Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Virgie Belle Grimes Webb

Virgie Belle Grimes was born on the 2nd of June, 1910 in Whitwell, Tennesee to Lonnie Grimes and Rebecca Belle Dodson, the first of five children. Virgie and her sister, Lena, barely got to know their father, as he died in February, 1914 when Virgie was four and Lena, two. Lonnie Edward Grimes, the baby, was still on the way.
So, Belle packed up her girls and boarded a train for White County, Tennessee. Moving in with her mother, Emily, Belle set about making a way for her family. Emily Bowlin Dodson, was a widow, herself, as Belle's father, Sam Dodson, had died in 1908. Lonnie Edward came in June.
White County is in the heart of the Cumberland Mountains, as Virgie's memories were of coal mines and company stores. Education was hard fought, as Belle's children would walk to school every day. Their homestead was miles from town, and the roads were dirt. Virgie was a straight A student and graduated at the top of her class from the 8th Grade. High School was a luxury unavailable to Virgie, but she made the most of what she had.
Virgie met John Henry Webb, from over in Glenmary, Scott County, Tennessee, sometime around 1927. They married in 1929 in Jamestown, Tennesee. John was from a family with ties to the land nearly as ancient as Virgie's. A family whose farm had been in the family for four generations, surely looked like security to her. They set up housekeeping on the Webb Farm, and she would give birth to Reba and James Lonnie.
The world around the Webbs had already shifted on its axis, as the stock market had already crashed, and the depression was well underway. Virgie, was used to being dirt poor, but the Webbs began migrating to Northern Kentucky in search of work. First, Will Webb, accompanied by his wife, Ina, moved to Covington, Kentucky, to take work with the Southern Railroad. Then Jim Webb, accompanied by his wife, Christy, came to Northern Kentucky to work for the same rail. One by one, the Webb family migrated. John Henry moved Virgie and his family to Ludlow, Kentucky, a small town on the Ohio River, in 1933, and the depression was raging.
Virgie would take on odd jobs to make extra money for the family. She would do laundry, iron clothes, whatever she could do. John Henry looked for work. During much of that time, John would haul ice, work for the railroad, and for the WPA to keep his family from starving. The family held its breath after December 7, 1942, as John Henry faced the draft board, but he returned having not been in good enough health to fight in a war.
Ironically, life began to change for Virgie and her family. The WPA brought steady work, and her children were involved with school. As poor as she had always been, she must have started feeling rich, as much in spirit as in wealth. The 1940s and 50s were good for Virgie. She worked in Nell Donnelly's grocery store and eventually took it over from Nell. She ran her business, and for the first time, Virgie didn't have to worry about having rent money. She saved every nickle she made, and she could stretch a nickle into a mile. Although, it's important to note that Virgie never owned her own home.
In 1950, Reba got married, and James Lonnie was married in 1951. Virgie got her first grandchild in 1952, followed by two more in 1958. She would have three more by the end of the 1960s. In 1962, however, Virgie would face life alone, as John Henry passed away in May from a cerebral hemorage. She buried him in Forest Lawn Cemetery, in Erlanger, Kentucky, and at 52, she was a widow.
Virgie worked for Dolly Madison in Cincinnati, Ohio until she retired at age 60 in 1970. She remained active in the First Baptist Church of Ludlow, Kentucky until she could no longer live by herself. When she was 86, Virgie moved to Burlington to live with her daughter, Reba. She would join John Henry in Gloryland on December 6, 1997.
Virgie Belle Grimes Webb was a tower of strength. Whatever she set her mind to do, she could accomplish. She read the Bible every single day. It was hidden in her heart, to spill out whenever she felt threatened by the devil. She worried about her family, her children and grandchildren, sometimes to the point of overkill; but they always knew they had that hedge of angels around them because of the prayer warrior that Virgie was.
Virgie couldn't always remember her grandkids' names, and she would often get them confused. She would cook dinner for me using Rhonda's favorite foods. She would call Scott "Sparky" instead of his name. Sparky was the dog. Virgie was more than offended the year Scott and I made name tags for Thanksgiving dinner. She didn't take jokes well, but she liked games. She would spend hours playing Old Maid or Go Fish! She beat everybody at Chinese Checkers.
The legacy that Virgie left behind is well established. All of her grandchildren went to college. That was very important to her. She went to my graduation when I received my master's degree, and she probably shed more tears of pride and joy than anybody. Virgie's great grandchildren are functioning members of society. She didn't live long enough to know my family, but she would have approved.
Virgie is always here at every holiday gathering, at weddings and funerals. She meets us where we need her in dreams or prayers. She'll always be in our hearts.
I was with Virgie on her deathbed. I told her I wanted her to get well and come home. I'll never forget her words to me, "I'm going home. It won't be long, but I know I'll see you there."
No, it won't be long at all.

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