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Mary DeGravelles


1915 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
Mary DeGravelles Obituary
Mary Virginia Wheadon deGravelles

LAFAYETTE - Mary Virginia Wheadon deGravelles, born December 4, 1915, died Thursday, August 31, 2017, surrounded by family and caregivers. At 101, she left a legacy of love and wisdom to generations of her descendants, clients and friends.

Virginia had a brilliant mind, a quick sense of humor, and a gentle but determined spirit. She was a wise and loving woman whose counsel was sought by many. She passed on her love for politics, religion, literature, and philosophy to her children and other descendants.

Virginia was born in Alexandria, Louisiana to John Samuel Butler Wheadon (1883-1952) and the former Anna Kilpatrick (1887-1970). After graduation from Bolton High School, she attended Northwestern State University (then Louisiana Normal School) in Natchitoches before moving to LSU in Baton Rouge from which she received a B.A. in Education. At LSU, she met the love of her life, Charles Camille deGravelles. They eloped and wed in Woodville, MS in 1935 and were married 73 years until Charlie's death in 2008. They lived first in Lake Charles before making their home in Lafayette.

Virginia and Charlie registered Republican in 1941 in a state that was then largely Democrat. They began an influential career in politics by working in the first presidential campaign of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Active for decades in the GOP, Virginia was elected to the Republican National Committee in 1964 and was a delegate to the national convention that same year. They were ardent supporters of Ronald Reagan, inviting him to Lafayette in 1964 to jumpstart the state party and to help grow his early political career. Together, Virginia and Charlie were associated with Presidents Nixon, Ford, George Herbert Walker Bush, and Reagan. They are honored together in the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame as two of the founders of the modern Republican party in Louisiana.

After raising a family and a career in politics, Virginia did graduate work at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette and LSU in Baton Rouge, receiving her MA and PhD in Counseling Psychology from a nontraditional college in California. She founded and served as a marriage and child counselor at New Horizons Institute until her retirement in 1998. She was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, serving as reagent of the Galvez (Lafayette) Chapter. A lifelong Episcopalian, she attended Ascension Episcopal Church and St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, both of Lafayette.

Virginia was predeceased by her husband, Charles C. deGravelles Jr., her daughter, Mary Alix deGravelles, her granddaughters Mary Virginia "Jenny" deGravelles and Dr. Margaret McNair "Meg" deGravelles, and her grandson Wallace Paul Begneaud III.

Virginia is survived by her children Elizabeth Claire Cloninger and her husband Robert A. "Spike" Cloninger, Ann deGravelles Norton and her husband Edward M. Norton, Charles N. deGravelles and his wife Angela Winder deGravelles, John W. deGravelles and his wife Jan Shamburger deGravelles; by her grandchildren Jeanne Alix Perrault, and her husband Charles Pemberton Perrault, Jr., Andre Begneaud and his partner Damian Morgan, Marc Duvall Begneaud and his wife, Wendy Claxton Begneaud, Curtis Arrington Cloninger and his wife Julie Skinner Cloninger, Andrew Jennings Cloninger and his wife Jennifer Rebecca Uplinger Cloninger, Claire O'Neal McBride, Mary Kilpatrick McBride and her wife Margaret Mary "Maggie" FitzPatrick, Dr. Charles Eliot deGravelles and his wife Ricki Lee Waynick. William Winder deGravelles, John Neale deGravelles and his wife Karin Hamlin deGravelles. Katherine Peirce deGravelles Ilahi and her husband Habib F. Ilahi, and by her granddaughter-in-law Marcella Hope Begneaud; by her great-grandchildren Jacob Paul Begneaud, Gabriel Lee Begneaud, Matthew Alexander Begneaud, Mary Grace Richardson, Beau François Begneaud, Nicholas Paul Begneaud, Luc André Begneaud, Caroline Grace Cloninger, Jordan Arrington Cloninger, Robin Lucy Cloninger, James Henry Cloninger, Ruby Jane Cloninger, Kaylee Grace Cloninger, Andrew Robert Cloninger, Reed Charles Cloninger, Samuel Tate Cloninger, Charles Benjamin deGravelles, Elizabeth Skye deGravelles, Rainier St. Clair deGravelles, Emmett Lowell deGravelles, Daniel Rhodes deGravelles, Emersen Peirce Ilahi; and by her great-great grandchild Tatum Claire Begneaud.

Our family is grateful for the loving care given by Virginia's caregivers: Vanessa Landry, Angela Lewis, Lillian Prince, Lynn Guidry, Kalin Cormier and Hospice of Acadiana. Thanks to the wonderful clergy and lay ministers of Ascension and St. Barnabas Episcopal churches and Virginia's many devoted friends.

A memorial service will be held in Lafayette at a later date.
Published in the The Advertiser on Sept. 5, 2017
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