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Excerpts by Henry Lane Hull

In the proverbial “good old days,” a neighborhood was more than a geographical location; it was the site of interactions among the locals who understood the importance of living together. In more modern times much of the community spirit that characterized life in the past was lost due to the acceleration of life, with everyone trying to catch up with one another.

As I mentioned in a previous column, in a lecture I attended many years ago, the late Birmingham Post editor, Duard Le Grand, attributed the introduction of central heating and cooling to the malaise that had come to affect community life. His point was that the woodstove was no longer the gathering place in winter months and the front porch was not the mecca it used to be for neighborhood visits during the summer.

Virginia Blackwell rejected the changes that had come to intrude on neighbors being neighbors and spent her life keeping alive the old-time spirit of neighborliness. She was a welcoming presence for all newcomers, be they “come-heres” from other areas or newborns blessed to be able to call the Northern Neck their birthplace.

Virginia was a woman of many talents. She was a gifted musician, who enjoyed playing the piano, particularly at local churches where she was an integral part of the service. In every community effort she put forth, she gave her all to make the result the best it could be. 

At the age of 18 she married Ashby Blackwell and moved to Remo, where she lived for the rest of her life.  She was a full partner in Ashby’s farming operation, while still maintaining her keen interest in everything going on around her. Her distinctive license tag read REMO, which identified her car, and more importantly its driver as part of the local scene. As far as speaking of Virginia was concerned, no one could know her without knowing that she was a child of the Northern Neck.

After Ashby’s passing in 1997, she continued unabated in her community involvement. Personally, for our family she welcomed two generations of B.E.s with beautifully crocheted baby blankets and her intriguing handsewn toys, all of which were made with her unique touch. Virginia always found great pleasure in doing good deeds for her neighbors; she saw it as her calling.

In recent years she and her son, Clark, set out on a new venture, putting aside part of their farmland to become an asparagus patch. They have produced bounteous crops that they have sold locally and regionally.  She spoke enthusiastically about the project, noting the significant amount of labor that went into it, but seeing it as quite worthwhile.

She explained that on the market, each spear had to have its point intact to be sold.

Virginia and Ashby lived a traditional farm experience. She thrived on the work it entailed for her family and delighted in seeing the outcome when the crops came in, rewarding them for the meticulous care they had expended. Riding down the road, the Blackwell fields were notable for the precision of the plantings and the neatness of the rows as the crops grew.

For Virginia, unlike for Duard Le Grand, the introduction of central heating and cooling did not compromise the joy one could experience in being an important part of rural community life. Whether playing the piano at a church, or sewing a toy for a child, she always was a happy camper, who passed the pleasures she found in country life on to everyone she met.

Virginia Clarkson Blake Blackwell, March 8, 1931 – July 8, 2023. R.I.P.

Rappahannock Record Staff
Rappahannock Record Staff
From the Rappahannock Record news team

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