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Son-in-law shares his memories of Virginia Hite Mylar

Mar. 02, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

My Mother-in-law, Virginia Hite Mylar, passed away on Saturday morning, Feb. 16, 2013, two weeks short of her 101st birthday. The Herald-Dispatch in the following Sunday newspaper described her as a "Notable Lady," a very fitting tribute, not because of her age but due to the remarkable person she was and the incredible life she lived. She genuinely loved people and consequently people loved her. They were drawn to her like a magnet particularly those in need of a person who would listen to them with a non-judgmental heart and be embraced in her honest concern and tender attitude. Who among us has not had that need at some time in our lives?

I have never understood mother-in-law jokes and neither did Bill Chambers who is married to her daughter, Joann, my wife, Henriella's sister. Mrs. Mylar (Virginia) treated us both like sons throughout her long life. Bill and I have often talked about this very special lady, particularly recently in connection with preparation for and participating in various funeral activities. What was the root cause of her distinctive personality, her humbleness, her abiding trust in and concern for her fellowman, regardless of age, gender, race, color, creed or station in life? She loved them all.

Was it her age that had molded her? Did she come from a time when people were different? Maybe. Times have actually changed and she lived through those changes, from walking, to horse and buggies, to jet planes; from no phone, to crank phone, to cellphones; from creating your own entertainment, to radio, to television. Incredible changes and she embraced it and adapted to it, often recognizing both the good and bad in such changes.

All of us enjoyed hearing Ginny tell of her childhood and perhaps one story will remind us of some of those differences.

Not long ago our son, Audy, was preparing to take his family to Washington, D.C., on vacation. His grandmother became very excited and told Audy to be sure to visit the big white house where the President lives. She told him to go up on the porch and knock on the front door and a nice man would come and let you in and will show you where the President works and if he is not busy or not there they let you sit in his chair. Needless to say, Audy was amazed and asked her where she had heard this. She replied that she had done it as a small child traveling with her father and family many years ago. She also recalled the trip, traveling in a Model T, camping on school grounds, cooking their own meals and getting water from hand pumps.

I think you will readily agree that this story shows how times have changed and not all for the better. However, if we only reflect for a short time, we will realize that even during those nostalgic "good times" not everyone was good, polite and kind to each other. People have always been different -- some good -- unfortunately some bad and most just like today, a combination of both just coping with life and its everyday challenges.

Bill and I concluded that it was not her longevity that gave her the ability to look on the positive aspects of situations or be so forgiving of people. At the funeral visitation listening to the grandchildren, great grandchildren and countless friends it was delightful to hear them relate their favorite quotes from Mrs. Mylar, "If you can't help, don't hurt"; "If you can't say something good, don't say anything"; "Pretty is as Pretty does," the list goes on. But she "walked the talk" as the kids would say. When someone was unkind to her she would not take offense, but only say they did not really mean it but were merely having a bad day. When people were rude or cut in front of her in line or while driving she did not get mad or scream at them, as I often do, she would feel sorry for them and explain that they must not have had good parents to teach them manners and proper behavior.

Maybe that's it -- good parenting. Bill and I thought maybe we were on the right track. Elza and Cora Bell Hite were good parents. They had eight children including Virginia their oldest daughter. It was a beautiful family and we all enjoy watching the four sisters enjoy themselves. They were extremely close and two of the sisters, Ruby and Ruth were twins. However, like all of us, each of them were likewise different, beautiful and special in their own right, but like their four brothers they too recognized that Virginia had an almost unique attitude about her.

If not longevity or parenting, Bill and I continue to explore the source of her "goodness." Maybe schooling because we had often heard of her many school experiences as the family moved from the west end of Huntington, to the farm in Ohio, to Logan, W.Va., and back to Huntington. Schooling was important, but as was parenting, it was not unique and each school child reacted differently to the same lessons and teachers. People were no different then than they are now. Same environment, same teachers, same circumstances, same conditions -- different results.

If not longevity, parenting or education maybe the answer lies in an easy life without hardships, trials or tribulations. This explanation is quickly eliminated as this delightful lady, from humble beginnings, had more than her fair share of all those and more. She nursed, at home, her father, husband and two sons, all of whom preceded her in death. She met all the challenges of life with a positive attitude, never complaining and always focused on others.

I greatly admired her concern for others. Often after a Sunday afternoon nap my wife and I would stop by her home late in the afternoon and inquire what she had been doing. She would calmly say she had been visiting the old people. She was in her 90s and she had been to the nursing homes and hospitals visiting people most of whom she did not know personally. She just loved people.

I like to tell a story about when she was severely challenged to not say something negative. We had just sold our beautiful brick home on the southside of Huntington and were moving with our three young children into a badly damaged log cabin with few modern conveniences. She got out of her car after first arriving at the farm and said "Ah" three times while at the same time turning very white. After a very long pause, she finally exclaimed "It will be nice someday" and rolled up her sleeves and pitched in helping us making the farm our dream come true.

Bill and I and countless of other people greatly admired Ginnie. However, her behavior and attitude always reminded me of how far short I fell of emulating her. Perhaps as I remember her life, as a fitting tribute to her, I will try to do better in respecting others and hopefully, her life will encourage you to try to do the same.

Each of us has within us the ability to control our attitude toward our lives and relationships to each other and how we react to how we are treated or yes even mistreated by others. We can each choose to be selfish and self centered with the focus always being on me, myself and I, or like Virginia, take the high road and genuinely care and be concerned for others. Not because it is just the right thing to do, but because of a conscious decision to live life that way. Not assuming the worst but the best about people. Do you run the risk of being hurt or being taken advantage of? Yes! But is that worse than bitterness and suspicion or maybe even worse, emptiness?

Virginia would quickly tell you the source of her positive thinking and attitude towards others. It was her deep faith and trust in God as reflected in her almost lifelong active involvement at Madison Avenue Christian Church and Church Women United. She was not "preachy" about her life, she did everything at her church but preach and she was proud to do that as part of her 100th birthday celebration. She lived her faith and her life was her sermon and what a sermon it was. "Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself." As her minister, Jamie Gump, reminded us at the funeral "Live your life in such a manner that the minister does not have to lie at your funeral." He then proudly exclaimed that he had not had to lie at her funeral or make up good things to say.

Thank you Virginia Mylar for a beautiful life well lived and for a remarkable legacy of love and concern for family and friends and all of God's fabulous creation.

Mike Perry and Mylar's daughter Henriella founded Heritage Farm Museum and Village.