Virginia Norine (Stranathan) Richardson was born at St. Francis Hospital in Wichita, Kansas October 8, 1937, and passed from this life on December 12, 2021, at the age of 84. She had a life well lived through great difficulty.
Virginia had an extraordinary gift of remembering dates and events in her life that lasted to the end. She stated many times that she had an interesting and unusual life and that she wanted a proper and complete obituary which detailed her challenging life and accomplishments. She was urged to write it herself, but alas, that did not happen, so we are trying our best to comply with her wishes. She is not here to correct us and would do so.
Virginia’s doting parents were Ed W. and Carmelita (Green) Stranathan. She lived in Kiowa, Kansas next door to her maternal grandparents, Isaac and Nora Hester Green. Her paternal grandparents, William and Fanny Stranathan also lived in Kiowa. There were wonderful aunts and uncles galore to share life and their stories. Virginia ran and played games with her first cousins and friends. She fondly remembered taking the Doodle Bug train to play with cousins in Cherokee, Oklahoma. Going to the Santa Fe depot to watch the trains and passengers come and go was a wonderful way to pass time and wonder about the world down the tracks. Ed worked at the post office, owned a grocery and later a Gambles store, so running uptown to hangout and to talk to people in those stores occupied a lot of her time. Her mother, Carmelita, and grandmother, Momma Green, were excellent cooks and she took the knowledge of and love for good food to heart. These experiences imprinted on her an everlasting love for Kiowa and the relatives and friends therein.
Times were hard and in 1944 the family moved to Dodge City, Kansas for what was hoped to be a more profitable source of income. Dad started a business delivering Darling Gas propane bottles to farmhouses in Ford County. The propane was provided by Virginia’s uncle, Si Darling. The family lived on Market Street in Dodge City until 1954. At the time, Market Street was a quaint, working-class community inhabited with some of the best people on earth. Virginia made and retained many close friends including the Limbrights, Pippetts, Meyers, Blacks and especially the Hawkins’ family. The kids were close in age, and they ran between houses and played from morning until night. Swimming at the local pool was a summertime pleasure until a dreadful pandemic began and children were advised not to go to swimming pools for fear of contracting infantile paralysis. Unfortunately, Virginia was severely stricken with poliomyelitis in 1949 at age 12. Her mother had studied the symptoms of polio in the Readers Digest and was convinced that she had this sickness. When Virginia was rushed to the hospital, her physician insisted that it was not polio, and did surgery on her for appendicitis. Of course, the surgery further weakened her, and she nearly died. Virginia was transferred to a Wichita hospital. Mom was 9 months pregnant with uremic poisoning and Virginia was on the doorstep of death or at best a life of paralysis. She was paralyzed from the waist down. Virginia was sadly forced to contemplate a dramatic change in her life at the tender age of twelve.
Confined to an old wooden wheelchair, Virginia was determined to have a better life. Her parents thought she would benefit from medical treatment at Warm Springs, Georgia. Warm Springs was the premier facility to help patients afflicted with polio to regain some mobility and freedom. We were so thankful that our extended family united with support and money to make the trip happen. Her dad was able to buy a new car for the trip. Virginia, her parents and her younger brother, Bob, went to check her into the hospital. Baby sister Susan stayed with Uncle Paul and Aunt Martha in Medicine Lodge. The trip and her treatment were memorable and helped Virginia immensely. She had surgery and was in a full body cast for months. When she was able, she was fitted with braces and crutches at Warm Springs and taught her how to walk with them. Eventually Virginia could even walk upstairs. While there, she met actress Helen Hayes. Warm Springs changed her life – her newfound independence was a wonderful thing, which we all take for granted. Virginia and the family worked on the March of Dimes Campaign to benefit others who were likewise afflicted with polio.
In 1954 the family moved back to Kiowa where dad and uncle Bud Stranathan farmed the Stranathan and Green land. Virginia entered Kiowa High School for graduation with the class of 1955. The old brick high school was a three-story building and Virginia made it up and down those stairs to class. She would put her books at the foot of the staircases and people would carry them up and down for her. A team of strong boys were assigned to carry her out of the building in case of a fire. Virginia ended up graduating in ’56 because of the time polio had taken from her. Before she graduated, a most caring Kiowa man, Ray Thurman, put together a campaign to give Virginia more mobility. The whole town pitched in to raise money to purchase a little red electric car which was presented to Virginia’s surprise in front of Kiowa High School. That car was her legs and allowed her to lead a more normal life. She enjoyed the freedom to go shopping and have fun with her many friends in town. Virginia was very capable and was so proud to get her first bookkeeping job working for Dorothy and Leo Jenkinson. As you would expect, Virginia was forever grateful – independence is a wonderful thing.
After high school she was off to college in Emporia, Kansas and four years in Morris Hall. This was before the American Disabilities Act (ADA). Emporia was trying to accommodate handicapped students, but it was early in those endeavors and the Administration building had no elevators. It was tough for Virginia, transporting herself up and down flights of stairs to get to her classes. When she first got to Emporia, she called home and told her mother it was too hard, and she wanted to just quit. Her mom said, “You will not quit, I am coming up to be with you to help you.” Tough love worked. Virginia was good at business and majored in and was certified to teach business skills. She made and kept lifelong college friends. Her dad and brother took her back and forth for four years with the pickup loaded with that little red car and way too much stuff. She told stories and laughed about those event-filled adventures over and over.
