Virginia Railsback Neiley
Virginia Railsback Neiley, a resident of Shelburne, Vt., since 2002 and formerly of Moline, Ill., died peacefully at the McClure Miller VNA Respite House in Colchester, Vt., on November 17, 2017 following a debilitating stroke. She was 96.
Ginny was born in Moline on July 16, 1921 to Howard and Eve Railsback. She attended St. Katherine’s School (Davenport, Iowa), and graduated from Connecticut College for Women (New London, Conn.) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1943. In her senior year, she met and fell in love with Lieutenant George F. Neiley Jr., then an instructor of navigation and seamanship at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy across the street. They married that summer and lived a truly wonderful life together until George’s death in 2003.
During Ginny and George’s years in Moline and Rock Island (1945-2002), Ginny was an enthusiastic community contributor as an active member of the Tri-City Garden Club and the First Congregational Church, a founding member of the Moline Conservatory Board, president and member of the Junior Symphony Board, a member of the Chapter KT of PEO, a member of the Quad City Symphony Guild, the Elizabeth Jane Brasher Circle of Kings Daughters, and the Junior Service League of Moline, to name a few.
She was also an innovative entrepreneur and business owner, selling a range of women’s and children’s clothing, narrow Wiggin bow ties, gourmet food items and Brahmin leather bags at periodic showings in her home.
She loved gardening, tennis, swimming (she could simultaneously float on her back and read a book), boating, skinny dipping, yoga, crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, and winning at Scrabble – she deftly played two 14-point words the day of her stroke. She insisted that her obituary include that she climbed flagpoles, “to the top”!
She painted and drew prolifically, creating hundreds of note cards that she sold, donating the proceeds to the Stern Center of Williston, Vt., and to Michillinda, her summer cottage association in Michigan. Her art was fanciful, abstract and representational, reflecting the beauty she observed around her.
Always inclined toward literature, learning and good conversation, she vigorously participated in book groups throughout her adult life. A book was always at hand, often an autobiography of notable women, or one pertaining to the visual arts, or dogs, important pages marked – never dog-eared – with a bit of newsprint. She couldn’t exit a used bookstore empty-handed. She introduced “Story Hour” at her retirement community in Shelburne and read each Thursday afternoon to fellow residents in her apartment from writings she selected.
Most of all, Ginny loved her family, and her countless friends, never missing an opportunity to share her enthusiasm and love. She emanated warmth and acceptance, and a genuine interest in the lives of others, always, always making them feel at their best.
Gin, Gram, Grammy, Mom, will be remembered most for the delight, curiosity, grace and boundless love with which she embraced the world and lived her life. In conversations, she listened attentively, her replies always thoughtful, and often colored by her sharp wit and infectious sense of humor. Her graciousness and buoyant confidence in human nature were unflagging and contagious. She lived every moment, crashing into Lake Michigan waves, listening to Porter, Gershwin, Sondheim, Puccini, reading, engaging with friends with keen interest and heart wide open. She loved fiercely and unconditionally and was loved in return – the steadfast give and take that confirms the power of a life fully lived. Despite the tragic loss of her beloved daughter Cynthia to cancer at age 42, and George’s stroke and lingering disability later in life, Ginny was certain she was the luckiest of women. She lived in gratitude and wonder – it was simply her essence.
Ginny was preceded in death by her parents, her brother Tad, her daughter Cynthia Neiley Hyde in 1986, and her husband George F. Neiley Jr. in 2003. She leaves her son George F. Neiley III (Ellen O’Brien) of Charlotte, Vt., her daughter Nancy F. Neiley (Edgar Harber) of Bozeman, Mont., her son-in-law Douglas G. Hyde (Margaret Holden) of Grand Isle, Vt., and seven grandchildren: Timothy Hyde of Davis, Calif., Stephen Hyde of Boulder, Colo., Alice Neiley of Ottawa, Canada, George Neiley IV of San Francisco, James Neiley of Brooklyn, N.Y., William Harber of Bozeman, Molly Harber of Bozeman, and one great-grandson, Liam Follingstad-Hyde, of Boulder.
Private services are being arranged in Vermont and Michigan. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that any remembrances be sent to the Cynthia Neiley Hyde Scholarship Fund, Rivermont Collegiate (formerly St. Katherine’s School), 1821 Sunset Drive, Bettendorf, IA 52722.
On Ginny’s behalf, the family would like to express its gratitude to her dear friends and health care professionals for their loving support, kindnesses and care extended to Ginny and her family, especially during her days at the UVM Medical Center and the McClure Miller VNA Respite House.
The family was assisted by Elmwood-Meunier Funeral Home, Burlington.