Louise Burner, born in 1923, grew up an only child on a farm by the Shenandoah River in Woodstock, Virginia. Her parents slaved through the Depression, nearly losing the farm, but saved it by taking in guests from Washington, DC. At age 6, working 16 hours a day cooking, feeding chickens, doing laundry seemed normal to Louise. She didn't know any better then, but soon would. A bright girl, her father taught her to read at age 3. At registration for school, she had been reading LIFE and LOOK for two years, so she skipped a grade. She attended the same one-room school as had her father. School got her off her lonely farm. In winter, her father walked across the big meadow to the county road, making holes in the snow so little Louse could follow behind. At the road, she walked 2 miles to school. As a teenager, a larger world acknowledged her. Although unsophisticated, she matured quickly. She especially enjoyed Sunday afternoons in a town that housed the hundred cadets of the Massanutten Military Academy.
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Graduating from Woodstock High School at 17, she was hired by Wender's Department Store, the most fashionable store between Winchester and Roanoke. She worked there for a year before moving to Washington, DC. Midway through her first year in DC, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and suddenly this city swarmed with thousands of strangers coming together to start new lives.
On a bus-trip home, she re-met Gilbert E. Pence, Jr, another only child from Woodstock, whose father had saved her father's farm from a bank-takeover by taking a case to the Virginia Supreme Court. She married Gil in 1947.
During the war, Louise worked in real estate. While carrying her first child, she studied at night for an accounting degree from Strayer Business School. For most of her life, she managed several apartment buildings in downtown Washington, which she and Gil bought from savings. She also managed the finances of a local construction firm. All her life, she made shrewd investments, and thus in her later years, lived comfortably.
In 1952, she and Gil bought a house in Glenmont, MD, living there for the next 50 years. Raising 5 children and with Gil working downtown as a Trademark Examiner, she still arranged for repairs, evicted derelict tenants, and interviewed prospective tenants for her several apartment complexes. Louise loved Washington, seeing it grow from a sleepy Southern backwater to an international cosmopolis. Appreciating farm-life, she never regretted leaving it. In her last decades, she traveled to cultural events downtown and around the East Coast. She visited her children in Alabama, Vermont, and Washington, attending weddings and graduations. She stoically cared for Gil for a decade, who died at 87 in 2001.
In 2002, she moved to Leisure World, happily living alone there for a decade, winning prizes bowling at Glenmont Lanes and leading the Going-It-Alone Club. She drove until her last months. She passed away suddenly on April 22, 2013, just shy of her 90th birthday.
Five children survive her: Gregory Pence of Birmingham, AL, William Pence of Burlington, VT, Marie Pence of Seattle, Robert Pence of Gaithersburg, MD and Carolyn Pence Kummerlowe, Seattle; and 9 grandchildren, Jonathan Pence of Burlington, VT, Melody and Lauren Pence of Honolulu, Hawaii, Carly, Anna and Conner Kummerlowe of Seattle, and Luca and Julia Pence of Seattle.
The family wishes to thank the team of Dr. Joel Kalman of Kaiser-Permanente, and Vicky Hulcher and Michelle Burchick of Compassionate Care for Seniors, LLC for their wonderful help in keeping Louise independent during her last two years.
Memorial service will occur at Inter-Faith Chapel, 3680 South Leisure World Boulevard, Silver Spring, MD on Saturday, April 27, 2013, at 2 p.m., followed by a reception in Clubhouse I of Leisure World.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the
Memorial and Tribute Processing Center, P.O. Box 5216, Glen Allen, VA 23058-5216.
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Published in Northern Virginia Daily from Apr. 24 to Apr. 25, 2013