Obituary of Virginia McKinnon Mann
Virginia Mann (née McKinnon) died peacefully at the age of 94 at Channing House, in Palo Alto, California on March 8, 2020.
She is survived by her children William, Marilyn (Doug Lesar), Kevin (Christine), Susan and Andrew Mann, and granddaughters Monica Lesar and Sonya and Destiny Mann. She was preceded in death by her husband J. Keith Mann and brothers Bill and Walter McKinnon.
Virginia, known to her friends and family as Gin or Ginny, was born on May 12, 1925, in Wadesboro, North Carolina. Wadesboro, the county seat of Anson County, was a small farming and textile town of about 3,000 people. Virginia’s father William L. McKinnon, a pharmacist, died of kidney failure when she was two years old, and her mother, Emily Huntley McKinnon, supported the family as a second grade teacher. They lived with Virginia’s widowed grandfather, a retired general store owner, to share expenses. In addition to losing her father so young, Virginia’s childhood was shaped by their modest means, the Great Depression, and living in the social confines of a small, semi-rural Southern town. Later, she would sometimes remind her children that she grew up in a house that never had heat in the bedrooms and where inside plumbing was a late addition.
Unusually for that time, Virginia’s parents were college graduates and Virginia and her brothers all went to college. She graduated in 1947 from the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (now University of North Carolina at Greensboro) with a degree in English. She was editor of the literary magazine Coraddi and worked on the student newspaper. During her college years she occasionally volunteered to help local military regiments that formed to join the fight during WWII. She noted in one of her short stories that her college years were somewhat confined due to the shortage of chaperones caused by the war. During the war she also worried for her two older brothers, who both served overseas.
Virginia first met J. Keith Mann while he was in law school and she was doing graduate work in English at Indiana University. Later, they discovered they were both living and working in Washington, DC, after Keith sent her a Christmas card that her mother forwarded to her; they married in Washington in 1950.
Their first child, William, was born in 1952 in Madison, Wisconsin, where Keith was a law professor at the University of Wisconsin. In 1952, Keith moved to Stanford Law School, and over the next 13 years, they welcomed four more children. After their youngest child Andrew was in school, Virginia worked as an office manager for the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at Stanford University.
In 1974, worsening glaucoma led Virginia’s mother Emily Huntley McKinnon to move from North Carolina to live with the family. Virginia cared for her mother for eight years at home, then visited her daily at Pilgrim Haven, a local Baptist nursing home, until she died two years later.
Virginia had a lifelong love of literature and writing. She wrote many short stories and poems, as well as descriptions of her life growing up in Wadesboro. She read aloud to her children and introduced them to the imaginative worlds of Winnie the Pooh, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, the Wizard of Oz, and Charlotte’s Web. She took delight in the poetry of Mary Oliver, whose images from nature spoke to Virginia in a personal way, and more broadly she enjoyed writers who sought to express their ideas beautifully and directly. After she joined the Channing House life care community, she published some of her work in the Channing House literary magazine Scribble and Sketch. Her granddaughter Sonya created a website where you can read some of Virginia’s writings (http://virginiabywrote.blogspot.com/).
Virginia was known for her gentle manner and generous spirit. She was a keen observer, but seldom criticized or expressed frustration. She enjoyed movies and visiting art museums. Her house was decorated with reproductions of major artists including Picasso and Matisse. When she listened to music, it was mostly classical. She had little interest in technology except for the word processor, which she considered fabulous and almost magical. She was delighted by her grandchildren, endlessly supportive of her family, and a steady friend.
Due to the coronavirus emergency, no in-person memorial service is planned. Memorial gifts may be made to the Class of 1955 Keith Mann Scholarship Fund, Stanford Law School, Crown Quadrangle, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, CA 94305-8610, or to the Channing House Heritage Circle Fund, 850 Webster St., Palo Alto, CA 94301.
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