Our close-knit community has been saddened by the loss of two women in the last couple of weeks, our neighbors Virginia Plaster and Connie Souder. Virginia Plaster was our mail carrier, along with husband Howard, for many years, and she always made it a point to deliver more than the mail when her bountiful garden was producing. It was not uncommon to go to the mailbox and find a bag of tomatoes as well as the usual bills, magazine and papers. Virginia didn't only have a green thumb; she was blessed with ten green fingers. She produced a garden full of vegetables, as well as a yard full of beautiful flowers, artfully growing in all sorts of unique containers and beds. It was wonderful to visit late in the evening of a warm summer day, when fragrant vines covered the sides of the Plasters' front porch and the walk and fenceline were a riot of color. It seemed that she grew things effortlessly, but the truth is she loved growing vegetables and flowers, and they responded to her diligent, loving care.
Virginia also knew her way around a kitchen, putting up all those vegetables into jars and jars of good things for when the garden was dormant. She cooked good, old-fashioned things like chicken and dumplings and homemade cookies and pies as effortlessly as some people open boxes or pull packaged things from the freezer. When the Wasola Fire Department was young, fundraisers such as pie suppers were a popular community gathering, both for the social aspect of getting together and as a means to support the growing entity. Virginia could always be counted upon to bring a couple of her delicious coconut pies, and they always commanded top dollar in the auction. I particularly remember one memorable evening when my husband must have been feeling quite neglected in the homemade pie department; he kept bidding on one of Virginia's coconut pies until he got it -- and the auctioneer made sure he paid! It was all in good fun and for a good cause, but honestly, Virginia's pie was that good.
At her funeral, Glen Dale Robertson, who grew up at Almartha and was a classmate of Howad and Virginia's son, Glen, played the banjo, a most appropriate choice for someone who loved to attend bluegrass festivals when her health still allowed. After the service, Glen remembered that Virginia sometimes drove the "bus" (her car) when the kids went to the one-room Almartha school and took a real interest in the well-being of all the neighborhood children. He poignantly recalled how Virginia stopped in at the school on November 22, 1963, to share the sad news that President Kennedy had been shot. Donna Walker, who was teaching at the time, remembered how the news affected the children and always appreciated Virginia's support of the school and her efforts.
Another neighbor, Sue Porter, recalled working with Virginia in the restaurant at Rockbridge and mentioned how she made a sometimes challenging job seem easy, helping new employees learn the ropes. Virginia, who worked as a cook, always had a can-do attitude, said Sue, and showed her how to make every step in a busy shift of work count.
Fishing and hunting were two of Virginia's hobbies, and when a hard day's work was finished, she often headed out with either gun or fishing rod, almost always coming home with something. Howard remembered coming in one evening and Virginia saying she needed "a little help" after supper. Virginia served the meal, cleaned up the kitchen and then took him out back where she showed him the results of her afternoon hunting foray: a five-gallon bucketful of squirrels! She and Howard cleaned squirrels till long after dark, and the next day they shared squirrels with every neighbor they could track down.
Whatever she put her hand to, Virginia could do -- and she did it well. She will truly be missed and will be remembered for her unique sense of humor and capable, willing attitude.
Connie Souder passed away on Valentine's Day after a sudden illness. It came as a shock to hear that someone so young was suddenly taken, and our deepest sympathy goes out to her family. Connie's particular pride and joy were her children and grandchildren. Even though I didn't see her often, I spoke with Connie on the phone and always thought about her as I passed the home she shared with her husband, Charles "Todd." She, too, will be sadly missed.
A third neighbor, Lee Fox, is spending time in Cox Hospital in Branson, receiving inpatient therapy after unexpected brain surgery. Lee understands that his coming home and rejoining the coffee group at Spurlock's Store at Squires depends upon his making significant improvement, so his wife Deanna reports that he is trying very hard and is making good progress. Lee has been a fighter and has overcome other health obstacles in the past two decades, so we're pulling for him to win this battle, too.
Beyond our little neighborhood, other sad losses in the wider community, including the unexpected passing of Carryl Brown, Craig Cockrum and Edna Uchtman, have marked the beginning of this year in a way that reminds us to never take for granted each day that we have to live and to love each other. When her family came across some of the last words that Edna Uchtman wrote in her final days, they found a bit of simple but profound advice: she wished people would be kinder to each other. Just imagine the impact if we would all do just that. Wouldn't that go a long way on the road to healing?