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Virginia (Swaney) Fehrenbacher

Virginia (Swaney) Fehrenbacher died May 22, 2023, in Ridgecrest, CA—nine months after celebrating her 100th birthday.

  Born August 19, 1922, in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, to Ruth Logan and Rev. Stockton M. Swaney, Virginia, grew up in Illinois and graduated from Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa. There, this auburn-haired student met her future husband, Don E. Fehrenbacher. The couple married on February 9, 1944—shortly before Don was deployed to Europe to serve as a navigator in the 8th Air Force during World War II. Following the war, Virginia became a busy mother of three small children. At the same time, her husband completed graduate school in Chicago and then joined the faculty at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Virginia Fehrenbacher

In 1953, the family moved to Palo Alto, California, where Don began a thirty-year career as a professor of American history at Stanford University. Virginia earned her teaching credential from San Jose State University and taught in elementary schools in the Palo Alto Unified School District. Virginia, a passionate, innovative teacher, knew how important reading was for a successful education and life itself, and she loved teaching children how to read. After she retired, she continued working as a volunteer reading tutor in the schools well into her eighties, remaining an avid reader until her death. During her decades at Stanford, Virginia also served as a researcher for Don and co-authored with him the Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln (1996). This volume has been described as “the first comprehensive collection of remarks attributed to Abraham Lincoln by his contemporaries.”

          A devoted sports fan, Virginia rooted for Stanford’s football and basketball teams and was a lifelong fan of the Chicago Cubs—attending several ballgames over the years at historic Wrigley Field. She was also an outstanding cook, a gracious hostess for students and faculty, and an enthusiastic traveler—accompanying her husband when he gave lectures or as a guest professor in England, Austria, Canada, and Australia.

         Virginia felt blessed by her sixty-four years at Stanford and especially loved the view of the campus and the mountains when approaching the university from Palm Drive. After Don died in 1997, she remained on the Stanford campus until 2017, when she moved to Ridgecrest, CA, to be closer to her daughter Ruth and son-in-law Larry.  She lived at High Desert Haven Assisted Living in Ridgecrest for six years.

          Virginia is survived by her three children, Ruth (Larry) Gleason, Ridgecrest, CA; Susan (Ralph) Koprince, Lawrence, KS; David (Mary McCarty) Fehrenbacher, Tracy, CA, as well as eight grandchildren, eleven great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.

          In keeping with Virginia’s wishes, there will be no services. May all those who knew her hold her in their hearts and remember her in their prayers.