(Standing) Dawn Galvin Meiners, Patsy Callahan, Carol Critchfield, and Claudia
Critchfield, (sitting) Cindy Galvin, Virginia, and Paul Critchfield at Virginia's home in
Paradise Valley, December 1998
I once heard the story of the nine-angel choir. Their voices are said to form an arc that can solely be the act of God. And from high above the clouds looking down on the earth below, they cradle us with soft, yet certain direction. Their bends of light phase down on all that is-things known and unknown, created or not yet realized. They quietly teach us how to live deliberately and confront happiness, to make the gracious effort to carry the weight of oneself as well as community. They sing of the spirit of greatness, to explore your soul and be the instrument of positive, personal, and permanent change. I think Virginia has always heard the music of the nine-angel choir and responded with purpose and passion. She taught us how not to be a prisoner of possibilities, only a hero of events yet to be.
A rosary service was held on June 16 at Messinger Chapel in Scottsdale, and a private Mass for the family was held on June 17 at the Virginia G. Piper Memorial Chapel at the Diocesean Center in Phoenix. Virginia was eulogized by Bob Galvin, Laura Grafman, and Paul Critchfield.
She was laid to rest alongside her second husband, Kenneth Piper, and her parents, Kenneth and Jessica Critchfield. A Celebration of Life memorial service for friends and associates was held the following day at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, the Mass celebrated by Virginia's old friends Bishop Thomas O'Brien and Father Frank Fernandez. Musical tributes were offered by the Phoenix Boys Choir and the Phoenix Symphony Trio. Virginia's entombment took place at Greenwood Memorial Cemetery in Phoenix.
At the St. Francis Xavier service, over four hundred and fifty people joined together to pay tribute to a woman who in less than a quarter of a century had transformed and raised standards of excellence in health, education, arts, care for children and the elderly, and religion in rapidly growing Maricopa County. Few individuals who are given the opportunity possess the courage to make such a profound and positive impact on so many others.
Using the wealth entrusted to her, Virginia offered resources and hope for hundreds of organizations and countless individuals. Then, at the proper time, she prepared others to take her place, choosing those she knew and trusted to say yes, just as she had once done. Paul Critchfield, Laura Grafman, Jim Bruner, and Robert Williams were appointed by Virginia as Lifetime Trustees of The Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust. Today and far into the future, the grace and love of Virginia G. Piper's life will continue in the permanence of her legacy.
From the little girl in coveralls sitting in a sun-swept, treeless pasture in southern Idaho to the shy young woman employed as a medical receptionist in downtown Chicago- to the poised and gracious wife of the president of Motorola, to the young widow making her first forays into charity work, to the fabulously happy Mrs. Kenneth Piper, to the second-time widow, and finally to the philanthropist of independent spirit and surpassing vision,the story of Virginia G. Piper evokes compelling and heartfelt admiration.
Though Virginia's name appears, in 2008, on over forty buildings, wings, major sections of buildings and on dedication plaques throughout the Valley, Virginia never desired visible recognition for herself. Her nephew, Paul Critchfield, among others, managed to persuade her how significant the Virginia Piper name, publicly displayed, would be for those organizations and charities she supported, guaranteeing them stronger credibility and the status to attract further funding. As John Ferree, Jr., current president of Scottsdale Healthcare Foundation, comments, "Anything with Virginia's endorsement or name beside it was a signal to other benefactors that this was a respectable charitable investment."
Between 1975 and 1999, Virginia's life was marked by a civic activism of such surpassing breadth, one has to wonder what Maricopa County would be like today had she elected to live differently, that is, with less generosity. Yet her name represents the opposite of self-regard. It is instead synonymous with all those people-known or unknown, honored or unrecognized-who give of themselves to uplift and benefit others. This, then, would surely be Virginia's highest wish for recognition, that her name and life might inspire others to greater acts of love, charity, and grace.
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