Supporting Community Through Reading
Virginia Yerxa Community Read
Virginia Wilson Yerxa (December 23, 1920 - October 21, 2009) grew up with her parents and two younger brothers in the neighborhood hills of Pasadena, California. She left for Bennington College in Vermont in 1938 to study poetry, education and social work. When World War II intervened, she returned to California and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley. On March 8, 1947, she married Charles Tuttle Yerxa, and began her life in Colusa as the wife of a young naval officer turned farmer.
Virginia loved the farming area, and especially the beautiful town of Colusa. She joined Omega Nu Service Sorority, taught Sunday School, led Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts troops for many years in the old scout building in the park, and worked with many other Colusans to endow and build the Colusa Community Hospital. Virginia helped in the process to build the Colusa Golf Course, as well as save important county architectural monuments of the town, such as the courthouse, the Princeton ferry, and most notably the beautiful red brick original Colusa High School, all of which make Colusa distinctive today. While on the Planning Commission, she worked consistently to maintain the small town character of Colusa.
As her four children went through Colusa schools, Virginia volunteered for many school activities. She drove her wood-paneled station wagon to countless athletic events and field trips, and was extremely active in the PTA. She eventually ran for the Colusa Unified School Board, a position she held for twenty-five years. Her purpose was to push for higher reading skills, and higher educational goals, so that all of the children of Colusa would have the opportunity to enter colleges, or have the skills they would need later in life. Central to her purpose was for children to simply enjoy learning. She made an effort to know each child, and because she did know them, Virginia hosted at her home junior-senior proms, baccalaureates, summer music concerts, end-of-school parties, alternative school graduations, reunions, and weddings. In 2002, Virginia was awarded the Golden Apple for her lifetime of service to the schools and school children.
In addition to children and literacy, Virginia had a passion for the arts, especially music. She attended the symphony, opera and theatre regularly in San Francisco, and many were the carloads of her children and their friends who would do the grand tour of museums and historical sites in the City, and up and down California. She later repeated these grand tours with her grandchildren, whom she adored. She supported the arts in her own community, and was known to loan her furniture and rugs for the junior plays and Stagehands productions, often to the surprise of her husband Charlie when he attended the performances. She was also passionate about democracy, spending many afternoons uptown registering everyone she could to vote. She served as the Republican Central Committee Chairman in Colusa County for longer than anyone could possibly figure out, attending many political caucuses and conventions, running campaigns and having fundraisers for office holders from state senators to governors to presidents. She was very proud to be appointed to the State Board of Food and Agriculture, and the State Board of Improving Life Through Service.
Virginia’s natural artistic exuberance displayed itself in her glorious floral arrangements. She seemed to produce them effortlessly--did not mind picking all the available flowers in her garden or stopping by the side of the road to fill in with more wild greens spotted from her speeding car--and then delivered the treasures to someone sick, to someone getting married, or to the altar of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church where she served on the Vestry and the Altar Guild. She loved the color red.
Though Virginia traveled the world with her husband Charlie, she loved nothing more than coming home to Colusa. We hope that her generous spirit, love of community, and sense of adventure live on in this book-in-common experience.