June 12, 2023, 90, Goldsboro –
Virginia (“Ginger”) Susan Whiteford was born on March 23, 1933, in Flint Michigan to John and Lorna Whiteford. She was the second of eight children and came into this world at the height of the Great Depression. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was sworn in as the 32nd President of the United States on March 4, 1933—she would live through 14 more.
Her father John worked at the Chevrolet Motor Company in Flint, and shortly after Ginger was born, the family moved back to Minnesota to the small town of Osseo, a suburb of Minneapolis. Ginger thrived in this environment and learned the value of money, taking care of and nurturing her younger siblings, and working hard in school. She graduated from Osseo High School in 1951 and was a majorette with the marching band. Her high school classmates also referred to her as “Marilyn Monroe,” a testament to her charm and beauty.
Upon graduation, Ginger matriculated to Moravian College in Bethlehem Pennsylvania. She had family in the Lehigh Valley, specifically her first cousin, Thomas Jensen, who was a Lehigh University engineering student. Mom loved college and was a good student, however, with seven other siblings, the family could not afford tuition.
Truth be told, due to the family’s finite resources, Ginger thought it more important that her sister Janet use the Moravian College tuition for dance school (Janet would later become a very prominent belly dancer in the Delaware Valley). This type of selflessness was a character trait that Ginger would carry throughout her life.
After leaving Moravian College, Ginger took a job with Eastern Airlines, the airline founded by World War I Ace, Eddie Rickenbacker, who she was proud to have met. This job took her to Philadelphia, which is where she would eventually meet and marry her husband, Marvin Lewbart.
In addition to working at Eastern Airlines, she took a part-time job at the medical library at Jefferson Medical College. She met Marvin in 1952 and they quickly became close. Ginger would leave Philadelphia and return to Minnesota to help take care of her beloved Aunt Helen, who was ill. As was customary before email and computers, Ginger and Marvin would write each other letters and plan short visits while Marvin continued his studies.
Marvin had just finished two pharmacy degrees at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science, and as the story goes, Marvin’s roommate left an application to Jefferson Medical College sitting on the table. Ginger said to Marvin “You should apply to medical school,” and Marvin agreed. Marvin graduated from Jefferson in early June 1957 and Marvin and Ginger eloped and married on June 15, 1957.
Marvin was Jewish and Ginger was Irish Catholic. This was in 1957. “Mixed marriages” of this type were not common. Marvin’s parents, Abraham and Ada, did not approve of Marvin marrying a Shiksa! Undaunted, Ginger quickly won over her in-laws. True, Ginger was not Jewish, but she enthusiastically learned the Lewbart customs, attended synagogue, and learned how to cook the traditional Jewish foods of Eastern Europe. In fact, when Ada passed away in 1967, Ginger insisted that her father-in-law Abe, move in with the family. Mom was all about family, first and foremost.
Any religious discord forever dissipated when Gregory Aldo Lewbart was born on March 2, 1959, and followed in rapid succession by, did we say rapid, Daniel Taylor Lewbart, on January 27, 1960, Randolph Charles Lewbart on May 2, 1961, and Keith John Lewbart on November 29, 1963. The first three boys were born in Minnesota and Keith was born in Willingboro, New Jersey. The joke at the hospital was, “Are you going to try for the basketball team next year?”
The family would spend the next 15 years in Willingboro, and every summer was spent in Maine, as Marvin was able to take time off from his laboratory work at Jefferson Hospital. Mom was a total trooper. Not only did she spend the entire summer in a two-room cabin with all males, but she encouraged all of her sons to enjoy and appreciate the beauty of nature and the outdoors.
She was never afraid to pick up a turtle, snake, or half-eaten mouse or vole that the family cat, Patches, dragged into the house. She fished, went target shooting, and boating, and had to do all the cooking and cleaning too—four boys remember!
Unfortunately, Mom and Dad divorced in 1978, and this was an extremely painful time for Ginger, however, due to her faith and perseverance, she survived. Mom was a survivor.
Also, Mom had this uncanny ability to postulate what each of her sons would become as adults, and she was the ultimate cheerleader. Gregory, you will be a veterinarian, Danny a lawyer, Randy a businessman, and Keith an engineer—I’d say she pretty much nailed it. To say Mom was a glass-half-full kind of woman is an understatement.
Sure, Mom could have had her own career, she was handy, smart, and loved crafts, and real estate, but to her, the most important job, and the job she loved the most, as she said many times, “was raising her four sons.” She was a great mother.
In later life, Mom was a Eucharistic Minister at her local church, cooking for two priests, and gave away most of her disposable income to charities. She loved animals, her dog Shelby, and her cat Deli. She also embraced diversity and loved people of all colors, creeds, and walks of life. This was Mom. She never thought she was better than anybody else.
But perhaps her most important calling was as a grandmother. She loved; I mean loved her grandchildren. She would do anything for her four grandsons and three granddaughters. She had no greater joy than spending time with them. In age order, Jeremy (29), Tyler (28), Ryan (22), Joshua (21), Maya (17), Amina (15), and Layna (12).
For the last 10 years, Mom was cared for by her exceptional and loving caregiver, Terry Walden. Terry looked after Mom in her Deptford home, and after Mom moved to North Carolina in 2017 to be with Greg and Diane, Terry moved in with them. The collective care provided by Terry, Greg, Diane, as well as Pam Ingram, kept Mom safe and happy. Mom would always sing and never lost her zest for life.
Ginger is predeceased by the father of her four sons, Marvin L. Lewbart, parents, John Whiteford and Lorna Whiteford, brothers, Jack Whiteford, Thomas Whiteford, Basil Whiteford, sister Janet Pinkoski, former husband Bill Adler, and longtime partner James Frederick.
She is survived by her four sons, Gregory A. Lewbart, Randy C. Lewbart, Danny T. Lewbart, and Keith J. Lewbart, daughters-in-law, Diane Deresienski, Shafinaz (Jui) Akhter, Susan Lewbart and Donna Lewbart, sisters Phyllis Karmels and Cheryl Farley, and brother Vincent Whiteford as well as her grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers or other gifts please consider donating to 3 HC hospice or your local SPCA.