Devoted wife, mother, friend, healer and helper to those in need.
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Virginia Conrad Giesen passed away Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, two years to the day after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Ginny was born July 26, 1929, in New Orleans, La., the only child of Pearl Jarrell Conrad and Joseph George Conrad. Ginny's mother, Pearl, one of two children, was raised in Mississippi, obtained a nursing degree and worked at Baptist and Crippled Children's Hospitals in New Orleans. Ginny's father Joe was from Franklin, La., the eighth of nine children, and worked for New Orleans Public Services as a streetcar motorman.
Ginny grew up in New Orleans, attended Catholic girl's schools starting in kindergarten and graduated from St. Joseph's Academy in 1946. She completed nurses training at Charity Hospital School of Nursing in New Orleans at the age of 19 and started her nursing career at the VA hospital in New Orleans. When she asked her patients why they weren't eating, the reply that the eggs were cold by the time they got their breakfast trays, just didn't sit right with her. The next morning she brought her own cast iron skillet to work and became a short order cook for her patients, making eggs to order for each one of them.
She married Andrew F. Giesen Jr. in September of 1951, when Drew was in his senior year at Tulane School of Medicine. Their oldest son, Drew III, was born in 1952. The family spent four years in Philadelphia, Pa., where Drew completed his internship and residency in Radiology. During this time, Ginny worked at Philadelphia General Hospital as a nurse. She was a working Mother way ahead of her time. She pioneered one of the first ever at work daycare centers. She opened the center at Philadelphia General so that she could be close to son Drew III and so that the other nurses could bring their children to work with them as well. During her nursing career, she also served as a scrub nurse for noted heart surgeon Dr. Michael Debakey.
Drew's work took them to Austin, Texas, where their second child, Brad, was born. Then they moved to Montgomery, Ala., and back to New Orleans where their daughter Gwen was born. During their return to New Orleans, Ginny also worked as a real estate agent for Lyle Carriere and Grady Harper. The family settled in Fort Walton in 1962 where Ginny was a devoted wife and homemaker who touched and influenced the lives of many people she came into contact with. She enjoyed being part of the PTA and serving as a Choctawhatchee Band chaperone. Her greatest accomplishment was being a mother and nurturing others, so much so that she had several "adopted" children with whom she remained close throughout the years. She found joy in her family, and made the little details count, wrapping them in a mother's love.
She worked with the Fort Walton Junior League and the Speech and Hearing Center. Additionally, she did volunteer work with Hospice and the Reach to Recovery Program for breast cancer patients. Ginny maintained her R.N. license and Real Estate license for over 30 years. She enjoyed reading, sewing, cooking and travel. She particularly enjoyed cooking venison barbeque and pecan pies to share with her husband's work associates. Proud of her New Orleans heritage, and runner up to Miss New Orleans in the late 40's, she was always happy to share the history of the city, advise on the proper pronunciation of street names or talk about Cajun cooking. After Drew retired, they spent time traveling in the United States, Europe, South America and Russia.
Ginny was a member of Resurrection Anglican Church and was a devout Christian. She was a smart, down to earth woman, with an incredible amount of common sense. In addition to the pancreatic cancer diagnosis, she was a 20-year breast cancer survivor. She also dealt with MAC, a lung disease, for the last 10 years and yet she never complained, accepting the hand that she was dealt. She was treated with both radiation and chemotherapy for the pancreatic cancer, maintaining a positive attitude with her sense of humor intact. She would occasionally ask others to check the obituaries to see if her name was listed. She said that if she was not in the obituaries, then today was going to be a good day.
Ginny is preceded in death by her husband of 56 years, Andrew Frederick Giesen Jr. MD; and her son, Andrew Frederick Giesen III. She is survived by her son, George Bradley Giesen of Destin, Fla.; daughter, Gwendolyn Conrad Giesen of Dallas, Texas; daughter-in-law, Linda Peterson Giesen of Defiance, Mo.; grandchildren, Joseph Andrew Giesen of New Orleans, and Carrie Elizabeth Giesen of Los Angeles, Calif.; and numerous extended family members.
A celebration of life is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 10, at 11 a.m. at Resurrection Anglican Church, 66 8th Street, Shalimar, FL. There will be a reception immediately following the service at the Fort Walton Yacht Club, 180 Ferry Road NE, Fort Walton Beach.
The family expresses their appreciation to the staff of the 4th floor south of the Fort Walton Beach Medical Center and to all of the staff of Emerald Coast Cancer Center with special thanks to Dr. Henry Hsiang and Dr Lee Ettinger.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials in honor of Virginia Giesen to: The Congregation of St. Joseph, 4664 Jamestown Ave., Suite 125, Baton Rouge, LA 70808-3288; The
(for pancreatic cancer research), 99 Eglin Parkway NE #37, Fort Walton Beach FL, 32548, or to Resurrection Anglican Church, 66 8th Street, Shalimar, FL 32579.
Arrangements are under the direction of Davis-Watkins Funeral Home. To share memories, express condolences and sign the guestbook, please visit www.daviswatkins.com.
Published Online in Northwest Florida Daily News from Nov. 9 to Nov. 10, 2012