The following biography of Virginia Douglas was initiated in January, 2006, in the living room of Curt and Teresa Haldorson’s home, in Snohomish, Washington. Jane Hildebrand had flown out from Chicago, and Page Douglas had driven up from Lake Grove, Oregon for a family get-together. Following dinner, Page, Carol Healy, and Jane provided the background for the rough draft. Copies of the rough draft were then sent to Carol Jane, Ian, Laurie and Ellen so they could edit, amend add, and most importantly include their fond remembrances of their mother.
A Biography of
Alice Virginia (Beedle) Douglas
Alice Virginia Beedle, known to all as “Gin”, was born on November 22, 1920, in Orland, California, to Carol Enid (Simpson) Beedle and Granville Leo Beedle. Gin was the fourth Beedle child, with older brothers Granville Lowry and Lynn Simpson, and older sister Carol Elizabeth, and was later followed by three additional siblings; sister Jane Roby, and brothers John and Richard S… Gin’s father, Granville, was employed as office manager for the Mentor – Leavitt Company which owned the Overland Automobile Agency in Orland. The Overland Agency sold Lexington and Willys-Knight automobiles. In 1921, an economic downturn forced Granville to seek other employment. After he accepted employment with the Lithographers Association, the family moved to San Francisco, California, residing at 2100 Geary Boulevard. On October 8, 1921, Gin’s older brother Lowry and grandmother Mammee were struck by a drunken motorist while disembarking a street car. Mammee suffered a broken arm and two fractured ribs, but Lowry was fatally injured. Shortly after this incident, the family moved to 29 Renz Road in Mill Valley, California, where they lived until 1924. Granville was transferred to the Lithographer Association’s Los Angeles office, so when Gin was four years old, the family moved south to reside on South Mariposa Street in Los Angeles for a short period during 1924. During this period, Gin’s mother Carol contracted diphtheria. Carol had to endure a throat lancing and the incurred long-term damage to her heart requiring lengthy periods of bed rest periodically throughout the following years. During these periods of bed rest, the children were responsible for tending to one another and for maintaining a reasonable amount of order, with the older children expected to bear the necessary responsibility. When entropy reared its ugly head and order temporarily dissolved, a rather rare occurrence, Carol’s solution was to have all the children line up, oldest first, to receive a spanking, under the philosophy that they were all responsible for each other’s behavior, with the older children bearing the greatest responsibility. However, in her weakened condition, the younger ones got off quite lightly.
In 1925, when Gin was five, the family moved to 803 North Normandie, in Hollywood. Gin attended the Ramona Elementary School through the sixth grade. In 1928, the family moved about six blocks north to 1426 North Normandie. In 1932, the family moved over the hill into Glendale, California to a residence at 1636 North Verdugo Road. In Glendale, Gin attended the Woodrow Wilson Junior High ( I thought the middle school was LaConte)School. The Beedle family remained in Glendale until 1937, when Granville’s employment with the Lithographers Association necessitated a move back to the San Francisco Bay Area. The family home now became 1611 Spruce Street, Berkeley, California. Gin completed her high school education at Berkeley High School. In 1939, the family moved once again, this time to 1505 Arch Street in Berkeley. It was during this period, that the older Beedle children joined the Plymouth House, the college church group of the First Congregational Church in Berkeley. The Plymouth House hosted occasional noon weekday discussions and Friday night dances, and it was at Plymouth House functions that Gin met William Page Douglas and they began seeing each other more frequently. Page recalls an informal get-together at the Beedle house with many of the young people from Plymouth House sitting around the floor in the living room, with paper spread over the floor and a big pile of oranges, eating oranges and discussing the issues of the day.
In 1940, the Beedle family moved across the Bay to return to the family home at 29 Renz Road in Mill Valley. Gin went off to Santa Barbara to live with her grandmother Mammee and to attend the University of California at Santa Barbara. In hindsight, Page thinks that because Gin and Page seemed quite smitten with each other, perhaps Granville and Carol might have wanted to “test” the relationship between Gin and Page. (After all, one must be rather cautious before allowing their daughter to marry a Scot.) Gin attended UC Santa Barbara for one year, and then transferred back to UC Berkeley. It appears that Gin and Page passed the “test” and on June 12, 1942, they were married in the Mill Valley Community Church.
Page’s recollection of the wedding is quite humorous. It appears that the best man, who was to pick up the pastor, G. Arthur Casaday, to perform the wedding ceremony, forgot to do so. With the ceremony scheduled to begin shortly, Page borrowed the keys to his father’s company car, and dashed off to get the pastor. Page and the pastor returned, the wedding ceremony and reception went off as planned and Gin and Page took off for their honeymoon. That evening, their wedding night, they arrive at their Berkeley apartment and are greeted by their landlady with the message to call Page’s father, the gist of which is “hello son, you have the keys to the company car, and your mother and I are stranded on the sidewalk in front of the church, in Mill Valley.” So it seems that Gin and Page’s first night together included an unplanned evening drive back and forth across the San Francisco Bay.
