Virginia celebrates 100th birthday
Virginia Tucker is a survivor.
In 1975, she survived the removal of a benign brain tumor, with no ill effects.
On Tuesday, July 24, she celebrated her 100th birthday.
The tumor was the size of an orange. It was in the left hemisphere of her brain and affected her mobility.
“I never would have known it, because I thought I was behaving just fine,” she said. Her sisters realized something was amiss, and made her seek medical attention.
“It was Dr. Leonard Linde that first diagnosed me, and Dr. Kennedy at St. Alexius Hospital in Bismarck did the surgery,” Virginia said.
She attributes her longevity to great genes.
“My maternal grandfather, Modeste Marin, lived to be 89 years of age, which was very unusual back then,” she said.
The second oldest born to Edna and William Fanser, Virginia and her sisters Fern, Winifred and Evelyn settled southwest of Selby where her dad ran the Sitka Elevator. The family also ran a diversified operation, which was common back then, but mainly raised cattle and wheat. Her dad named her Virginia because the State of Virginia was where he met and fell in love with her mom. Her dad died of the flu in 1918, when Virginia was only 6 and Evelyn just 13 months of age.
“The flu took many lives in the early part of the century,” she said, “with no immunizations that would have protected those affected.”
Left with four little girls to raise with the help of grandpa and grandma, her mother married Richard Phillips. A son, Richard, Jr., was born a couple years later.
“My stepfather was a wonderful man,” she said, “but, I remember thinking no one can replace my dad!”
Virginia attended the Wayside Country School through grade eight, with Albert Sawinsky, being her teacher. A big old potbelly stove kept the little school warm in the winter.
“My dad drove us to school in a buggy during good weather, and I recall a bachelor uncle drove us in a sleigh in the winter,” she said.
While attending Mobridge High School, Virginia fell in love with Charles Tucker, who lived on the neighboring farm. They were married in 1930, the year they graduated from high school.
In the midst of the Great Depression, it was virtually impossible to find money for a college education. Mobridge physician and surgeon, Dr. G.H. Twining, saw potential in Charles and became his benefactor. He offered to loan the young family enough money for his tuition at South Dakota State University in Brookings. Founded as a land-grant college in 1862, SDSU has always had a solid agricultural foundation, and Charlie wanted to major in agriculture.
“When Dr. Twining passed away, his widow, Wilhelmine, continued to help us with tuition,” Virginia said, “which we quickly repaid after Charles received his bachelor’s degree.”
Virginia and Charles settled in a little two-bedroom apartment, just a kitchen and a bath, in a big three-story turn-of-the century house in downtown Brookings owned by a widow, Mrs. Nelson, she recalled. Virginia found employment with the South Dakota State Planning Board, and Charles, arising at 4 a.m., milked cows at the SDSU dairy.
His first job was as an agricultural teacher at Carthage High School, and then as a county agent in Corson County. At this time their only child, Vonda Lee, was born. They relocated to Langdon, N.D., where Charlie was a county agent. When the U.S. entered World War II, Charlie was one of the first to volunteer, Virginia said. He was assigned stateside to Ft. Pennington, where he trained to become an X-ray technician. Virginia returned to her parents’ farm with their daughter to await his return. When peace was declared, Charlie found employment with the Mobridge School District in1947, and Virginia in the loan department of Citizens Bank. She also worked at Hellreigel Ready to Wear and Barker Bootery, retiring in 1978.
Charlie passed away in 1973, and Virginia moved from their apartment in town to Sunset Village several years ago. She maintains a very active life. She enjoys visiting her neighbors in the village and enjoys reading novels by Danielle Steele and Nicholas Sparks.
Vonda Lee and her husband, Gene Shirk, are both retired. Virginia has five grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren and enjoyed seeing many of them at her birthday celebration.