Wednesday, December 26, 2012
"Laugh, love your neighbor, those who aren't your neighbor, just love people."
That was Virginia Ann Cheatham Miller's philosophy of life as spoken by her when crowned 2009 Arkansas Nursing Home Queen. The contest was featured in The New York Times Online in a video filmed by her grandsons, television documentarians Brent and Craig Renaud. Virginia "Ginny" truly lived her philosophy. She was lively, loving and loved life.
She died at home, surrounded in person, or in thoughts and prayers, by those who loved her Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, after a long illness.
She was born Sept. 12, 1917, in Chaffee, Mo., to Harry Val and Ethel Anna Hacker Cheatham. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 1939 with a bachelor's degree in home economics.
Ahead of her time, at a time when women rarely pursued higher education and did not travel alone, after receiving her degree she went to work, traveling southern Missouri establishing school lunch programs -- a new concept under Roosevelt's New Deal WPA. After being a "traditional" stay-at-home mother until her daughter began school, she became director of school lunch programs in Sikeston, Mo. A change in careers brought her to Cape Girardeau where she was the sole social worker for the entire county, handling all matters concerning children.
A lifelong passion was spectator sports, especially her beloved St. Louis Cardinals. This sprang from her childhood experiences in a small town with two big brothers who played sports.
After retirement, she moved to Little Rock, Ark., becoming very active in the Family Life program at First Baptist Church. She and her friends spent many hours in activities in the church. It was there that she found a love for travel. Eight Baptist ladies, traveling in two cars, covered the U.S. As age made driving cross-country unsafe, undaunted, they switched to bus tours, one taking them to Alaska. She also took trips with groups from the church, a favorite being to Switzerland.
She was preceded in death by two brothers, Bert and Harry Cheatham; and two husbands, George Martin and Keith Miller.
She is survived by her daughter, Georgann Renaud Freasier; son-in-law, Ben Freasier; daughter-in-law, Denise Gibbs; granddaughters, Michele Renaud Adams, Rebecca Miller, Leslie Stolzer, Leesa Freasier and Laura McCarty; grandsons, Brent and Craig Renaud; great-grandsons, Taylor Adams, Peyton Adams, Taiyo Renaud, Landon Friend, Hayden McCarty, Zachary Stolzer, Jacob Stolzer, Christian Lambert and Jackson Lambert; and great-granddaughters, Caylann Stolzer, Katlee Freasier and Alexandra Miller.
She also is survived by her extended family and friends, especially her special neighbor, First Baptist Family Life and traveling friend, Violet Miller. A special thanks to the staff at Emeritus Chenal Heights, Arkansas Hospice, especially hospice nurse Vicky McElrath, R.N.
A funeral service will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at Ruebel Funeral Home, 6313 W. Markham St., Little Rock, Ark., officiated by the Rev. John Wright and the Rev. Jim Lagrone.
A service will be at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Ford and Sons Funeral Home in Cape Girardeau, officiated by Rev. Mark Anderson. Burial will be at Cape County Memorial Park.
Memorials may be made to Arkansas Hospice, 14 Parkstone Drive, North Little Rock, AR 72116 or A.B.L.E. Paws, 3014 Valley Park Drive, Little Rock, AR 72212.
Ruebel Funeral Home, www.ruebelfuneralhome.com, was in charge of arrangements.