Gin graduated from UC Berkeley with a Liberal Arts degree a short while after the wedding. Gin and Page were fortunate to find an apartment on LaConte Avenue in Berkeley. Due to the war effort, housing was in great demand. However, when Gin became pregnant with Carol Jane, the landlord informed them that they would have to find other accommodations. With little else available, Gin and Page moved into The Cottage on Cascade Drive in Mill Valley. The Cottage was quite Spartan to say the least. The only heat source was the fireplace, and The Cottage was built before any form of insulation was common. Page was employed as the department head of production control at the H. J. Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, California, building various types of ships for the war effort. The commute from The Cottage to Richmond was a lengthy one for Page, and during the day, Gin would walk from The Cottage to her parent’s home on Renz Road. With The Cottage being a less than ideal solution to the young Douglas’s housing needs, Page and Gin used their meager savings to purchase a home at 805 Sea View Drive, El Cerrito, California in 1943. Shortly after purchasing and moving into this home, Page was drafted into the U. S. Army. Page was off for training in Texas, then Georgia and later Camp Roberts, California, and then served in the Pacific Theater. The house they had just purchased was rented out, and Gin returned to Mill Valley to live with her parents, Granville and Carol.
Carol Jane arrived in June of 1943: Page was shipped out shortly thereafter. From 1943 and 1945, Gin was employed as a teller at the Mill Valley Bank on Miller Avenue near the center of Mill Valley. Page return to the U.S. in November of 1946, arriving by troop ship at the Oakland Army Base and was met by Gin, Page’s folks, and the Gallaghers. Upon his return, Gin and Page were able to use Page’s terminal leave to take a honeymoon trip up the Oregon Coast, to Portland, and back home via Crater Lake. Shortly thereafter they moved back into their home at 805 Sea View Drive, El Cerrito. After the war, Page went to work for Lang and Stroh, a food broker, as a salesman. Throughout his work life, Page was involved in sales within the food industry. This included working for several bay area food brokers and one national food company (Beech-nut) where he was employed as division manager. Gin was now able to fulfill the homemaker role. Ian was born in September of 1948 and Laurie in August of 1952. The family of five moved, but not far. They found a house just one block away, on the opposite side of the neighborhood park, at 831 Park Way in El Cerrito. Ellen was born in August of 1954. The moved to 831 Park Way occurred when Ellen was 6 weeks old. It was a “water tight, habitable domain”. This new residence was soon expanded greatly to fill the needs of the now six-person household.
As the mother of four active children, Gin made sure to keep them busy in Church Choir, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, competitive swim teams, piano, violin and cello lessons and actively supported them in their activities. She was very active in the neighborhood park activities, hosting summer time potluck lunches for the families, ghost walks at Halloween and started a popular tradition of Christmas at the park – in August. Gin was a Sunday school teacher for the preschool children as well as the Cherub Choir director at the First Congregational Church in Berkeley. In addition, she sang with the adults in the Chancel Choir. She was a Girl Scout leader, taking the troops camping around the S.F. bay area, teaching folk dancing for the council folk dance festival, serving on the summer day camp staff, and of course, selling cookies. When the city of El Cerrito built a new swim center with Olympic sized pools, Gin encouraged Laurie and Ellen to begin competitive swimming. At the same time she took advantage of the adult swim program and rediscovered her love of the water. She regularly swam laps and even explored the realm of synchronized swimming. This lap swimming continued when she became employed and she would swim during her lunch hour at the Berkeley Y, and there she became a member of the 50 mile club.
Gin learned to play the piano at an early age and inherited a beautiful singing voice from her mother. At almost every family gathering, after the meal had been served, Gin would head into the living room and sit down at the piano and begin to play and sing from the various music books containing the family favorites. In short order the piano would be crowded with other family members adding vocally. The various singing family members would rotate in and out as various members attended to necessary tasks or engaged in conversation, but the wonderful music flowed throughout the home.
Gin’s creative energies were not to be denied. She played the piano and sewed wardrobes and costumes as necessary, for her children. She took cake decorating, wood carving, and upholstery classes. She would read a cookbook like many read a novel and creative cuisine often appeared at dinner. Her love of gardening and floral arranging led her to the Sea View Spaders, the neighborhood garden club, where she held several leadership roles. Her design skills came to the front with the expansion and remodel of the El Cerrito house and again with the new construction of her home in Lake Grove.
Gin also had a very green thumb, perhaps inherited from her grandmother, Mammee, with whom she was very close. Gardening gloves and trowels were her constant companions in the yards surrounding her homes. During the time they spent in Mill Valley, Gin and Page would frequently go for hikes on Mount Tamalpias and the surrounding area and return home with additional plants and ferns for the garden. In fact, the wall of ferns immediately outside the laundry room door at the home at 29 Renz Road in Mill Valley was started with ferns brought back from such expeditions. So well known was her penchant for returning from family outings with vegetation or other pieces of landscape, that I can recall her brother-in-law, Don Healy, commenting that it could be detrimental to one’s health to be accompanying Gin if she spotted large driftwood or rocks that might look good in her garden at home.
