“Ginger,” Virginia Duke Cole was born in Richmond, VA to Margaret “Mae” McKinstry and John Chapman Cole, completing the family of four along with her sister Margaret K. Cole. Together, the young family lived in the College Hills area of Richmond. Sister Margaret went off to attend and graduate at Mary Baldwin College, soon after marrying William “Bates” Chappell of Richmond. Then Ginger left to earn her B.A. at Meredith College, but not before losing her father.
She loved her time teaching young students in rural Beaver Dam. Her commute was almost as fun, zipping back and forth on country roads in her little Fiat convertible. Delightful as it was, Ginger wanted to explore other options. She looked for work in Boston, then Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. where she landed a job with Fireman’s Fund followed by what turned out to be a 28 year long career with USAA. There she found a mentor in Dwayne Sherman in a sea of male managers and became one of the “first females to…” advancing through the ranks. When she retired, she was a Claims Director in the regional office located in Reston.
Along the way there were labels she found displeasing: Mature Bride, High Risk Pregnancy, Unspecified Auto-immune Disease. As it turned
out the first two became her favorites. She met “Jimmie,” James R. Handy in 1977, they married in 1981. They were blessed with a healthy
boy James “Cole” in 1983. Her career and her desire to be the best Mom ever were in constant struggle – but she proved that a tug-of-war
can indeed have two winners. She did both rather well.
As to the third label, the medicines required to keep the disease in check, slowly ate away at her body’s structural and immunity systems.
After almost twenty years of ever increasing complications, the body failed her.
Her nature was love and happiness; she made an oath to herself that discomfort and pain would never change that. And it didn’t. Even in time as the pain increased those in her company were usually unaware. An involuntary brace or grimace would be followed with, “It’s nothing, I just turned the wrong way,” or some other dismissal. Ginger truly loved life, loved family, loved friends. It was most unfortunate that her body was so at odds with her mind. Such a trite cliché as, “She didn’t deserve it,” has had no truer meaning for anyone. She was God’s blessing to anyone who touched her life.
Ginger was preceded in death by her parents, and her step-father Harris B. Davenport. She is survived by her sister’s family, Margaret and Bates and their children Mary Margaret and “Bill,” William B. Chappell, Jr. and her own, James R. and James Cole Handy.
A gathering of friends and family will take place to remember her life at Advent Funeral and Cremation Services on Sunday, April 22nd from
12-2 PM and 4-6 PM.
A graveside service will be held on Monday, July 9, 3pm at Arlington National Cemetery. Please assemble at the Administration Building 30 minutes prior to service time.