In Memory of Aunt Virginia Demaris (RIP 02-2008)

Here is a Eulogy from My Sister Katherine Peil about the Lovely Aunt Virginia DeMaris!

 (Aunt Virginia Demaris Pictured with Her Husband Carl, and Son Brian)

Dear friends and family,I deeply regret that I cannot be there, in the flesh, to honor the life of this great lady.

If I had some magic pixie dust to eliminate the 3000 miles and 300 academic commitments, I would be standing before you with a slide show of at least 3000 photos taken of or inspired by the lovely spirit Virginia Demaris. Instead, I am challenged offer to my respects in 500 words or less.

On the other hand, I doubt that there is any way I could truly demonstrate in words or actions the quantity and quality of love that I will forever feel for this woman, for ours was a relationship that evolved over the course of 50 years.

(This is the Memorial Brochure)….

She was my Aunt Virginia, and from my earliest memories stood as a beacon of matriarchal wisdom, generational family solidarity, and spiritual integrity.

In the early days, she helped tame the tree-climbing tomboy in me with cookie-baking sessions, delicate lacy garments, and the secrets of social grace. In those days, I held her in awe, as the world she represented was so far afield from my free and blissful Utopian and Bohemian existence out on the Fish Trap. Yet she managed her many challenges and responsibilities with a quiet strength and dignity, and these were qualities that earned my utmost respect and became standards for my own evolving identity. Still, at times I worried that her polite reserve might mean that she was not as happy as she deserved to be. So in moments when that familiar wicked twinkle would begin to shine in her eyes and she would burst forth with some outrageously humorous comment, I found reassurance that all was right in the universe.

                               (This is the Memorial Brochure)….
Then later, as my life unfolded, I would discover many more facets of my lovely Aunt Virginia. For example, in my twenties we ended up working together at the Washington State Department of Transportation. By then I was a mother myself, providing the lion’s share of economic support for my young family and experiencing the full-on disenchantment of real world life challenges, limitations and injustices. It began to dawn on me that this amazing woman had also been working full time, in various professional capacities throughout my childhood, and yet still managed to produce all those fabulous goodies, throw her amazing parties, host out-of-town relatives, enjoy a wide social circle, volunteer for her church, stump for her political party AND find time to take me to Lake Fair every year. My respect and admiration grew all the more, and while she had set the bar quite high, I aspired to live up to my genetic legacy. So when I would find myself sniveling about this or that, I would simply think of my Aunt Virginia and tap the reservoir of her strength, character, and faith.But perhaps the best part of our relationship began about 15 years ago, when I moved back to Olympia for a 4-year period following some devastating personal and family misfortunes.  Around that time she had not only lost her husband (my dear Uncle Carl), but had also been confronted with some life threatening health issues, most specifically congestive heart failure. In fact, she was reliant upon oxygen for quite some time, and I worried – most selfishly – about losing her. But she had come face to face with death, not only exhibiting her customary level of courage and faith, but the encounter also brought about a sort of spiritual transformation. I can only describe this as an emotional liberation of sorts, one that somehow brought us onto the same page.What I mean by that is that is up until then, we had been coming at spirituality from different directions.  As a result, there had been a reserve between us, most likely based upon my recalcitrant pattern of following my heart whenever I felt that social convention was unduly burdensome to the trajectory of my soul. But something about our particular life challenges at that time brought us into a level of resonance, mutual respect, and unconditional love that would continue to increase right up until our last visit at Panorama City.When I reflect on that transformation now, I think that she fully embraced the goodness of human autonomy as I fully embraced the goodness of human interdependence, the free spirited libertine within me becoming one with the group soul of humanity that she had always embodied. But whatever the case may be, the alchemy and timing was just right, for from that point on we enjoyed each other on a whole new level. While I had finally come to appreciate her sense of duty and social conscience, she had stared death in the face and in true Christian faith saw only love. Carrying that love within her, she then let her hair down a bit. I saw that wicked twinkle far more often and it was almost as if she had finally embraced the skin-kneed tom-boy in me and we were fully alive atop my favourite tree laughing in the wind.

