Virginia Bernice Towner, DHM, passed peacefully into the Kingdom of God on Thursday, morning, the 11th of June, at the age of 102 years. Her life was given to the service of God’s purpose as a Daughter of the Heart of Mary for the past 56 years. Virginia earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science and Physical Education from Winona State College in Minnesota, and a Master’s Degree in Education and Psychology from Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. She taught in the Winona Schools, but her interest in the Girl Scouts of America had peaked. She applied for a position with the organization and was soon appointed as Executive Director. Virginia held major Girl Scout leadership positions in the United States and Internationally. She maintained a deeply rooted interest in the Girls Scouts throughout her life time. The sight of a Girl Scout Cookie drew a chuckle and smiling eyes to her final days. Having traveled widely abroad as a Girl Scout Executive, Virginia returned to Minnesota where she found a teaching position at St, Catherine’s College, a ministry of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in St. Paul. There, she was to meet a professor of English, Agnes Keenan, a Daughter of the Heart of Mary. It was through her tutelage and example that Virginia would realize a call to religious life. After completing the required two years of preparation, she consecrated herself to God as a Daughter of the Heart of Mary for the rest of her life. While not as extensive as her travels with the Girl Scouts, the grass did not grow under Virginia’s feet as a DHM. She served as Assistant Principal at Nardin Academy, a private DHM Catholic School in Buffalo, NY; eight years in Ethiopia as High School Principal of Nazareth School for girls in the capital city of Addis Ababa; in St. Paul, MN, as Retreat Director at Maryhill Retreat House for seven years; at Marian Retreat Center in Holyoke as Retreat Director for eighteen years. She was well known in the Holyoke area for the Marian Center Gift Shop which she opened and managed for many years, always introducing greeting cards and gifts suitable to the seasons of the year. Virginia moved into the Marian Center Health Care Unit as her health declined. Her joy in life never diminished, she leaves it as a legacy for all who truly knew her. Virginia will be laid to rest at noon on Monday, June 15th, at St. Jerome’s Cemetery, Holyoke. Prayers will be offered by Rev. Robert Gentile. The Barry J. Farrell Funeral Home is handling the arrangements.
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