazz Band Festival. She was a terrific pianist and even with severe arthritis, would play for the residents’ delight at her apartment complex in Claremont. After moving to Santa Maria to be closer to her daughter Carla Hart and granddaughter Kai, she delighted in attending Kai’s numerous horse shows and took great pride in seeing Kai compete in everything from jumping to barrel racing.
Virginia is characterized by her generosity of heart, her unfailingly cheerful spirit, her consideration of other people and a genuine love of life. Her optimism and positive outlook kept her in wonderful mental and physical health, even when eyesight and mobility became difficult. She touched the lives of so many in such positive ways that she was an inspiration to everyone she met.
She is survived by her daughters Mary Hart and Carla Hart of San Diego and Arroyo Grande, by her granddaughter Kai Aziza Virginia Brown, also of Arroyo Grande, and by her devoted son-in-law William Kohr, Mary Hart’s husband. She is also survived by her nephew, John Trampaklos, and his wife Jenny, of Athens, Greece.
A visitation for Virginia will be held at Lady Family Mortuary on Friday, October 17 from 2 to 4 p.m. in Arroyo Grande, California, and a funeral mass will be held on Friday, October 24 at 1 p.m. at Our Lady of the Assumption, 435 N. Berkeley Ave. Questions about the arrangements can be directed to Mary Hart at (619) 660-1914.