Today I attended the celebration of life service for a long time friend and mentor...the city of Mansfield said goodbye to Virginia Imhoff, who had just turned 90 in January.
When I was a teenager Mrs. Imhoff was my guidance counselor. To my teenage eyes she was elegant, educated and intimidating. So intimidating, in fact, that when I told her I wanted to drop out of school she verbally wrestled me to the ground and scared that thought right out of my head. It's something I've never forgotten and for which I've always been grateful.
Working in radio over the years I wrote commercials and did voice work for some of Ginny's campaigns as she moved through the chairs at city council, eventually becoming president. She was involved in so many things, always working tirelessly in the community.
This summer it was not unusual to drive along Marion Avenue and see Ginny walking her dog...always a boxer. From time to time I'd stop in and visit, only being allowed to enter the house after a good snuffle inspection from the dog. There were hundreds of former students that she referred to as “my kids”....I was lucky enough to be one of them.
Just a few months earlier our community lost yet another role model when Marilou Schwan died. She was 99, and until Swan Cleaners closed the year before her death she was behind the counter every day with her hair done, her heels on and dressed to kill. It was a pleasure to drop off dry cleaning just to get to talk to her.
Our community lost two amazing women when these two passed away. In a world where role models are in such short supply Ginny Imhoff and Marilou Schwan were examples of lives well lived.
A few years back Ginny was walking her dog along Marion Avenue when a mugger grabbed her. When she realized she couldn't out-muscle the guy, Ginny faked a heart attack and dropped to the sidewalk like a cement block. When the guy let go of her and took off Ginny ran into the street and flagged down a car for help. She simply out foxed the guy; I'm sure he never knew what happened. In any event he sure didn't have any bragging rights after that episode.
Years ago, on a work day just like any other day, a guy came into Swan Cleaners with a gun and took everyone hostage. Marilou, at the counter as usual, was forced to round up all of the employees and bring them to the front counter. Without any thought to herself she talked the guy into releasing the whole staff while she stayed as his hostage. After several hours she talked him into surrendering to police. No one was hurt because she took control...but if a fight had broken out my money would have been on her.
Working in what was really a man's world back in the day didn't cost these women their femininity. Both gals were always perfectly coiffed and stylishly dressed as they spent day after day in the work force. Their humor and intellect was always evident, and they were both admired by so many of us. I feel lucky to have known them, and in their passing they've left some really big high heels to fill.
Today's memorial service has made me think about the quality of the memories I want to leave behind; there's no doubt these two long time friends are a tough act to follow. How fortunate we are to be left with the memory of two strong and capable women who were always young at heart, always ahead of their time....and gone too soon.