Virginia Lorraine (Howell) Barfknecht (1923 - 2013)

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Virginia Lorraine (Howell) Barfknecht "Ginny," 89, of Helena passed away peacefully in her sleep at home on Monday, Feb. 25, 2013.

Virginia was born to Elsa Mae (Howe) Howell and John Herbert Howell on April 2, 1923, in Santa Barbara, Calif. Her family managed a local grocery store in Gaviota, Calif. Four months later the family moved to Bozeman.

They purchased and operated the College Hill Grocery store on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Dickerson Street for over 30 years. The store was a friendly gathering place for all the customers and neighbors plus a wonderful "grocery-bank" during the Depression, allowing simple "IOUs" until their customers could pay.

Virginia and her older sister, Bernice, attended schools in Bozeman, including Montana State College, while working in the grocery store. Virginia graduated from Montana State in 1945 with a degree in Home Economics and English. She was active in the Pi Beta Phi Sorority, Spurs, Mortar Board, President of the Associated Women Students, Phi Kappa Phi Honorary and was named the "Montanan Beauty Queen" two consecutive years.

Ginny married her childhood sweetheart, James F. Barfknecht (after Jim also worked in the store as a delivery boy for seven years). They were married in Bozeman on April 4, 1945, while Jim was on leave from the Pacific Theater, where he flew torpedo bombers off the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier.

Virginia stayed in Bozeman to graduate from college, while Jim returned to the Navy. She met him in Chincoteague, Va., after graduation and later moved back to Bozeman in September 1945 for Jim to graduate from MSC as a mechanical engineer.

Virginia and Jim became part owners of the College Hill Grocery until 1953, when they moved to Helena, where Jim started the Army Aviation Organization.

They built a home on Breckenridge where they have lived for 59 years, raising their three children, Kay (Joe) Robertson, Jim (Marcia) Barfknecht and Dee Barfknecht. They also have two grandsons, Brad (Trecia) Barfknecht of Great Falls and John Barfknecht of Bozeman.

Virginia was able to stay at home and "raise the kids," where she loved cooking and always making everyone -- family, friends and strangers -- feel welcome and at home. Ginny loved people; she saw the good and beauty in all, was always friendly, with a kind word and gentle spirit.

She spent her years volunteering for many organizations in the community; the First Baptist Church of Montana, (where she was a lifelong member), a member and past President of P.E.O. Chapter AA, Lily of the Valley O.E.S., St. Peter's Hospital Association, Friendship Force, Mended Hearts, Home Economists and an MSU Alumni lifetime member.

She and Jim were both actively involved in the Lewis and Clark Chapter of the American Red Cross. They also enjoyed traveling extensively in their retirement. Family dinners and get-togethers were her favorite times, along with family picnics and camping trips, when she was young and family holiday celebrations more recently. She loved their 50th, 60th and 65th wedding celebrations. We would have celebrated her 90th birthday on April 2 and their 68th wedding anniversary on April 4, 2013.

She was preceded in death by her parents and sister, Bernice (Howell) Brumfield.

Survivors include her husband James F. (Jim), her children and their families as well as her very special nieces and nephews, Virginia Rodriguez and Barbara Zeigler Seibert, Rick Brumfield and Beau Barfknecht.

Mom's positive attitude, contagious energy, warm smile, family dedication and spiritual devotion were always present. She cherished her family, her friends and her church. She endured a number of health issues in her lifetime but always considered herself "the lucky one." She lived life to the fullest and blessed the lives of many others with her selflessness, caring, generosity and unconditional love. She was an inspiration to us all and will be greatly missed.

A memorial service celebrating Virginia's life will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 5, at Anderson Stevenson Wilke Funeral Home, 3750 N. Montana Ave. A reception will immediately follow the memorial service in the social hall at the funeral home. Burial will take place at 1:30 p.m. at Montana State Veterans Cemetery at Fort Harrison.

Memorials in Virginia's name are suggested to First Baptist Church; 201 Eighth Ave., Helena, MT, the American Red Cross, 1300 28th St. S., Great Falls, MT 59405, or the Montana Military Museum, PO Box 125, Fort Harrison, MT 59636.

Please visit to offer the family condolences or share a memory of Virginia.

Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Mar. 4, 2013
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