May 27: Finding Virginia

virginia-hannumAbout a week ago, my husband and I had left church and basically were looking at each other to say, “What you wanna go do?”  Nothing really sounded too appealing until he said, “You wanna check out the library?”  Books are my kryptonite, but I tried to play it cool and said, “Sure, sounds ok.”  (Yeah me!!)

We headed to the Allen County Public Library and it just so happens they were having their annual Cherry Blossom Festival.  My husband was intrigued and admittedly, I was annoyed.  I sat through some martial arts show (yawn) and when he suggested we step into Dunkin Donuts for an ice coffee I was almost running in front of him because one of the great things about this coffee shop was the used bookstore on the inside.

Drinks were ordered and we sat down.  Directly behind my husband was a book with the author “Kelly” listed.  I got up and wondered if this was Matthew Kelly, an author who I noticed his books in my boss’s office earlier that week.  Sure enough – it was Matthew Kelly and as I grabbed up the book to check it out when a check slipped out from the pages and onto the floor.

My husband picked up the $25.00 check and noticed it had been written almost 10 years prior by a woman named Virginia G. Hannum.  We kind of chuckled about the finding, but I went up and bought the used book…and kept the check.  Both the book and the check were in pristine condition, so I felt an obligation to take care of them.

As we strolled out of the bookstore, I kept wondering who was this Virginia Hannum?  Since I’m in social media, I started Googling.  Believe it or not, there was an article in the Fort Wayne newspaper just a few months ago about Virginia Griffith Hannum celebrating her 100th birthday.  It stopped me right in my tracks.  Was this check written by the same woman?

Crazy as it sounds, I not only showed the article to my husband – but I wanted to meet her!  Mr. Conservative (a/k/a my husband) told me every reason why I shouldn’t, but I didn’t care.  I got in our car and said, “Let’s go!”  Thankfully, this article mentioned she was residing at a local assisted living facility and when we arrived, we went in to find our Virginia!  The nurse aid was not only excited about our story and led us right to Ms. Hannum, but said this woman would be looking forward to meeting us.  (Why, she doesn’t even know us!)

As crazy as it felt to knock on this woman’s door, she was equally crazy to invite us in.  The meeting was incredible to say the least.  Ms. Hannum was in perfect order – hair all done, heels on and had her younger brother (89!) visiting her with his wife.  We told them the story about the book, check, etc.  She just kept saying she couldn’t believe how we found her and how much she appreciated having the check (written to her granddaughter, Andrea) and the book back.  She then went on to tell us much of her life story about earning her Master’s Degree, traveling with the Red Cross, and marrying an Army man (who unfortunately passed away in 1977.)

Ms. Hannum kept trying to pay for the book (which we had only paid $2.17 for at the bookstore) and after my insisting many times I finally said I was willing to make a deal with her.  She could have the book if she could share her secret of how she got to 100 years old?  Without missing a beat, Ms. Hannum got up from her easy chair and walked over to me.  She took my hand in her buttery soft hands and looked me square in the eyes saying with a firm tone that only older generations have mastered, “I lived to be 100 by doing crazy things like what you did today.”  She then reached down and hugged and kissed me.

I left that meeting feeling more solid than I ever have.  She instilled a sense of confidence that I didn’t even realize I was lacking at the time.  Finding Virginia was better than reading all the books I could consume in a lifetime.  She made me feel like I had purpose.

Thank you, Virginia Griffith Hannum!

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14 thoughts on “May 27: Finding Virginia

  1. Lovely story…but could you mention more about the check? Was it for a small amount? A large amount? Did she say what it was originally written for? Not that it’s germane to the story, but it’s a missing detail that tends to distract the reader from the rest of it. 🙂 Thank you!

    • Thank you! I went in and updated the story to include the check amount and who it was written to… I was asked the amount SEVERAL times, so your comment was spot on! Thank you again!

    • Kathy Ingwerson says:

      You didn’t read it very thoroughly! The check was for $25 and it was for her niece. It said so in the story!

      • Hi Kathy! I actually left those two details out of the original version. After Michele brought it to my attention, I went back and updated the story to include them. I didn’t realize they would be so important at the time, but I certainly can appreciate it after going back and reviewing. Thank you for taking time to read! Hope you’re having a great week! (Sheryl Brown)

  2. Andrea wilsie says:

    Such a cool story. Virginia is my grandmother (I’m Andrea) and I’m not surprised that she is continuing to touch strangers lives. If you see this please email me I would love to chat with you about her

  3. Marisa hannum says:

    My Grammy is one amazing woman. My little sister is The Andrea in on the check. Grammy (Virginia) is 102 now. Still going strong, she had been the biggest and brightest influence in my life. She is truly remarkable and irreplaceable. Anyone who has had the privilege of her attention is a better person for it. Love u through the clouds Grammy. Love, marisa

    • Brian Callaghan says:

      Marisa: Your Grammy was a wonderful friend and teacher to our family in Northern Virginia. Please tell her Cathy Callaghan and all of the Callghans send her their best! She’s a remarkable woman!

  4. Damon Wood says:

    I went to France with Ginny Hannum and 6 other Red Cross ladies… to The American Cemetery as well as Paris. She and her compadres were, to steal from Tom Wolfe, the very sisterhood of the right stuff. Wanna see video of interviews with her and others? contact me. jdworldshaker@gmail.com

  5. Heather says:

    What a wonderful story. I attended St. Michael’s School & Parrish in Annandale, VA from the mid-1970s until (8th grade) graduation in 1983. Mrs. Hannum oversaw the annual Speech Contest, which was a lot of work but great fun. I can still hear her reciting “A Valiant Woman” in her beautiful, resonant voice!

  6. Debbie Hook Minett says:

    Mrs. Hannum was my teacher in 7th grade. She was loved by everyone. She directed an annual speech contest and would have us perform as a group reciting such poems as The Highwayman. Such wonderful memories – thank you for writing about her.

  7. Julia Cornell says:

    Mrs. Hannum was my speech teacher for the 7th grade speech contest at St. Michael School in Annandale, VA. She is truly a “Valiant Woman”.

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