Virginia Gibson Bartholome died peacefully in her sleep at her home in Kansas City, Missouri, early on the morning of July 29, 2012. She was 96 years old and had been cared for by her loving children as her health declined over the past three years. All her life she was a librarian whose expertise in a reference room and philosophical interest in cataloging books helped inform the work of educating twelve children in partnership-with her husband of more than sixty years, William Franklin Bartholome.
That career began in 1937 with a long train ride from Oak Park, Illinois, to Helena, Montana where she had been offered her first job after college. The train ride was eventful for the young woman, traveling alone and without funds. In later years she would talk about the delay for repairs in the Dakotas where the passengers watched Indians dance to entertain them. Even more startling was her recounting of the mix-up in her arrival place and time: the conductor did not awake her for the Helena stop but let her sleep through to Butte, the end of the line where she was put up in the hotel where the trainmen stayed, in a room without a lock, at company expense. She was left to make her own way to Carroll College, arriving with no notice a day later than expected. Her presence was, however, immediately brought to the attention of Bart Bartholome, who had been assigned to meet the new hire: "Here's your librarian!" And so it was that the strikingly pretty young woman, with her thick hair fastened up at the nape of her neck, met the man she would marry in the college chapel the following spring.
The couple stayed in Helena until 1947, when they moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where Bart had been offered an administrative post at Rockhurst College. They brought their first collection of books, many of them deaccessioned from the college library, and their first six children with them, four girls and two boys, ages 6 months to 8 years.
Ginny and Bart had two more girls in the next few years, and then, just as she was about to give birth to their ninth child, Ginny was diagnosed with poliomyelitis, as were two of her daughters. This was 1952, one of the last great epidemic years before the Salk vaccine became available. The onslaught of the disease spared the new baby, but left the mother gravely weakened, returning home in a wheelchair. Neighbors and fellow parishioners brought an unending supply of meals to the door, but most were afraid that the illness might still be contagious and few outsiders ventured to enter the home. The exception was Ginny's mother, Grace Gibson, who came from Chicago to be of assistance.
At first nearly overwhelmed by the daunting task ahead of her-her own rehabilitation by itself a considerable challenge-she called on the years, of disciplined management of her household, the help of her husband and older girls, arid an inner strength fostered by a life of prayer and faith and commitment to her family. Several years of physical therapy for herself and her oldest daughter brought about their almost complete recovery and an addition to her burgeoning family of three sons.
Her training as a librarian was called on formally to organize the first library for Visitation School, which all the children attended. She ordered all the books, cataloging them at the dining room table after everyone's homework was done, and managed the assignment of volunteers to staff the library at the school. Then for ten years, she went to work at St. Teresa's College, where she was able to combine her two favorite aspects of library work: helping students find answers to their questions and continuing to catalog new books.
The family left Kansas City for a period following Bart's retirement from Rockhurst after 25 years working in development and public relations and returned to Montana. After several years of travel and two subsequent relocations, they returned to Kansas City where they both still had many good friends and where nearly half of their children had settled. Ginny always kept the books in each of their houses in Dewey Decimal order, with the collection snaking its way from room to room through theology and philosophy to languages and literature, history and science. In her eighties she reported that she had just acquired several reference books. When asked if she had bought them used, she replied with some astonishment to the unenlightened questioner, "Why would I want used reference books?" Up to date to the last.
While her husband was living, the couple traveled widely, making auto trips across the country, and singing "the old songs" both loved. Bart died in 1999, two months after the death of their eldest son, Bill. In addition to eleven living children, she leaves 30 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren. Memorial contributions may be made to Redemptorist Social Services, 3333 Broadway, Kansas City, MO 64111 or the favorite charity of your choice. Visitation will be from 6:00 to 8:00pm, Friday, August 3, 2012 at Muehlebach Funeral Home, 6800 Troost, Kansas City, MO where the rosary will be prayed at 7:30pm. Mass of Christian Burial will be at 9:00am, Saturday, August 4th at Redemptorist Church, 3333 Broadway, Kansas City, MO. Interment will be at Calvary Cemetery. (Memorial contributions and online condolences may be offered at www.muehlebachchapel.com)
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