Virginia C. Barnes
August 1, 1924 - July 22,2020
Los Altos, CA
Dr. Virginia Cooper Barnes of Los Altos, California, passed away peacefully on July 22, 2020, at the age of 95. Known to all by her camp name Pony, Virginia was born in Marion, Massachusetts on August 1, 1924, to Homer Francis Barnes and Mary Frances Hartley Barnes. Virginia moved shortly after with her parents and sister Louise first to Hudson, Ohio, then at the age of five to Honolulu, where her father Homer would work for the Kamehameha Schools for the next fourteen years. The two sisters swam with the tropical fish, ran along the banyan tree branches, and wore no shoes to school. While in Hawaii, Virginia first attended Hanahau'oli School and later Punahou.
Starting in 1936 Virginia and Louise were sent to boarding school in Vassalboro, Maine, the Oak Grove School for Girls, which was a defining influence for Virginia. This was the beginning of her lifelong pursuit of education and even forming lasting relationships with her instructors and fellow students.
In 1942, after graduating from Oak Grove, Virginia joined the US Navy WAVES and moved to Washington D. C., where she worked as a General's lead assistant during World War II. After the war, Virginia's college education included Occidental, Pomona, and Scripps, ultimately attaining her doctorate in education at Stanford University. She taught in the Palo Alto public schools before moving to San Jose State University where she ultimately served for 25 years, becoming the head of the Department of Teacher Education, retiring in 1987.
As a school teacher and college professor Virginia always knew she would need a summer job. Her family had always participated in summer camps as both campers and counselors. "Pony" worked with her family "Chief," "Busy Bee," and "Pinto," at Cheley Camps in Colorado before directing the summer camps at Montecito School for Girls located near Santa Barbara, of which her father was headmaster. When that school closed, Chief urged Pony to move up to the Sequoia location, at the time a boy's camp he had begun in the late 1940s. After a lake and pool were built at her insistence to add water activities, the Montecito-Sequoia Camp for Girls began in earnest in 1963.
Pony's Montecito Sequoia Girls Camp flourished, known "as an east coast camp in a western setting". Staff was carefully recruited from California universities and international camp programs. Campers from across the US and Mexico arrived for 4 or 8-week sessions to experience an abundance of recreational and artistic activities.
In 1976, Pony expanded her vision to include year-round activities such as Nordic skiing, ice skating, snowshoe excursions, and later, snowboarding, mountain biking, guided hiking, arts, and music.
In 1987, once again ahead of her time, Pony converted her Summer Girls Camp to the Montecito-Sequoia High Sierra Family Vacation Camp where "the fun lasts for days and the memories last a lifetime!" Entire families arrived for one week sessions to share delicious family-style meals and select from over 40 different activities to enjoy. Pony sold Montecito Sequoia in 2006 to the Dally family who continues her legacy with year-round programs and family camp.
She is survived by two nephews, Michael Barnes Weidlich and Richard Hartley Weidlich, and one niece, Susan Virginia Weidlich Andersen, three grandnephews, Scott Weidlich, Parker Andersen, and Grant Andersen, and two grandnieces, Emily Weidlich and Olivia Andersen.
Pony will be remembered as an educational pioneer and business visionary with a unique gift for crafting educational experiences that foster joyful connections through play and recreation. She touched the lives of thousands of campers and staff with her magic. May the long time sun shine on you dear Pony.
The Pony Barnes Foundation has been established in Pony's memory. Donations may be given on line to www.ponybarnesfoundation.org
condolences and further inquiries may be sent to [email protected] View the online memorial for Virginia C. Barnes
Published by San Jose Mercury News/San Mateo County Times on Aug. 7, 2020.