              (Aunt Virginia in 2002 @ Dad’s 75th Birthday Party)

With apologies for blowing my 500 word limit, I must share one particular moment that stands out in time, back in the year 2000, I think. It was a particularly sunny day and my plans had shifted such that I had nearly the whole day to myself. On a whim, I decided that if she was up to it, I’d spring my Aunt Virginia from Panorama and we’d run off to Westport for the day. Westport had always been a sacred space for us, as our families had met there for annual camping trips beginning when I was around 4 or 5 years old. The ocean had always seemed to bring out the free spirited libertine in both of us. Feeling completely safe, at home, and in unison with God As Nature, we’d both slip into that familiar state of divine quietude against the rhythmic sound of the pounding surf, offering ourselves up to the cleansing and revitalization delivered by the powerful ocean winds. Then we would begin performing the ritual of roaming the shore in search of natural treasures, sharing our discoveries with childlike delight and challenging one another to find things evermore beautiful than the last.  Although my lovely Aunt was coming to the end of her time in the mortal coil, her attention less focused, her words less fluid, and her limbs less strong and sturdy, she came alive that day. We slipped right into our zone of quietude and spent several splendid sun-drenched hours simply rolling with the wind and collecting agates in the surf. The turgid breezes kept the heat at bay, and seemed to offer extra doses of vitality as she surprised me with stamina comparable to my own. To my utter delight, her competitive spirit was kindled as well and she put me to shame — yet again — with her masterful agate-hunting skills, all the while insisting in her customary generosity that I take home the spoils.

                    (Brother and Sister! Virginia and Avaton in 2002)!

But perhaps my favorite moment, was a comment she made as we neared the end of our trek. We were on our way back to my car, strolling arm in arm, and at times shoulder to shoulder trudging together up through the sand dunes and crab grass. It was actually quite a ways, slow-going and difficult. We were both tired after a day of full exuberance and she was, after all, now quite delicate. But we both still basked in the bliss of the day.  The sun was sinking behind us casting those long, lovely afternoon shadows that often marked the end of the most savoury summer adventures. Up until that moment we had been reverently silent, simply being with one another, and enjoying the mutual support – hers in the quiet trust of my steady hand and physical balance, and mine deriving from the entire legacy of this dear woman now fully living within me.


And then, as the car came within view and the real world beckoned, there must have been a wicked gleam in her eye that I missed due to my intense focus upon navigating the safest path for my precious cargo. For at that moment, she pointed down to our long limbed afternoon shadows that sprawled before us shoulder to shoulder, shadows that were topped by two wildly wind-whipped heads looking something like a pair of gigantic dandelions having gone to seed, and she quipped “Lovely hairdo my dear!” sending us both into peals of laughter.

(75th Birthday Celebration for My Father brought us together 06-20-2002!)

Well, I suppose you had be there to fully enjoy that special moment, but I’m certainly glad I was. And as it turned out, that would be her last visit to the ocean while in the mortal coil.

Now that she is gone, I hope her spirit can soar wherever it may be. I do know, however, that I carry part of it within me, as I would not be the person I am today without having known the truly lovely and amazing Virginia Demaris. And as part of her legacy, I aspire to embody the transformation and unconditional love we shared, to approach each relationship and live each day as if it might be my last – with all the spiritual spontaneity, honour, and integrity that that implies.

Thank you for listening.

Katherine Peil   (February 2008)

                   (Classic Aunt Virginia with Her Beloved Husband Uncle Carl)
And Eric says: I remember this Memorial. It was very fitting as it was done at Her favourite church that she had attended for Decades. This is the same church that Uncle Carl was hired as a carpenter to hoist the cross all the way up to the top! Dangerous work, but Uncle Carl did a great job! It was nice to catch up with My cousins Curt and Brian Demaris that evening. We all loved Aunt Virginia a lot!
My sister,  Marilyn Turnbow, faithful niece of Virginia,  got up with Her guitar and played some beautiful and stunning pieces, which included so some Joan Baez as I recall. She sang like a bird, and spoke a bit as well in tribute.
There were several Turnbow’s in the audience, including My Father, the Late Avaton Winston Turnbow. He is Her proud Brother of course, and it was moving when He got up on the stage in His best Sunday suit and  told a moving story about Virginia as a young girl in Medford Oregon and the spirit of her kitty cat that stayed around for many years after the cat had moved on. It liked to sleep with her at night and keep her company. This was a very moving and sweet speech.
After singing some spiritual hymns, and a few more eulogies, we all headed to the back of the church for some coffee and refreshments.
(Pictured in 1958. Son Brian and Husband Carl DeMaris @ Fishtrap)
Here is a comment we received about Virginia DeMaris:
Mr. Peters…I received your comment about my Aunt Virginia that I posted on my website.:
http://www.ericturnbow.comYou said ….    I worked with Virginia at WSDOT. Knew her for many years. So many of her generation at WSDOT have passed on. Sorry to hear she’s gone. Very fine lady.
Bob PetersI just wanted to let you know your comments were well received. The Turnbow family loves and admires Virginia DeMaris a lot, and are very glad that people like you treasure her memory as well!