As some of you may know already, Virginia Emma Bessac Clark passed away this week at Lodi's Vienna Nursing Home. Born in 1924 and raised in the San Joaquin Valley, she remained an active presence in the community throughout her life. She knew Lodi as an early 20th century farming community and she remained devoted to its history and culture.
She was a country girl and proud of it, living out on Harney Lane at the ancestral homestead that her family called Rosewild. She attended Lodi Union High School where she met many of her friends that would stay with her throughout life. As she turned into her 9th decade, she often lamented how hard it was to see so many pass away before her. Her father, Harry Bessac, who had been San Joaquin Superintendent of Schools, passed away in his 70's, but her mother, Nell Hurd Bessac, remained at Rosewild and then in her last few years at the Vienna, until she passed at 103. Virginia, came from a family of long lived people and she felt that she was insured a long life. She often noted that she intended to break her mother's record. She had a good chance of doing that until she succumbed to the Covid 19 pandemic. Now Virginia joins her ancestors in the Stockton Memorial Cemetery family plot, that dates back into the mid 1800's.
She was fiercely proud of her family's heritage, both in California and tracing back to Scotland and France and kept numerous momentos of the family's origins both as immigrants dating back to the Plymouth Colony and pioneers into Gold Rush California by wagon train.
As a person ages, it's a little easier to talk about that final day when life releases you and I asked what she would want me to write in her obituary. She said she would like to be remembered for the things she did in the community. From her job as a telephone operator and then office rep at Ma Bell, including membership in the Telephone Pioneer Society, to her volunteer activities at the Haggin and Micke's Grove Museums. She was a member of the 1st Congregational Church in Lodi, where she actively participated on the board, and a member of the Mayflower Club. She was also a member of the Ladies's Auxillary of the Society of California Pioneers, and Daughters of the American Revolution.
Is that it, Mom? Probably not, but good Lord, it's enough.
She was married first to Lemoise Angier, whom she divorced after a short marriage and then married Francis Clark, a local crop duster turned real estate broker. She suffered the pain of losing Francis to emphysema and then later her daughter, Pamela Clark, to pancreatic cancer.
I would say that everyone that knew her remembers a woman who strove to see the positive in everything. She had a ready smile and sweet spirit. She is survived by a large family that is now scattered throughout California and across the nation. We all should strive for a life so full. Because of the pandemic, there will be no funeral services at this time. It's not what she or we wanted, but out of respect to this deadly disease we have no choice. A huge thank you to the Vienna staff who's compassionate care helped Virginia through her last moments of life. They are brave and wonderful. The family will wait until a more appropriate time to gather at the family cemetery for a memorial. In the meantime, wear your mask, stay distanced, and wash those hands. We'll get through this together.
Published in Lodi-News Sentinel from Jul. 31 to Aug. 7, 2020.