Virginia Rollwage Grobmyer Mitchell
Virginia Rollwage Grobmyer Mitchell, 91, widow of William Starr Mitchell, Jr., died Saturday, February 19, 2005.
Born with a positive spirit, nurtured by a grandmother who taught her God is Love, Virginia was gifted with intellect and given the talents of writing, leadership and organization. Her home and family, the Episcopal Church, community organizations that invited her membership, and her eclectic array of friends benefited from these gifts.
Virginia's life was affected by every major event of the 20th century. She recalled when some of her German relatives in Arkansas changed their names during WWI. In 1931 she learned, a few weeks before departure for college, that the Great Depression would keep her from attending Radcliffe College in Cambridge, MA. Soon after Pearl Harbor, with a new infant and young toddler, she boarded a train to travel with her husband to three different states as he trained infantrymen for WWII. Events that followed the 1957 Little Rock desegregation of Central High closed the high school where her son would have had his junior year in 1958?59, when all Little Rock high schools were closed. It also propelled her husband Will into leadership of the STOP campaign (Stop This Outrageous Purge), for which they expected he would lose his job. Instead, his leadership and the STOP campaign reopened the Little Rock schools. A decade later their son landed for a nine-month tour of duty in Vietnam in the first days of the TET offensive.
These challenges, and others to come, she met with her characteristic grace and regal determination. She kept the secret of not being able to enter Radcliffe from her older sister, who was packing to return to a second year in college. Her travels in WWII she related as great adventures (not hardships) from an aunt's house in St. Louis to windswept Lawton, Oklahoma, to a tiny apartment in Florida. Hers and Will's response to a son in Vietnam was By Lines, a newsletter they produced with three other couples that sent the state's servicemen good news from Arkansas.
Her dream of a college education she finally accomplished after a hiatus of six decades. She had received her associate degree from Little Rock Junior College in 1933; it was in 1992, at age 78, when she completed her BA at UALR. She accepted her diploma, at the same time her oldest grandson accepted his, from the hand of her daughter Frances, a member of the UALR history department.
Virginia was born in Forrest City, Arkansas on November 24, 1913. She was the third of five children of Tolise Rollwage and John Rudolph Grobmyer. She arrived in Little Rock in 1926 when her father moved the family to open a lumber company. At Little Rock High School, now Central, she was vice president of her 1931 graduating class. In 1981 she headed up their 50" reunion, a success that led to another three reunions over the next 15 years.
She married Will Mitchell, a young attorney, at her Charles Street home in February 1938. They began their married life at his family home on 1404 Scott Street. They moved into their Hawthorne Road home in 1946, where Virginia lived for the next 59 years.
Virginia served as vice president of the Little Rock Junior League, board president of the Elizabeth Mitchell Children's Home, and president of the Aesthetic Club, the oldest women's study club west of the Mississippi.
The Episcopal Church was her sustenance. In the 1980s a new congregation was forming in west Little Rock and searching for what they called "missionary members." Virginia eagerly responded to help St. Margaret's Episcopal Church open, saying that she had always wished she could be a missionary.
In her life as an Episcopalian, she was president of the Arkansas Churchwomen and a vestry member of both Trinity Cathedral and St. Margaret's. Her Trinity vestry tenure was soon after women were first permitted to serve. In January 2005, she graduated from the Education for Ministry (EFM) Program, awarded by the the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.
The dining room table in her home has seated six generations of Mitchells. Around that table Virginia and Will passed on their faith, the power of family connections and stories, and the hospitality and manners of their southern tradition. But when southern traditions conflicted with doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with thy God, their children saw them thoughtfully depart from those ways, modeling respect for all.
The strong connections of love and friendship that Virginia built through her life were blind to age. During her last illness she was nurtured by people of all generations who, with a gift of food, flowers or their time, received, in return, her gratefulness and loving encouragement for their own lives.
Virginia was preceded in death by her husband Will, (November 1981), by her parents, and by three siblings: Elizabeth G. Stanton, John R. Grobmyer, and Dorothy G. Tedford Bowen, all of Little Rock. She is survived by her sister Marilyn G. McLean of Alexandria, VA, and her children Frances Ross and her husband Bob Ross, Virginia Starr Mitchell and her husband George West, Marilyn Mitchell and Jeff Lewellyn, all of Little Rock; and Jim Mitchell and his wife Libby, of Vassalboro, ME.
Her nine grandchildren are: Mitchell Ross and wife Kelly, Virginia (Ginny) Deuschle and husband John, Mary Starr Ross, Logan West and Cane West, all of Little Rock; Charlie Mitchell and Lisa Prosienski of Washington, D.C.; and Elizabeth Mitchell and her husband Alex Kriekhaus, Will Mitchell and his wife Kristan and Emily Mitchell and Michael Ritter, all of Portland, Maine.
Her eleven great grandchildren are Courtney and Mitchell Ross Jr; Starr, Lila, Blakeslee and Hollis Virginia Deuschle, all of Little Rock; Hannah Stein, Sophie and Abigail Kreikhaus, and James and Anna Virginia Mitchell, all of Portland, Maine.
A memorial service will be celebrated at 10:00 on Tuesday, February 22 , at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral at East 17th Street in downtown Little Rock. A reception will follow at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church.
In lieu of flowers, Virginia asked, for those wishing to make memorials, that gifts be made to Centers for Youth and Families, P.O. Box 251801, Little Rock, Arkansas, 72205 or St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, 20900 Chenal Parkway, LR 72223