Helen “Ginny” Funk
“There is a difference between God’s money and the church’s money,” Grandma Ginny would tell her granddaughter. “God’s money is when you help a person in need.”
For Helen Virginia “Ginny” Funk, “God’s money” meant buying coffee and biscuits for the men who gathered at the Hardees, in Iowa City, Iowa, where she worked as the hostess. The men came from all corners of Iowa City, some were Veterans of Foreign Wars, some were homeless, some lived in her building, The Capitol House, but not all of them were destitute or poor. Ginny was known for her generous spirit, kind smile and the row of jingly bracelets she wore on her arms. All of her life she was exceptionally beautiful and she had many suitors, none of whom she pursued. But she loved it when she had a dance partner for square dancing at the Iowa City Rec Center on Saturday nights.
She will also be remembered as grandmother to many of the foreign exchange students who studied at the University of Iowa and were homesick for family. Ginny’s living room was littered with framed photograph’s of Korean and Chinese babies who would visit their American grandmother at Hardees, and then later McDonalds.
Born in Eufala, Oklahoma, on the cusp of the Great Depression, Helen Virginia, preferred to be called by her middle name, Virginia, which she later shortened to Ginny. Raised in Eufala with her parents and her five siblings she was close to her grandfather Felix Lee who was wounded in World War I.
“At Christmas, Grandpa would buy the family a large chocolate sampler but I would get my own box of chocolate covered cherries,” Ginny would reminisce.
Ginny Funk enjoyed doing many things well. Each of her five children admired different things about their mother. Her eldest daughter Sandra inherited her mother’s ability to sew like a professional seamstress. Her second daughter Karen studied home economics but envied her mother’s “perfectly flaky pie crust.” Ginny’s youngest daughter Deanne also loved her mother’s “exceptional” cooking and said, “Nothing compared to my mother’s fried chicken.” Ginny’s oldest son, Dean, draws strength from the almost ritualistic act of ironing, “The secret is high heat and taking it slow.” But it is her youngest son David who took care of her in her final years that knew how much she loved to dance. David would exercise his aging mother by playing big band dance tunes on his record player and Ginny’s muscle memory would remember all the steps. https://tinyurl.com/DancingGinny
Ginny loved dancing her entire life, and she would tell of sneaking out of her mother’s house to go dancing with the girls from school. It was on the dance floor that her husband Al wooed her after he returned from World War II.
“On the dance floor we would tell the fellas, 'I’ll lead, Eufala,'” Ginny loved to say.
Ginny ultimately followed her husband Albert “Sarg” Dean Funk Jr. back into the service, as he reenlisted after WWII with the newly created U.S. Air Force. Being a servicemen’s wife meant moving almost every four years, but it also meant she got to celebrate Alaska’s statehood while dancing in the officer’s hall on base Elmendorf, in Anchorage, Alaska.
The family eventually settled in Spencer, Iowa, where Sarg worked as an Air Force recruiter until his retirement in the mid-1970s. After retirement Sarg and Ginny opened Sarg’s Bar a popular dance spot on the outskirts of Spencer. Ginny loved her entrance into the working world, and was a favorite among customers for the same warmth, and spirit that she later brought to her hostessing jobs in Iowa City.
It was in Spencer that she gave birth to her youngest daughter Deanne who was 18 years younger than her oldest daughter. It wasn’t long before Deanne was sharing her parents with her many nieces and nephews. The family home with its pink exterior was a favorite place for her family to gather. However, as a military wife, Ginny was restless and wanted to return back to Panama City, Florida where the family had lived many times. Ginny spent many years moving back and forth from Florida and Iowa torn between friends and family until finally settling in Iowa City.
Ginny passed away peacefully at Mercy Hospital in Iowa City on Sept. 30, 2018, surrounded by love.
She is proceeded in death by her husband, Albert D. Funk Jr.; her daughters: Sandra Henaman and Karen Quigley-Dill; her parents, Joshua Anderson and Lillian Lee Anderson; and four of her siblings.
She is survived by three children: A. Dean Funk III and wife, Judy of Urbandale, Iowa, David Funk of Iowa City, and Deanne Funk and husband, Larry Strain of Iowa City; one brother, Jerry Anderson of Las Vegas, Nevada; six grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
All will miss her, all will feel the void, but this writer knows that Grandma Ginny now rests securely among the saints in heaven and is reunited with her family. The family will be holding a graveside comital for her at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery in Johnston, Iowa, in the summer of 2019. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that honorariums be sent to Pathways Adult Care Center in Iowa City at: 817 Pepperwood Lane, Iowa City, IA 52240 or 800-385-2527.