Ginny Nash

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Virginia Barbara Elizabeth Giacopasi Nash, 68, died Saturday afternoon, Nov. 13, 2010. "Her heart," said the doctor, "just gave out."

She was a member of CCPA, REALTORS, and the Nevada Public Library Board, among many other civic organizations.

Ginny was born on July 31, 1942, in Jackson Heights, Queens, N.Y., to Virginia and Henry Giacopasi. She graduated from Mary Louis Academy, in Jamaica, Queens County, N.Y. During the summers, while there, she worked for the Russell Sage Foundation. Then, because her mother died of a heart attack when Ginny was a young teenager and she felt that, despite being awarded scholarships to colleges out of state, she should stay near her father, she enrolled in Washington Square College of New York University, where she joined a service sorority.

She met her future husband, Chuck Nash, in an NYU German 101 class, where they began the semester sitting at opposite sides of the classroom. But a strong mutual attraction began brewing, and before long the two began dating, and soon found their values and senses of humor were, as much as humanly possible, identical. They were married on Aug. 1, 1964. Setting up shop in a three-room Kew Gardens apartment, the two held down jobs in Manhattan for three years, Ginny in the Foreign Periodicals section of the main branch of the New York Public Library. In that time, Ginny gave birth to a daughter, Jessica Cathrine Nash. Jess soon proving more than everything the young couple could have hoped for in an offspring, they decided to quit while they were ahead. So, Jess is an only child, irreplaceable, but fully charged with the kind of wanderlust that her mother never had a chance to fully liberate in herself. Both Ginny and Chuck, however, brought her up to dare, experiment, go way out on a limb, with the result that today she travels around the world overseeing elections from Armenia to Zanzibar. Ginny's dreams are perpetually being fulfilled in their kid.

In the early years of their marriage, working full-time in mid-town Manhattan during the day, both received their master's degrees by attending night classes, she in French literature, from Hunter College, of the City University of New York, when quarterly tuition there was $75 and a subway token cost 15 cents. They were pretty much on their own for good, aged 20-something, in good health, bursting with energy (especially Ginny, of course) in the greatest city in the world. Late Saturday nights, they would walk down their street in Kew Gardens, take in a Bergman film at the local movie theater, only a stone's throw away, pick up the newsheavy Sunday "Times," and then, arms around each other, as if for dear life, walk the single block home. One night, Ginny found a broken-winged (flea-infested) pigeon huddled on the dark, rain-washed sidewalk, outside their apartment, picked it up gently and cradled it back up to their apartment. In the morning, both called in sick, so they could wait for the ASPCA man to appear and rescue their unhappy battered critter. Ginny was forever glad to have enjoyed a youth when such crazy, quixotic behavior didn't cost a job or a dressing-down.

In 1970, in Midas, the ancient but reliable 1958 gold Oldsmobile her father had given them, Ginny, Chuck, and 3-year-old Jessica drove to St. Paul, Minn., where the first two began studies toward their doctorates. In the six years they were at the University, often switching little Jessica from hand to hand like Pony Express riders, Ginny soon became one of the most popular and effective of the French teaching assistants, teaching her Canadian hockey players, for instance, with innovative, student-friendly techniques that most remembered years after they graduated.

She gave up her own academic aspirations, however, when, in 1973, Chuck was offered a tenuretrack position in English, at Cottey College, in Nevada, Mo. The always supportive Ginny urged Chuck to accept Cottey's offer, and so the three Nashes, plus two Minneapolis friends, dragged into Nevada, minus one truck, driven by friend Ernie Ellefson, that had run out of gas on the very outskirts of town.

With no vacancy in Cottey's French department, Ginny was eager to do nearly anything to help the family's close-to-the-bone finances (Chuck was making a princely $10,000 a year.) She helped take inventory at a local Gibson's variety store, then worked for the local branch of the Social Security Administration, during which time she rescued an elderly man living in his decrepit old car. She liked to remember that episode, in particular, of course. Ginny had a knack for work that could help restore a person's human dignity. It didn't matter who, or where on the social scale. Her heart was big enough for everybody.

Ginny took the position of Activities Director at Nevada's Medicalodge long-term care facility. After a few years, she was promoted to Director and it was then that she began assembling around her one of the loyalest nursing home working staffs in the state of Missouri: the rate of turnover was low, because they knew she was on their side. She tried to create an atmosphere of joy at the nursing facility by hanging stunning Ansel Adams black/white landscape photographs, and lush Monet flower paintings in brilliant colors on the walls of the facility. For her residents, she started what amounted to a petting zoo in the rear of the building, complete with cats, rabbits and a pot-bellied pig.

Ginny was not a 9-5 worker. One day, at the nursing facility, while she was atop a ladder outdoors, dressed in torn jeans and a paint-spattered Nevada sweatshirt, repairing a gutter, a first-time visitor drove into the parking lot, got out of his car and shouted up to the busy roof repairer if the facility's director was in, and could he speak with him. "Sure, let me show you the way," Ginny said, climbing down from the ladder, and walking inside, the visitor following close behind. When they reached the Director's office, the grungy repair person sat down at the Director's desk, flashed a wide grin, and greeted the visitor, who was now all agog, "Hi, there, I'm Ginny Nash! What can I do for you this beautiful morning?" Coming from a family bristling with manual craftsmen, Ginny had no patience with snobbery and false pride. She was happy to do whatever needed doing. As a result, when visitors walked in the front door of the nursing facility, they weren't right-off bathed in an atmosphere of death and debility. In truth, the general atmosphere was a tad festive.

