Virginia Viola (McKeeman) Kyner, 92, recently gained status as the oldest person in her immediate family. Sometimes known as “Ginny”, she passed away surrounded by family on Aug. 6, 2019. Oldest child of Melvin James (1904-1993) and Edna Ethel Elwell (1908-1986) McKeeman, was born July 15, 1927, in Leon, Iowa, at the home of her grandparents, Louis William (1871-1955) and Josephine Mahala Martin (1878-1967) Elwell. Virginia met Kenneth Dale Kyner in high school during a basketball game at LeRoy. They dated two years, then married on Jan. 6, 1946, at her birth location. Kenneth continued to serve in the United States Navy for six months after their marriage. Five children were born in eight years to this union: Donna, Janice, Nile, Daryl and Gloria. Virginia and Kenneth felt fortunate to make their home north of LeRoy in March 1947, on a Kyner family century farm. They moved south of LeRoy in February 1955, on a Calhoun family century farm. They built their new home in 1989; she lived there till her passing. Virginia and Kenneth always knew they were blessed and frequently remarked about it. Multiple family albums feature picture after picture of them together during a lifetime of events.
Virginia graduated from LeRoy Consolidated High School in 1945, (a good six on six basketball player in junior high and high school), attended Simpson College Normal Training then began teaching at Franklin Country classroom in Decatur County the fall of 1945. She later substituted at LeRoy Elementary. She was a farmer’s wife, a mother, a homemaker and a good cook, always keeping the cookie jar filled. She was accomplished in sewing and needlework, embroidery, knitting, needlepoint and especially crocheting and quilting. This creative woman taught herself crocheting the fall of 1972; a gifted seamstress, she repaired family items and blessed many people with her creations over the years. She crocheted afghans and made quilts for her children and grandchildren. A sack full of crocheted doilies, kitchen cloths, hot pads are ready for 2019 LeRoy Harvest Festival. She crocheted many prayer shawls for the sick and elderly, made quilts or crocheted baby blankets and hundreds of caps for newborns. Virginia loved reading books of various interests, was keeper of family genealogy, a bird watcher, a collector of used stamps and old sayings also known as wives’ tales, and a weather watcher (due to arthritis she was also a weather forecaster). She enjoyed all sorts of inside and outside flowers and plants. She would have liked to learn the Internet; she did enjoy typing her newspaper articles, personal and Christmas letters and playing solitaire on her computer.
There is a family saying, “If we didn’t grow it, we didn’t eat it.” We raised cattle, hogs, chickens and sheep (pets, didn’t eat them), milked cows, and sold milk, cream and eggs. Every year the family prepared and planted a huge garden, canning and freezing quart after quart of vegetables and fruits, making pickles, pies and cobblers. Both Virginia and Kenneth continued this tradition working together even into their 90s. Virginia’s canned meats were in demand at LeRoy Harvest Festival auctions. She especially liked hosting birthdays, 4th of July and Labor Day barbecues and Christmas gatherings.
Virginia was a lifetime member of the LeRoy Presbyterian Church (often representing the congregation at Presbytery). She was presented Award of Special Elder Recognition the fall of 2012, was a Bible and Sunday school teacher and Harvest Festival and Christmas Program planner. She wrote the LeRoy community news for the Humeston New Era and the Leon Journal Reporter newspapers for over 50 years. She was a 4-H assistant to Decatur County girls club in 1947, and 4-H leader to Decatur County LeRoy Merry Makers girls for four years during the mid-late 60s. She was an American Legion Auxiliary member from 1948, till LeRoy transferred to Garden Grove, disbanding in 2013, the LeRoy Garden Club, and a Progressive Homemaker member, retiring after 50 years.
Joys were her grandchildren (caring for them when needed) and her great-grandchildren. She enjoyed Facebook pictures on an electronic photo frame or printed off to keep up with extended family activities. She loved FaceTime visits with the grands and the greats. She taught work ethic and financial responsibility. Family was important, her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren’s visits continued until her death. All of the grandchildren and some great-grandchildren visited her May-July.
Virginia had a sharp, amazing memory of stored data, rarely referencing calendars or journals. People and family often called her for information or verification of dates and names in their families or community news and events. An example, who lived where years ago or who was related to whom? She retained birth dates and anniversaries of family, neighbors and friends.
Her very active community involvement was curtailed due to a full leg brace in early 2000, then two hiatal hernia surgeries in 2014, outliving medical predictions by six years. Mostly housebound using a walker, she loved visitors and phone calls; maintained her love of handwork, reading and TV game shows. Every year she sent Christmas greetings with updates of current family and farm happenings, even at age 91. As her health changed, Kenneth took over more household duties and care of Virginia with assistance of daughters, Donna, Janice and Gloria, allowing her to stay in her home on the farm.
More memories include: square baling hay, walking corn and bean fields, snacks (chocolate cake and ice tea or Kool-Aid) in the field, raising and dressing chickens, gardening and prepping fruits and vegetables for canning or freezing, fishing, setting bamboo poles, fried bread, cornbread with ham and navy beans, the barbecues, 4th of July fireworks, birthday lamb cakes, hunting hickory and walnuts, picking them out in the winter while watching TV, hand shelling popcorn, and car trips to western Nebraska to visit great grandparents, leaving at 4 a.m., stopping for meals and exercise in the parks on the way. Iowa State Fair trips the Sunday before school started to see events (evening races) that were available that day, taking and eating fried chicken, sliced tomatoes, and potato salad for lunch, food was rarely purchased at the fair except for cotton candy or snow cones, and riding the Old Mill before leaving for the day. Also, viewing collected childhood and family picture albums for each child and family, and hectic 4H county fair days, making, taking and loading projects to the Decatur County Fairgrounds. The farm dogs were Andy and Gunsmoke, but dad’s favorite four-legged companion was Rascal. To distinguish two Grandma Kyners by the number of their dogs, Grandma Virginia Kyner was known as “Grandma with the one dog”.
Those surviving are husband, Kenneth; children: Donna Morgan, Janice (Ray) Coffey and Nile Kyner; son-in-law, Randy Searby, 11 grandchildren; 21 great-grandchildren; step grandchildren; brother, Oren Melvin (1928- )McKeeman; nieces and nephews; and friends.
Deceased are parents; son, Daryl Dean Kyner (1954-2019); daughter, Gloria Ann Kyner Searby (1957-2018); son-in-law, Jerry Lee Morgan (1949-1998); grandsons, Travis Searby (1984) and Marcus Kyner (1978-1991); great-grandsons, Spencer Bourgeois (1999-2001) and Cody Coffey (2004); sister and brother-in-law, Delores Edna McKeeman (1930-1987) and Oliver Franklin “Frank” (1924-1983) Clark; sister-in-law, Phyllis Henry (1936-1992) McKeeman then later Oren’s friend, Della Wahal, deceased 2011; parents-in-law, John Edward (1892-1969) and Nora Elizabeth Calhoun (1898-1995) Kyner; brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Wilburne Eugene (1916-1997) and Helen Leone Heaton (1915-1993) Kyner; and sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Letha Marie Kyner (1918-2003) and Glen Edward (1915-1969) Hitt.
Hers was a life well lived. In lieu of flowers, please send them to someone you love or who loves them, too, or if you would like to make a donation to honor the life of Virginia, please consider the LeRoy Presbyterian Church or the Karl LeCompte Library, Corydon. She read 809 books since late 2014 from this library.