On October 29, 1929, the stock market crashed, heralding the Great Depression. In an effort to distract from the bleak mood in Kansas City, Missouri, Virginia Lee Harlan was born. The first child of Joseph Wayne Harlan and Kate Elizabeth Sims Harlan, she was also the eldest grandchild of both her Harlan and Sims grandparents. Virginia took this leadership role very seriously, organizing many family functions over the next several generations.
She grew up in Independence, Missouri, attending Rock Creek Elementary School and Rockwood Baptist Church and was a 1947 graduate of William Chrisman High School. Her love of travel began as a tot, as she took frequent solo train trips to visit grandparents in Salisbury, Missouri. At the age of five, a missed communication resulted in her arrival at the Salisbury train station with no one expecting her. Ever the independent one, she picked up her bag and, using her nose for navigation, made the long walk to her grandparents’ home without a care. She never lost that sense of direction and in later years was known to argue with GPS devices relied on by her navigationally-impaired daughters – and of course she was usually right.
After four fun-filled years living in Yeater Hall, “Ginny” graduated from Central Missouri State College in 1951 and moved to Bethany, Missouri, where she taught junior and senior high school art and social studies. During the summers between 1950 and 1956, she worked at Camp Bob White in Knob Noster State Park, moving up from camp counselor to unit leader and then program director for four years. She often described that experience as one of the most rewarding periods in her life when she made many lasting friendships.
In 1953, ready for another adventure, she packed her bags and moved to Roswell, New Mexico, where a teaching position awaited. She adopted the Land of Enchantment as her own and had the time of her life over the next several years with a talented and stimulating group of comrades who became lifelong friends.
On July 25, 1956, she married Robert E. Hess in Deming, New Mexico, and began a new chapter. In August of 1957, they and their infant daughter moved to Columbia, Missouri, where Bob was enrolled in the University of Missouri Veterinary School and where many more friendships got their start. Virginia worked for Christian College for the next few years and added two more daughters to the family. After vet school graduation in 1961, the family moved to LaBelle, Missouri, made more enduring friendships, and added a fourth daughter.
In January of 1965, the move was made to Windsor, Missouri, where Virginia lived for the next 44 years, raising a family, managing the veterinary office, and serving as librarian in Windsor schools for more than twenty years. She was an active member of the Windsor United Methodist Church, Keystone Club, Delta Kappa Gamma, and was a 50-year member and past president of Chapter BA, P.E.O. After retiring from the Windsor Schools in 1991, Virginia earned her real estate license and spent twelve years with Marchbanks Realty, enjoying every minute of her new career. Virginia felt that moving to Windsor was one of the best decisions she and Bob ever made, especially moving in next door to Walter and Josephine Moser. The lasting friendships made in Windsor were a priceless treasure.
Virginia never lost her wanderlust and traveled as often as she could. Favorite destinations were northern England, Nova Scotia, and always the state of New Mexico. She enjoyed road trips, always taking the scenic route, and made several long train trips with family around the U.S.A.
Virginia was very close to her extended family of cousins and may hold the record for attendance at family reunions. She was a proud member and sponsor of the Harlan Family in America Association and attended every national reunion in different regions of the country over the years, until this year when health would not allow.
“Vivi,” as the younger ones called her, believed she lived a charmed life and was thrilled to be part of her grandchildren’s lives as she watched them grow into adulthood. She encouraged their love of adventure by taking them on special trips and presented each with a handmade quilt upon graduation from high school. She was also invested in the lives of the next generation, delighting in their activities.
After returning to her hometown of Independence in 2009, Virginia spent eight fabulous years at Apple Tree Condominiums where she enjoyed active involvement with the community and her many new friends. It was there in her home, amidst the lights and music of Christmas and with her four girls at her side, that Virginia passed from this life she loved in the early morning of December 21, 2017.
Ten years ago she closed a written life story with these words: “Life for me has been just one small adventure after another, and I am grateful for every helping hand that has been extended to me through the years. My friends and my family have been precious to me, and I have strived to transform each house into a home, for home is where the heart is. I don’t know if there will be other houses in my life, but I trust one day to be dwelling in the House of the Lord.”
She was preceded in death by her husband, Bob, in 1987, her parents, and many good friends along the way. Surviving her are four daughters, Susanne (Sam) Moon, Versailles, Mo.; Roberta “Robin” Hess, Independence, Mo.; Nancy (Brad) Haupt, Paola, Ks.; and Johanna (Teddy) Houts, Windsor; a sister, Ruth Harlan Lamb, Independence; a brother, William (Mary Beth) Harlan, Las Cruces, New Mexico; grandchildren, Jon (Emily) McDorman, High Ridge, Mo.; David (Eva) McDorman, Liberty, Mo.; Andy Moon, Versailles, Mo.; Abby Haupt, Lenexa, Ks.; Robby Haupt, Paola, Ks.; Ryan Haupt, Paola, Ks.; Carly Houts, St. John, USVI; Kyle Houts, Windsor; Renee (John) Corbett, Knob Noster, Mo.; Sharon (Jason) Charles, Hanover, Mn.; and Jason (Sara) Moon, Versailles, Mo.; twelve great-grandchildren, numerous cousins, nieces and nephews, and a multitude of friends.
Memorial services will be 1:30 p.m. Saturday, January 13, 2018, at the Windsor United Methodist Church with Rev. Peggy Eshelman officiating. The family will receive friends before the service from 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the church. A reception to celebrate Virginia’s life will be held in the Fellowship Hall of the church following the service. The family suggests contributions to the Windsor United Methodist Church or the Windsor High School Master Scholarship Endowment Fund (WHS MSEF). Arrangements are under the direction of the Hadley Funeral Home, Windsor.