Life Story / Obituary
With ways all her own, Ginny Kerney possessed a wonderful way with people. Her warm and caring nature provided much to brighten the days of those around her, especially her ever present smile that could light up a room. Ginny enjoyed being around people, both personally and professionally, and considered her journey as a nurse to be both rewarding and challenging. Close to her heart was the family she held dear, and in them she found the greatest joy.
Born on August 23, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio, Virginia M. “Ginny” was the daughter of Charles and Helen (Horning) Cowels. A time of rapid growth in the U.S., the Chrysler auto firm was founded and the Mount Rushmore National Monument was dedicated as families flocked to the area on vacations. Baseball was America’s favorite pastime at a time when Chaplin movies were all the rage. While still a small child, Ginny’s family moved north to the small, rural community of Delton, Michigan where her family lived on an onion farm. Before long she was joined by her younger brother, Robert.
Times were lean during the years of the Great Depression. Ginny’s family later moved to the Comstock area before settling in Kalamazoo, Michigan where her father worked as a groundskeeper at the State Hospital. Her mother was a busy homemaker, and also worked for Peter Eckrich and Sons Foods. During her youth Ginny had a pet pig named Grumpy who adored her. One day he even followed Ginny to school. She attended both the Delton and Comstock area schools and while attending high school she played basketball and was a member of the school band before graduating from Kalamazoo Central High School.
Ginny went on to further her education in nurses training at Borgess Hospital. Throughout most of her life, Ginny was a “master volunteer” within her community. It all began when she became an RN and headed to California to help with the numerous needs at the hospitals there following the end of World War II. After a short time in California, Ginny returned home to Kalamazoo and began working as a nurse at both Bronson and Borgess hospitals. However, it was during this time when Ginny’s life turned in an exciting, new direction.
While at a church gathering, Ginny met Joel Kerney, a handsome young man with whom she became quite smitten. The feeling was quite mutual and before long they began a dating relationship. Deeply in love, Ginny married her sweetheart on June 2, 1956 at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Kalamazoo. In 1957 they welcomed the birth of their daughter, Teri, followed by Steve in 1960, and John completed their family in 1961.
Ginny was a very supportive mother throughout her children’s lives. She set high expectations for them, and even tutored them to excel in school. Through her loving example, she taught her children the value of hard work, and to be caring, human beings. She also passed her generous spirit onto her children and the importance of bringing others happiness. Ginny was a strong, tenacious woman who made a good home for Joel and their family. She was an active member of St. Joseph Catholic Church where Ginny was devout to her faith.
Family was very important to Ginny and over the years wonderful memories were shared and experienced together. She absolutely loved getting together with her children and grandchildren for the holidays, and she held these precious times close to her heart. Whenever she visited the Binder Park Zoo, Ginny was drawn to the giraffes which she so enjoyed. Each year they also went to the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario, and one of her favorite vacations included their trip to Alaska.
A true blessing in Ginny’s life was working as a registered nurse. Along with working at the hospitals, she was also employed at the Parkwood-Upjohn School, the John F. Kennedy Center, and she eventually retired as a nurse with the county health department. Ginny enjoyed many facets of nursing, but her favorite experience throughout her career was caring for and cuddling the premature infants at Bronson Methodist Hospital’s neo-natal intensive care unit. With her caring nature, Ginny always brought her calming ways to those she served. Her smile brightened the days of many and her encouraging warmth was welcomed by all. Even in the bleakest of circumstances, Ginny’s wonderful sense of humor could be found in all situations.
In her retirement years, Ginny was a steadfast and constant volunteer in her community. A wonderful and giving woman, she volunteered at the Humane Society, the Department of Aging, and at Senior Services. Her vast knowledge and nursing experience was such a blessing when she served at The Red Cross when needed, and she even called parents to remind them of immunizations for their children. In 1998 Ginny received the Citizens Insurance Seniors Award. One of ten recipients each year to receive the award, Ginny spent countless hours giving back to the people of her community. She described her work and volunteer efforts as rewarding, yet it also challenged her to be ever mindful of the needs of others. When she was asked why she gave so much, Ginny answered, “The more the better.”
Easy and fun to talk to, Ginny brought a burst of energy and enthusiasm to whatever she did and wherever she went. She had a special way with people, and she truly enjoyed the company of others. Her family was her greatest joy along with serving others, and she would not have wanted it any other way. Although a heart attack slowed Ginny down at the age of 80, she continued to care deeply about the needs of others. When she eventually began suffering from dementia, Ginny was lovingly cared for at home by her beloved husband, Joel. Although dearly missed, Ginny’s warm and loving spirit lives on through the many memories she leaves behind.
Virginia M. “Ginny” Kerney, age 90, of Kalamazoo, died on Thursday, January 7, 2016. Surviving is her husband of 60 years, Joel Kerney; three children: Teri (Ed) Hartmann, Steve and John Kerney; eight grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; brother, Robert (Janet) Cowels; many nieces and nephews. Cremation will take place and private services are being planned. Please visit Ginny’s personal memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign her online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Joseph Church Building Fund, the Kalamazoo Humane Society or to the American Red Cross. Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler-Kalamazoo, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 375-2900.