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Virginia Ambrose

April 13, 1916 ~ December 28, 2021 (age 105)


Virginia (Ginny) Brooks Ambrose was born a long time ago, one Friday the 13th during WW1, and in the faraway setting of a remote farm in East Tennessee. She attended schools in Ooltewah and Chatanooga, where her main interests were in activities that could use and develop her urge to be beautiful and sophisticated: she learned deportment and refined her accent, she was proficient on the violin, gaining selection to the District Orchestra, and she read books which took her to worlds that stimulated her imagination.

She made her first dramatic step when she travelled to New York as a very young woman, with little to support her apart from her stunning beauty and her skill to engage with people and be noticed. There, she joined up with a crew of other lively and lovely girls, who were her lifelong pals, and who have gradually predeceased her, the last, her soulmate, Liz Merrill, who lived the last years of her eventful life in Tryon. They all had successful modelling careers, and the photos from the time show why. Also, Ginny worked in a bank, and, probably more to her liking, she performed a role for various department stores where at that time fashion shows were put on in the elegant tea room to model their clothes. Ginny’s job was to dress the girls and teach them graceful movement and etiquette.

When WW2 began, and sold War Bonds, and also she and her friends worked as Gray Ladies, supporting medical staff in Military hospitals. Many soldiers returning injured from war must have found some sort of comfort when their brows were soothed by such glamorous women.

She married Bill Cole, a young navigator on an oil tanker, and their first son was born in 1944. This baby was Jim Cole, a late resident of Tryon where he came when he retired from founding and running a business based in Florida, and whose obituary appeared here is May. The couple moved to Memphis after the War, and she took up her real career, which was as a homemaker. Her second son, Steven, was born there in 1948.

In 1954 she married Lewis Davis, a dentist, well, the dentist, in Winchester, Indiana, and he became the very dear step-father to her boys. She took on the role of a person of status in a Midwestern town, with an active social life, and plenty of the game that bewitched her, bridge. Her obsession with that game stayed with her for the rest of her life, and she drove herself to her last game at the Foothills Bridge Club when she was over a hundred.

On his retirement, the family sought to escape the harsh winters of Indiana, and took the brave step of moving to a broken city called Savannah, and buying a derelict 4 story Georgian terraced house with two carriage houses at the back. The purchase price was $14,500, and while the cost of careful restoration, on which Ginny was project manager, was much more, it was hardly in proportion to what six downtown Savannah apartments are worth today. The couple enjoyed the vibrant social life that was on offer in that beautiful, cosmopolitan and fast developing city.

Passing through Tryon in 1979 on their way somewhere, they liked the place, and decided to seek a quieter life in North Carolina. During the following years, Virginia owned various nice houses around the town, and she worked at The Book Shelf and at the Orchard Inn in Saluda until well into her 80’s. She was a member of the Congregational Church, and in later years she often joined her son and his wife Elaine at the Methodist Church. She also travelled widely, and frequently visited Florida, and her younger son who lives with his family in England. Her 6 grandchildren were a delight to her.

In 2005, she married Jim Ambrose, a distinguished and philanthropic member of this community, and she helped Jim remodel his magical house in the woods, where they entertained lavishly. She continued to join every bridge game on offer at Foothills.

Ginny’s100th birthday party, organized tirelessly by Elaine, was an impressive social event at Sunnydale, but Jim’s death shortly after brought about a curb on her activities. She suffered several falls (she had always scampered about quickly, in the way that she probably learned as a youngster on the Tennessee hills, but which was not so wise for such an old lady), and she had to reluctantly give up her cherished dream of finishing her days independently in her woodland house. She settled at Ridge Rest in Columbus, where she became a special resident, certainly a character. During these last years, she engaged Jan Horton as her companion and care giver, and the strong bond they formed sustained her through some hard times (it isn’t easy piling on the years after 100), while also they had many laughs together. People in many local restaurants must have been curious to notice the two of them coming for lunch: Ginny always enjoyed her food, especially Southern cooking, and plenty of it!

A photo which Jan took of Ginny a couple of weeks before she died is clearly the same woman that can be seen sporting elegant dresses and hats during her modelling days in the 30’s. In fact, she never thought of herself as old, and she flirted to the point of embarrassment right to the end. When the records office which housed her birth certificate burned down in about 1942, the glamorous young thing took advantage, and shaved a few years off her age: it can now be revealed that Ginny Ambrose died aged 108, to her last day applying rosewater and glycerin to her still radiant skin.

A memorial service honoring her life will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 15, 2022 at Tryon United Methodist Church with Rev. Lynnette James Sills officiating.

Mask will be required and social distancing will be observed.

To send flowers to Virginia's family, please visit our floral store.


Memorial Service
January 15, 2022

2:00 PM
Tryon Methodist Church

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