Virginia Irene Myers, 96, of Houston, was born March 21, 1920, at Ellis Prairie, to Gladys Edna Wheeler and Herbert Ross Myers, who owned a farm operation.
She attended school there, and it was a paragraph printed at this time of the year that would represent her life and the reflections we have of her today. As a 7 year old, she was already thinking of others beyond her own needs. Virginia wrote, “Miss Pansy Coats is my teacher; please remember her” before listing what she wanted Santa to bring her that year.
Virginia would advance at the Ellis Prairie school and later graduate with the Houston High School class of 1938. The next year she married Ernest “Shorty” Altis on July 9 in Mountain Home, Ark. About a year later, a tragic drowning accident on the Big Piney River near Sand Shoals would claim the life of her father, Herbert. Virginia, her mother and a younger sister, Dorene, and Jackie, who was just 4, would continue to keep the farm running before moving to Houston a few years later.
By 1943, Ernest had joined the Army and was serving in World War II until his discharge 31 months later in April 1946. He was situated at California for a time, and Virginia and other Texas County war wives joined them there.
After Ernest’s service in the war effort, she was employed at Lilly’s and in the recorder of deeds office. She later began working for the University of Missouri’s University Extension service in March 1948, where she worked with farmers to advance their needs and help families learn more about proper nutrition.
Virginia and Shorty often took their trailer to state parks to fish for trout. Their bounty was always shared. She liked to garden — there was always a spread she split with family and friends. Virginia was always giving. And it wasn’t always the vegetable variety: Jenny had a knack for growing flowers. She was generous with those, too, and took home many ribbons at the annual Houston Garden Club show. And if she wasn’t in the garden, she was attending the latest school activities that included her nieces and nephews, whom she treated as if they were her own children. Jenny was their biggest cheerleader.
Church also was important to Virginia. She was always active at First Baptist Church in Houston. As was typical of her giving spirit, she always had a flower arrangement for display and a get-well card for someone who needed encouragement.
After a 34-year career, she retired in 1982. Shorty had passed away about four years earlier.
With idle time, Virginia’s life turned adventurous. Gerald Murphy, her former neighbor on the farm and acquaintance on the school bus, had arrived from California to attend a class reunion. As Gerald told the story, it took several long-distance calls to Texas County to convince Virginia to be his bride. It worked. Gerald arrived in August 1982 in his trusty 1967 red GMC pickup, they married and the pace picked up significantly at Virginia’s place. A large garage was built for Gerald’s mechanical tinkering and the garden expanded to include fruit trees. Evenings were at leagues at Houston Bowl. Weekends included time to visit her siblings.
The next two decades included many trips on buses, boats, trains and planes. If they weren’t on a trip somewhere — they were planning one. And when they weren’t traveling on a trip or in the garden, they were taking long walks.
After declining health, Gerald passed away Aug. 29, 2010.
Virginia, who passed away at Houston House on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016, was preceded in death by her parents, her husbands and a brother, Herbert Monroe, in 1923. She is survived by her sisters, Dorene and Jackie of Houston; and her nieces and nephews, Roger Norris of Overland Park, Kan., Dana Harper of Houston, Brad Gentry of Houston and Trish Gentry, Owasso, Okla.
Services are 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016, at Houston First Baptist Church under the direction of Evans Funeral Home, Houston. Pastor Russ Stigall will officiate. Pallbearers are Greg Glor, David Doss, Brad Gentry, Roger Holder, Buck Wade, Bob Gentry and Roger Norris. Interment is at Pine Lawn Cemetery, Houston.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials to First Baptist Church, Houston.