Virginia’s first teaching job was in Utica, Kansas for the lofty sum of $4,200 a year. It was not her happiest year. She was away from home and alone. She stayed in the local hotel and made friends that she stayed in contact with throughout her life. A young man was working temporally in Utica and stayed in the hotel. They became acquainted and did things together, laughed and became close. It turned out Utica became the luckiest place she lived as that young man was Gerald Dan Richardson. At school years’ end she moved back to Hardtner, Kansas to teach closer to home. Her students all say she was very good at it. Virginia enjoyed her teaching experience in Hardtner and was particularly happy when a young man named Jerry Richardson called and ask her to marry him.
In 1962 they married and lived in Tucson, Arizona. She was a blushing, wonderfully happy wife. The Stranathan family loved Jerry. Likewise, Virginia was welcomed into the wonderful Richardson family. Jerry was an air traffic controller in the U.S. Airforce at Davis Monthan Air Force Base. She did secretarial work outside the home. In one position she worked for the Cronkite’s who were writers and cousins of Walter Cronkite. When Jerry’s Air Force commitment ended, they wanted Jerry to pursue a college degree, so he attended and graduated from the University of Arizona in Tucson. They had a good life together. While there, Virginia was introduced to “chimichangas” and spread that culinary delight to whoever shared their love for good Mexican food.
When they left Arizona, they moved to Harper, Kansas and then to Hardtner, Kansas to be closer to Virginia’s family. Virginia and Jerry both taught school in Harper. While there, they realized how much they wanted to start a family of their own. They decided to apply for adoption not long after they arrived. As fate would have it, these two remarkable people were blessed to be able to adopt two wonderful children. Daryn Scott Richardson was born September 6, 1970. He was the first grandchild of Ed and Carmalita. To say he was special is an understatement. Two years later, they welcomed a daughter, Krystl Lynn Richardson, born October 25, 1972. She was a feisty little gal who everyone adored. Virginia was a loving and attentive mother and life was good. Jerry became an insurance agent for American Family Insurance when they moved to Hardtner. Jerry’s skills as a teacher and agent led to a job offer to move to American Family headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin.
Madison was a great town, but the ice and snow were confining to Virginia, as she had to navigate mobility on a 1½ inch tip on her crutches. They decided to leave the ice and snow and moved far south to Texas City, Texas. Independence is a wonderful thing. After owning an employment agency, Jerry worked in Houston, almost an hour away. When Virginia needed more care, he took a teaching position in Texas City so he could be closer to her. Their children were their joy. Both Jerry and Virginia were actively involved with the kids ‘school activities including Daryn’s band and baseball, and Krystl’s cheerleading and swimming. Virginia was one of the loudest vocal supporters at games. They had a lovely home with a pool that met all of Virginia’s needs for accessibility. Both she and Jerry had many friends and enjoyed their life in Texas City. About 5 years ago they traveled to Memphis to see Elvis Presley’s home in Graceland. Virginia had seen him in concert when they lived in Madison, Wisconsin and Elvis was her favorite performer.
The year 2012 marked their 50th Wedding Anniversary. All the family: children, brothers, sisters, cousins, and their offspring; over 60 people celebrated with a cruise on the Carnival Magic. The trip was a wonderful experience for all. Over the years Virginia was actively involved with a Post-Polio Syndrome group based in Houston. She developed many friends in a group whose membership is sadly dwindling. She took a bad fall in Galveston in 1991 and was never able to walk after that fall. She was confined to bed except for outings in her electric wheelchair.
Jerry was the love of her life and her faithful caretaker for 59 years. The entire family is forever grateful for the love and caregiving he unselfishly devoted to Virginia. Her life would have never been the same without Jerry. She had the best husband, and she knew it.
Jerry passed away in August of this year. His loss was devastating, and her life was turned upside down. After some time, she was grateful to move to Hutto, Texas to join her daughter Krystl and her family. Once her health issues became more serious, Virginia needed skilled nursing care, hospitalization and finally hospice care.
She leaves behind her children Daryn (Leslie) Richardson and Krystl (Tom) Michalek. Grandchildren David Richardson, Kaleb Lindsey, Micah and Lucas Michalek. She is greatly missed by her brother Robert (Bob) Stranathan (whom she named) and wife Pat, and her younger sister, Susan Schrock (whom she also named) and husband Steve. Her nieces and nephews and cousins were always special as were their children. Friends were critical to Virginia’s happiness; she had many faithful friends that were well loved.
Goodbye Virginia, we love you. You were an inspiration to us all. We admired your love of life, your love of family, your infectious laugh and all your accomplishments. You could have given in to polio, but you refused to do so. A life well lived through great difficulty.
Graveside service will be Wednesday, December 22, 2021, at 2:00 p.m. at Riverview Cemetery in Kiowa, Kansas. Viewing will be before the service at the cemetery. Arrangements are by Lanman Funeral Home, Inc. of Kiowa. www.lanmanmemorials.com Facebook: Lanman Funeral Home Inc.