Family was so very important to Gin. She loved to cook, sing, play games, and adventure with her family. She was often the one behind the camera to capture those images to refresh happy memories. Gin was always up for a new adventure. Big or small she was excited at the prospect of something ‘new’. Often, she would wake up early on a Saturday and say “let’s cook breakfast outside! Where shall we go?” This opening conversation would lead to cooking a ‘camping breakfast’ over a fire at Berkeley’s Tilden park, or a call to Mill Valley and breakfast at Pan Toll or Bootjack camp with the Mill Valley gang. Her love of family adventures took them to such places as Rough and Ready, camping trips with the Healy’s to the Oregon Caves, Van Damme State Park, Laurel Del, and day rides to ‘anywhere.’ One mother’s day her gift wish was to make no decisions for the day. The family piled into the car and the kids asked “where do you want to go?” “I’m not making any decisions today” was the response. The family then had to vote – do we turn left or right and see where it would lead us? Many miles of remote Northern California was explored that day including Jackass Hill, Columbia, and Rio Vista. Her travel adventures included a trip to Hawaii, three trips to Scotland, a trip to Victoria B.C. and many trips throughout California and Oregon. Many times with family as the ultimate reason and or destination.
While Gin did not return to full time employment while the children were very small, she did have a brief stint as a van driver for the Art Linkletter-Totten Dance Studio that lasted perhaps two years. The attraction of the Linkletter-Totten Classes was that the parents did not have to provide transportation for dance students to and from the class. Van drivers, like Gin, filled that role, freeing up the parents. With Gin being the driver, Laurie and Ellen we given lessons at reduced rates.
Between 1962 and 1985, Gin was employed by Education Testing Services (ETS) in downtown Berkeley. ETS reviewed the forms submitted by students that wished to obtain monetary assistance, and following the complicated criteria established by the state, determined who qualified and how much they qualified for. Gin was employed initially on a part-time basis, and later as a full-time employee as a screener of applications for educational financial aid.
In 1985, Gin and Page retired from their respective positions (Page with Kelley-Clark and Gin with Educational Testing Services), they sold their home at 831 Park Way in El Cerrito, California and moved to the home they built in Lake Grove, Oregon, just south of Portland. Here they both became very active in local affairs; Gin with the Lake Grove Garden Club and the Lake Grove Presbyterian Church Choir, Page with the local Lions Club. Both volunteered as drivers for the local senior center, and both were active in the Lake Grove Presbyterian Church. Both continued their education with trips offered by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) and the Elderhostel program.
In the last several years of her life, Gin began experiencing heart problems. While the condition and the medications did limit her activities somewhat, and must have been disconcerting and uncomfortable, she did not complain and forged on as fully as conditions would allow. In early September of 2003 Gin passed away from complications of a minor surgery. Her death was sudden and unexpected. As Page noted, “We had sixty-one wonderful years together and two bad days.” If only we could all be so fortunate.
The Memorial Service for Virginia Douglas
On Monday, September 8, graveside and memorial services were held as scheduled to celebrate the life of Virginia and commemorate her very humorous, generous, nurturing and joyful spirit. A beautiful graveside service was performed by Virginia’s son-in-law the Reverend Jeff Frost and an excellent memorial service was performed by the Reverend Bob Sanders, Pastor of Lake Grove Presbyterian Church with over 40 relatives and many friends in attendance.
Kim, a very close friend of Virginia and Page, arranged a delightfully creative set of floral arrays featuring flowers donated by numerous friends. On the altar, she placed a photo of Virginia accompanied by her pruning clippers, gloves and gardening hat.
At Page’s request, a highly accomplished bagpiper, Patrick Case gave a superbly moving performance of “Flowers in the Forest”, a traditional Scottish dirge, during the memorial service.
Between these two services Joyce and Wes Wolfe hosted a midday lunch feast at their home a few blocks down the hill from the cemetery.
The days events were a satisfying and refreshing commemoration of a life beautifully lived. We will miss Virginia’s presence but we will always cherish her kind, exuberant spirit.
Memorial Remembrances for Virginia Douglas may be made to the following charitable organizations:
Lake Grove Presbyterian Church
4040 Sunset Drive
Lake Oswego, OR 97035
Lake Grove Garden Club
c/o Kathy McElderry
17721 Kelok Road
Lake Oswego, OR 97034
The program for the Virginia Douglas Memorial Service:
From Page Douglas, Carol Stoye and Laurie Parker on November 12th, 2005: Don, More pictures taken today at the Japanese Rock Garden.
From Laurie Parker on November 11th, 2005:
Carol and I are up in Lake Oswego visiting Dad for the weekend. We stopped at Williamette National Cemetery on our way home from the airport and visited Mom’s gravesite. The weather held during our visit so I took a couple of shots while there. The first one shows the garden-like area and the second is of the bridge nearby and picture of the marker. Have a great weekend.
Gin and Page Douglas, 1992.