Virginia C. Baker
September 12, 1919 – October 10, 2020
Virginia Capps Baker “Ginny” (101) passed away peacefully on October 10, 2020, with her two daughters, Victoria and Ellen, at her side. Her life began in the tiny North Carolina railroad-crossing hamlet of Greystone on September 12, 1919.
We know much about her early years because Ginny became an avid family genealogist, researching and documenting the Capps and Baker ancestry as far back as the early 1600s. In a charming and engaging style, she recorded vignettes and anecdotes from a happy childhood. Her delightful first-person memoir tells of an early event in her life: “Although the family had escaped the Great Flu Pandemic, they almost lost both Marie, age four, and Ginny, now six months old, with whooping cough and a form of pneumonia. It was February 1920. Dr. Fenner held out some hope for Marie, but Ginny would surely die. She had slipped into a coma and couldn’t last through the night. Her mother was in such a state of grief that her grandmother took over by picking out the clothes to bury Ginny in. Death of this baby was certain. Well, somehow she didn’t die that night, and the next day, ‘ole Aunt Patience,’ a mammy that worked for her mother, was trying to spoon feed some milk in Ginny. She dropped the spoon and came running out where the others were and said, ‘She smiled! I knows that baby smiled!’ From then on the slow recovery came.” So baby Ginny’s recovery began with a smile—so symbolic of her continued sunny disposition. What a miracle her life was from those early days, and what a blessing that it became such a long and fulfilling life!
The memoir goes on to vividly describe many amusing episodes from her childhood days in Greystone and Henderson, NC—such as older sister Marie tying her to the bed post and cutting off her long curls; or when she and her brother Maurice, Jr. (who they called Son), a great playmate just 14 months younger than herself, would ride the old mule drays carrying tobacco down the rows; or when she and Son would hold mini-funerals for baby chick biddies that died; or when they were playing a game called “Bootleggers and the Feds” during Prohibition, hiding illegal whiskey and moonshine bottles; or listening to Amos and Andy on the radio when her father bought an Ever Ready battery set; and so many more precious childhood stories. Her memoir took her to 1935, when she and her family moved to the big city, Raleigh, which had 37,000 people at that time. Ginny wrote that she was fascinated by it all, and she knew it would be a great turning point for her.
It was an exciting new chapter in the life of a teenage girl and young woman. Ginny’s cheerful personality made her many new friends. Her 1937 yearbook picture from Hugh Morson High School has a selected verse from Tennyson’s popular poem, “The Brook.” She was a member of the Literary Society, and the Cheerio Club, and that verse was surely selected—with a slight change of lyrics—because of her bubbly personality. Ginny could recite those lines right up to the last weeks of her life:
“I chatter, chatter as I go, To join the brimming river. For men may come, and men may go, But I go on forever.” Indeed, the memory of her beautiful heart will go on forever.
Ginny graduated from Hugh Morson High School and received an Associate Degree from Peace College in Raleigh (now William Peace University). It was on a scavenger hunt party after high school graduation that Ginny met Leo Baker, a student at N.C. State. He was more smitten by her than vice versa. Leo knew right away that she was the one he wanted to marry. Ginny was more fickle and had been dating several suitors and found Leo “too nice.” But her own mother told her, “Don’t let that one get away. He’s right for you.” They were married in June 1941. Two months after the U.S. entered World War II, Leo left for the SE Pacific as a young 2nd Lt. pilot in the Army Air Force. It was one of the more stressful periods in Ginny’s life. But Leo returned as a decorated officer at the end of 1943 and began his lifelong career as an Air Force officer. Two years later their elder daughter was born in Austin, TX shortly after VJ Day in 1945 and was named Victoria Jean. After receiving his M.S. at N.C. State College, Leo was assigned to the Pentagon. In 1950 younger daughter Ellen was born in Alexandria, VA.
There followed a remarkable life of travel and adventure for Ginny as an Air Force Officer’s wife. It was quite something for her to take two young daughters to France for three years in the early 1950s for Leo’s assignment at Chaumont AFB. During the summers the family embarked on wonderful, educational trips all over Europe. Ginny was a Gray Lady in the Chaumont AFB Hospital and was active in the Officers’ Wives Clubs throughout Leo’s 30-year career in the Air Force. She was a shining representative of “the greatest generation,” a loving wife, mother, and grandmother. Diverse assignments took them to New Mexico, the Florida panhandle, Utah, and Ohio.
It was while living in Salt Lake City that Ginny became an expert genealogist, spending countless hours in the archives of the enormous Family History Library. She meticulously traced and recorded her own and Leo’s ancestry back to the early days of the 17th century, all before Internet resources were available. She additionally collected and copied old photos, clippings, letters, documents and personal mementos saved by living family members; and she was always generous in sharing her findings, often helping fill in ancestry gaps.
After Leo’s retirement in 1970, they enjoyed a memorable trip around the world and ultimately settled in Rockledge, FL, building their dream home on the Indian River. They became globetrotters to more than 100 countries, on all continents, including Antarctica. Never bored, when not traveling Ginny was either quilting, gardening, or making dozens of attractive scrapbooks and photo albums, enjoying life with Leo, to whom she was married almost 73 years.
Perhaps Ginny’s greatest gift was her ability to spread joy and see the bright side of things. She was always aware of her blessings and always had a positive attitude. After Leo’s passing in 2014, Ginny lived in the Memory Care Unit of Discovery Village in Melbourne, FL. Never a complainer, she endeared herself to the facility staff—with her cheerful, upbeat personality, her wry sense of humor, and her appreciation for all favors. She reflected her thankful heart with every visit from her daughters and other family members. Missing her deeply, but grateful for having had her love for so many years, she remains in our hearts.
Ginny is survived by her two daughters, Ellen and husband David Feeler of Mebourne, FL; Victoria Baker and life partner Lee Daigle of St. Petersburg, FL; three grandsons, and four great grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her parents Mary Lee Hight Capps and Maurice Clayton Capps, Sr. of Raleigh, NC; her husband Leonidas Baker, Col. USAF (retired); her sister Marie Capps Griffin of Bear Creek, NC; and her brother Maurice Clayton Capps of Raleigh, NC.
The family will have a graveside service on Saturday, October 17, 2020, at 11:00 AM, in Oakdale Cemetery, Wilmington, NC, where Ginny will be laid to rest beside her husband, Leo.
Saturday, October 17, 2020