Virginia Catherine Amundson

Virginia Catherine Amundson

KNOX — Dedication to family didn’t deter Virginia Amundson’s travels and curiosity. It fueled it. She had a quick humor and extended her love to her deceased mother and to children who weren’t her own.

After retiring to Cookeville, Tenn., with her husband, Andrew S. Amundson, Mrs. Amundson traveled widely with her family to see grandchildren perform and visit the nation’s parks. She stayed in contact with friends across the country, and, even after they died, their children.

She spent most of her life as a mother and did everything she could to take care of her family.

“When we needed help, my mother was always there,” said her daughter, Virginia Climo. “So she never asked for anything in return. She just asked that we did the same for our own children.”

Virginia Catherine Amundson, died on Monday, Feb. 24, from complications of a stroke on Jan. 30, Ms. Climo said. She was 89.

“She had a caring and giving nature, always focused on the well-being of others, and was a constant ray of sunshine to her husband and those around her,” her family wrote in a tribute.

Mrs. Amundson (née Sholtes) was born on Feb. 10, 1925 to Friend and Gertrude Sholtes on the 175-year-old family homestead on Rock Road in Knox.

The Sholteses were members of the First Reformed Church of Berne. Ms. Amundson missed the singing out of hymns during services when she converted to Catholicism, Mr. Admunson’s faith, after her last child was born and her children had all been baptized. Ms. Amundson sang and played piano.

During the Great Depression, the Sholteses ate many, many eggs, which Ms. Amundson later disliked, despite her husband’s fondness for the food.

She wasn’t ashamed of her upbringing, though, and mixed ironic humor with her sweetness.

Once, when she was working as a clerk for the Army after going to business school, she showed up late and her boss asked pejoratively whether she had been milking cows.

“‘By the way, the cows were out and I did have to milk the cows,’” her daughter, Andrea Amundson recalled from her mother’s story.

“Everyone supported her,” Andrea Amundson said of her mother’s colleagues. “‘Yeah we have cows up here. We know we have to be at work in time, but we also have to take care of our farm.’”

Mrs. Amundson believed firmly in her obligation to her parents: “‘That’s what you just did,’” Ms. Climo repeated of her mother’s words.

When she was 18, Mrs. Amundson’s mother died of breast cancer. She told her children how fortunate they were to have their mother. Ten years after her mother’s death, after Mrs. Amundson was married and had started a family, her father had a heart attack.

“She said, ‘Some decisions you make in life are hard,’” her daughter recalled. “She went back to the farm to make sure the farm was taken care of, because he couldn’t do that.”

By then, Mrs. Amundson had married her husband, a carpenter in New York City. They would meet in Kingston, halfway between their homes, when she was taking care of her family and he was working in the city. They held hands constantly, and kissed in car rides as they passed through Kingston.

He calls her his crutch. “She was the one that made sure he got up in the morning, got dressed, and ate his dinner,” said Ms. Climo.

Their marriage of 62 years ended only with her death. Having spent most of their adult lives in Nauraushaun and Pearl River, in Rockland County, the Amundsons retired to Tennessee.

They never sat still, though, continuing to travel, visiting friends and satisfying their curiosity for history. Mrs. Amundson was eligible to be a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

“You had to know the families and know where everyone was buried,” Ms. Climo said. “And she was afraid of snakes and didn’t want to go tromping through some of these graveyards.”

A Girl Scout and Boy Scout leader, Mrs. Amundson was beloved by the neighborhood kids. She drove carloads of children to the mall and back and let her children’s college friends stay over and eat a warm meal any time of day. She had an open-house policy, her daughter, Andrea Amundson, said.

“Our house was always clean,” Andrea Amundson said of the traditional vandalism by teenagers the night before Halloween. “They never attacked our house or did anything around our hosue beause everybody, all the kids, just loved our parents.”

Mrs. Amundson met her husband while she was visiting a Rhode Island resort. She was reclining in an Adirondack chair, her daughter said, when Mr. Amundson walked up to her and stared into her blue eyes, asking her to save a dance for him at the resort’s party.

“He told her he was going to marry her,” Ms. Climo said. “She said, ‘Oh, you think so?’ And they did.”

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Virginia Amundson is survived by her husband, Andrew Amundson; her five children, Friend Amundson, Mark Amundson and his wife, Margaret, Patricia Catherine Nugent and her husband, Keith, Virginia Mary Climo and her husband, Michael, Andrea Lynn Amundson, and Martin Andrew Amundson and his wife, Trudy; her seven grandchildren, Valerie Bomar and her husband, Wayne, Kristin Amundson, Jamie Lee Nugent, Colleen Amundson, Deborah Climo, Matthew Nugent, and Victoria Amundson; her great-granddaughter, Cora Bomar; and numerous loving in-laws, nieces, nephews, and a host of long-time friends.

Calling hours and a memorial service will be held this evening, Feb. 27 at West Harpeth Funeral Home in Nashville, Tenn. The funeral will take place at the Middle Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery on Friday morning. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital to honor Virginia’s tradition at 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105.

— Marcello Iaia

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