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Virginia Black (1920-2018)

Teacher used leadership to help others

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Virginia Black, an Ottawa Hills Elementary schoolteacher for more than 20 years who was a leader at church, in the community, and of groups in support of her alma mater, the University of Toledo, died Aug. 25 at Sunset House. She was 98.

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She had breast cancer, said her son Curt Black, a UT professor emeritus of pharmacy. She’d lived independently at home in West Toledo until 2009, when she moved to the Woodlands, an independent living community.

Mrs. Black taught third, fourth, or fifth grades at Ottawa Hills, retiring in 1983. While a Scott High School student in the 1930s, she belonged to a literary society that aimed to discover and encourage talent, create enthusiasm for scholarship, and promote enlightened leadership. She adopted that group’s purpose as her own credo in her career and through her service to others.

She had a reputation for being strict, her son said, and appreciated her students’ thirst for information.

“Mom just felt that this was recognizing and nurturing talent,” her son said.

Earlier, as a new UT graduate, she taught fourth grade at Mount Vernon School in the former Adams Township.

When her children were young, she was president of the Toledo chapter of the Child Conservation League. She was a president of the women’s auxiliary at Flower Hospital, then at Cherry Street and Collingwood Boulevard. She’d been president of the women’s club at UT and of the Golden Alumni Society.

She was a 60-year member of PEO International, which helps women pursue higher education, and was a former president of the Ohio chapter.

She had been a member of Washington Congregational Church, Pilgrim Congregational Church, and Sylvania United Church of Christ. She also went through intensive training in her 80s to be a Stephen Minister, a designation, according to the Stephen Ministries website, that can involve providing “one-to-one Christian care to people going through tough times.”

“Somewhere along the way, I’m sure she recognized she had a talent for leadership,” her son said. “That was part and parcel of who she was and what she believed. It goes to the strong Christian faith, where you use your talent to help others.”

As her mother had, she wrote down the name of every book she read and every movie she saw, her son said.

She was born July 27, 1920, to Ruth and Ralph Girkins and grew up on Hollywood Avenue. Her father, a civil engineer, encouraged her to attend UT. With $50 from her father, she enrolled. She received a bachelor’s degree in education, but along the way became president of her chapter of Alpha Omicron Pi, was society page editor for the Collegian, and was elected to what is now Mortar Board, the collegiate honor society.

She met Arthur Black, a chemistry student, and they married Jan. 17, 1945, while he was on leave from Navy service in World War II.

He became a UT faculty member and they moved into then-new on-campus faculty housing. 

He became a UT chemistry professor and associate dean of the college of arts and sciences.

He died May 31, 2000. 

Their son Jeffrey Black died in 1998.

Surviving are sons Curtis and James Black; seven grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2-4 and 6-8 p.m. Sunday at Walker Funeral Home, Sylvania Township. Memorial services will be at 11 a.m Monday at Sylvania United Church of Christ, where she was a member.

The family suggests tributes to the professorship fund named for her husband at the UT Foundation; the J. Bradshaw fund at the PEO Foundation in Des Moines, or the employee appreciation fund of Sunset Retirement Communities.

Contact Mark Zaborney at mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.

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