Virginia Bertram “Ginny” Coen, 89, died Oct. 20, 2005, at her home near Baker City.
Virginia’s love of the Friday night jam sessions inspired her family to have her memorial service in the format of a jam session at her home, 14803 Mill Creek Lane. The service will be on Friday, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m. All those who would like to celebrate her life with the family are welcome. There will be “open mike” opportunities for those who would like to speak. Those attending are asked to bring an appetizer or dessert if possible.
Virginia Cromwell Bertram was born on Nov. 11, 1915, to George Murray Bertram and Ella Skinner Bertram at Toronto, Ontario, Canada. As a young girl she cherished summers spent with her family at a summer cottage in the Muskoka Lakes region north of Toronto.
It was there that she developed a love of the natural world and the quiet rural life. After graduating from Havergal Girls School she attended the University of Toronto receiving both her bachelor’s and her master’s degrees in early childhood development.
On Dec. 21, 1942, Virginia married Michael McPharlin, an American fighter pilot serving with the British Royal Air Force (RAF). She lost Michael on D-Day as he fought air battles over France. Five days later, on June 11, 1944, their daughter, Carleen Anne, was born at Toronto, Canada. Virginia and Carleen lived with family at Toronto and Ottawa throughout the war years.
During this time Virginia supervised the preschool program and taught at Creighton Street Public School. Around this time she also spent one season as head of the Vassar Summer Institute program for young children in Poughkeepsie, NY.
After the war, Virginia met Oscar Hoffman Coen. Oscar had been an American fighter pilot with Michael McPharlin in the RAF’s 71st Eagle Squadron. The two men supported each other in many air battles and loved to fight together.
After the war Oscar traveled to Ottawa to take Virginia some of Mike’s personal items. He brought yellow tulips and eventually a marriage proposal.
They were married on Jan. 14, 1951, at Otis Air Force Base, Falmouth, Mass. As an Air Force couple they moved frequently. At Edmonds, Wash., their daughter, Tymera Lynn, was born in 1954. Then in Minneapolis, Minn., daughter, Robin Kay, was born in 1956. Then they lived at Derry, N.H., and later Kinchloe, Mich.
Oscar retired from the Air Force in May 1962, and the family settled on a cattle ranch outside of Baker City. The family loved the outdoor ranching life, which was quite a change for Virginia who had spent most of her life in the city.
She was determined to become a rancher. Overcoming her fear of horses, she secretly rode the family’s big buckskin bareback. Her bravery was revealed to her family, much to her chagrin, when the large bruises she received from her fall off the horse were inadvertently displayed.
Despite challenges, she came to love the beauty and serenity of her home at the foot of the Elkhorn Mountains.
The family moved to Tacoma, Wash., in 1966 where Virginia was active in Common Cause and the Democratic Party. The family continued to spend summers at the ranch outside Baker City.
In 1977 Oscar and Virginia realized their dream of moving back to Baker City and retiring to the pleasures of country life. With the help of friends they designed and built a log home looking out over the valley.
Virginia was a member of the Baker County Democratic Party and a strong advocate for the environment. She attended local meetings regularly and loved to challenge the established point of view.
She preferred to root for the underdog or anyone that she felt the world had turned its back on. As many of you know, Ginny saw the very best in her friends and insisted that they believe in themselves.
“Thank you to Virginia’s many friends and caregivers, especially to Rose Blue Bird, for the years of compassion and companionship given to her,” her family said.
She was preceded in death by her husband of more than 50 years, Oscar.
Survivors include a sister, F. Elizabeth Bertram of Ottawa, Canada; daughters, Carleen Baily of Pennington, N.J., Tymera Coen of Portland, and Robin Coen Sasso of Boise; grandchildren, Alec Baily and Jacob Baily, of Pennington N.J., and Elizabeth and Abigail Sasso, of Boise.
Used with permission from: Baker City Herald, Baker City, Oregon, October 28, 2005
Transcribed by: Belva Ticknor