She was never a card-carrying feminist, because she'd been brought up to believe that no one should be discouraged from doing anything that didn't harm others. Let gender rules be damned.

She loved her elderly residents and loyal, hard-working staff, but she was forever battling with the suits in corporate headquarters in some distant city, who'd never sat down to speak with old people. With those folks at the helm, she felt like a person trying to drive a car forward, but with the emergency brake on. After 19 years, following a particularly tough week keeping the suits at bay, Ginny and her husband were enjoying a lunch at Janet Wray's downtown restaurant, when Ginny met up with Linda Curtis, who, together with her husband Monte, run Curtis and Sons, Realtors. Linda, knowing both Ginny and her stressful job, offered her a position on the spot. The Curtises immediately made her feel one of their family and while Monte's father was nearing death, Ginny took over the operation of the office, to leave the Curtises free to tend to Mr. Curtis's more pressing needs. For that, the Curtis family virtually adopted her as one of their own. And they, in turn, always thereafter topped the list of friends Ginny invited to her annual New Year's Day late-breakfast get-together on the second-floor of the new barn at the StoneHouse Perennials. When it came time for Ginny's picture to be taken for the Curtis and Sons advertising brochure, she opted for a nifty caricature of herself drawn by one of her Nevada Manor residents. Anyone who knew her knows the cartoon captures her essence to a T.

In her "free hours," beginning in 1973, she volunteered to help with the CCPA theater productions, for which she'd volunteered from the very get-go, sewing costumes for a budget that allowed her no more than a quarter (that's right, $.25) per costume, in the now demolished Welty's Cow Palace. When it came to carpentry, because she and her husband had learned at the expert hands of Robert W. Palmer, in the renovation of some 15 moderately rundown houses in town, she, hammer in hand, built the huge bed for a CCPA production. She never wanted to sing in a choir, because she had a lousy singing voice. Nor did she want to act in a play, because, despite the extreme expressiveness of her face and the visible energy she had, she shrank from publicity. Instead, she threw her considerable energy into working with others backstage and wielding a mean hammer or Skil saw in building sets. She loved working with kids like Charlie Johnson, for whom theater had become a passion. She had a profound affection for people with life-affirming passions.

Having grown up in a Jackson Heights row house with a back yard the size of a bed blanket, Ginny was thrilled at the chance to do some real gardening on the 10-acre spread that eventually became her "StoneHouse Perennials," the business that grew to be her final passion. She and her husband had bought the land because it contained a 2-story stone house, built some time during the Civil War, against which time was now beginning to exact its toll, with huge sandstone boulders tumbling from the second floor to the earth outside. Having arranged for MidContinent Reconstruction to use epoxy to rebuild the somewhat decrepit framework of their stone house. Ginny had ideas about how to use what would be the fully restored old house: maybe as an office for StoneHouse Perennials; maybe as a bed-and-breakfast; maybe as a weekend getaway for illicit love-affairs. (Ginny the jokester was never more than an arm's length from Ginny the sobersided.)

Her distinct laugh was like the bubbly tone of a fine musical instrument. When her husband lost track of her at a large and noisy party, for example, all he needed was to listen for that laugh, so uninhibited and unforgettable, and it would lead him back to her side. When people remember her, that's always among their first recollections, maybe because her laughter was never ever at the expense of others. Her laugh could -- and what's more, did -- charm the birds from the trees.

When Ginny's husband retired, after some 34 years of enjoyable teaching at Cottey, and Ginny officially retired from Curtis and Sons, both agreed it was way past time for her to finally take stage center and pursue her own dreams. And so, with immense help from a host of her friends (Monte and Linda Curtis, Daniel and Natchez Palmer and their son Auri Blanchard, Steve Stafford and Frankie Davis, and others too numerous to mention), Ginny began to design and build StoneHouse Perennials, on East Talley Bend Road, in Nevada, Mo. Above all, it was Bill Coffin, whose eagerness to do whatever needed to be done and at whatever the hour, who quickly made himself Ginny's number one go-to guy. From her fruitful imagination there arose a beautiful nursery, which grew, in its second year, to include more personally selected statuary, decorations, birdbaths and birdhouses, fountains, and flora and fauna than was for sale the inaugural year. That Ginny had prepared for life with an academic training in French literature shows that she didn't let a higher education hamper her.

She wanted to keep all her prices at StoneHouse as low as possible, so all her customers could afford the glory of nature's flowers. She passed away shortly after the close of the second season. Her family will always grieve that her life was so short circuited. There was Nevada earth beneath her fingernails when she died.

She never spoke of her religious faith, but her husband felt that in the half century he knew her, it changed from a pretty orthodox Roman Catholicism, with its magisterial, white-bearded God up in heaven, looking down and overseeing his Creation, to a belief that there is a nearly transcendental spirit residing in every blade of grass, in all people, shiningly in flowers, in every living thing, yes, even George W. Bush.

Her husband never knew so bright, funny, passionate, daring, what-you-see-is-what-you-get, and, above all, loving and sainted a soul as Ginny Nash's. She forever altered and lighted up his life.

"The Eagle has landed."

Those wishing to contribute, in lieu of flowers, can make donations to the CCPA or Vernon County People for Pets, the civic organizations that meant the most to Ginny. There will be a visitation at the Nevada CCPA Fox Playhouse at 110 5. Main St. on Tuesday, Nov. 30, from 6-8 p.m. All are welcome.