Saturday, September 2, 2006

Farewell to the Radical's Mom

I have not been posting much recently because I lost my Mom last July.

She was a remarkable woman. In the interest of providing a more permanent link, I have included a news story from the (fine) South Whidbey Record below. (Sorry I couldn't just link them--they do not provide such a service.)

Aug 02 2006
Virginia Jones Price: A woman of substance

Virginia Jones Price, who passed away July 21 at age 76, was a woman known for running a tight ship.

Case in point: A year ago she moderated a League of Women Voters forum for the Port of South Whidbey commissioners race. She carefully explained the format but when one of the candidates began to stray from his allotted time, she didn't hesitate to enforce the rules.

She treated everyone with respect, fairness and courtesy even as she gently admonished them. Jones Price was a woman of substance who could raise four children, run a business, facilitate a meeting, organize others for good causes and persuade the community to fight the good fight, said friends and family.

And she never wavered from the principles on which she lived her life.

Jones Price was born in Seattle on Oct. 24, 1929 and graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in English literature in 1951. She then lived in New York City until 1965; her husband was a classmate of Christopher Reeves' father and Jones Price acted as godmother to the future actor.

Eventually Jones Price divorced and she moved her four children to Langley to join the business begun by her parents in 1956.

For the next 26 years—first with her mother, Matilda, then her daughter Helen—Jones Price outfitted a good many of Langley's citizens, including a future mayor.

"Jones Department Store was the place to head for baby, teen, men and women's clothing," Neil Colburn recalled. "She was a huge presence here in Langley, a real icon, tirelessly engaged in many aspects of island life."

Ever so slowly, we're losing our greatest generation and that's a sad thing," Colburn said.

Worked for ERA

Helen Price Johnson remembered her mother getting together with friends at a local tavern to rally support for the Equal Rights Amendment.

"There were a lot of female business owners at that time and they fervently believed in a woman's right to make her own decisions," Price Johnson said.

The Doghouse Women's Motorcycle Club for the ERA was a bit of a misnomer, as none of them knew much about motorcycles. But they made their point with grace and good humor.

Over time, Jones Price actively supported many school, civic, and professional organizations on South Whidbey. She was named the 1995 Woman of the Year by the South Whidbey Business and Professional Women and was elected first president of the League of Women Voters.

She also served as president of the Langley Chamber of Commerce, Maxwelton Community Club, Scatchet Head Community Club, South Whidbey PTSA, Music Boosters of South Whidbey, and the South Whidbey Historical Society.

In addition, she volunteered for the Langley United Methodist Church Council and South Whidbey Boy Scout Troop 57.

"You couldn't talk to her without being lobbied on behalf of a kids or community undertaking," Colburn said.

Her son Evan agreed.

"Our mother taught us to respect participatory democracy and the value of being true to oneself," he said.

Kitchen collection

Price Johnson recalled her mother had a predilection for kitchen gadgets.

"She collected them, as well as recipes and cookbooks. Frankly, she was better at collecting than cooking," she noted with a smile.

Jones Price enjoyed being self-sufficient and was fairly handy around the house, but there were limits.

"As she got older, she sometimes would ask me for help," Price Johnson recalled. "One day she came to my house with a pair of problems. Her videocassette recorder was jammed and her windshield wipers wouldn't work. She brought in her VCR with a tape jammed in it, and a how-to book for us to follow as we fixed it. Though we went step by step through the instructions, we were unable to make the machine work."

"Frustrated, we turned to the car and boldly unscrewed parts and tried to dismantle the wiper mechanism to get to the problem. Carefully removing the housing, we knew we were in trouble when the tiny bushing springs popped loose. Try as we might, we couldn't put them back where they belonged," she added.

Price Johnson's husband David came home, laughed and went into the kitchen to get the VW manual, only to find the counter covered by the dismantled VCR machine parts.

"That wasn't our best day as home repairmen," Price Johnson noted.

Jones Price was the kind of person who did the The New York Times crossword puzzle every day—with a pen.

Granddaughter Lauren Johnson said her grandmother was both supportive and non-judgemental of all the family.

"She was a great resource for homework—you could ask her anything," she said. "She either knew the answer or where to find it."

Though she held certain political beliefs, Jones Price was a proponent of League of Women Voter forums.

"She took her non-partisan role seriously," her daughter said. "People argued their case over any issue, but were always able to put the chairs back amicably. She believed that civility in politics was possible and taught us that, for government to work, citizens must be involved."

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or e-mail

© Copyright 2005 South Whidbey Record

You can read more here in her guestbook.

My mother followed and enjoyed this blog, and we loved to discuss the political landscape in South Dakota and around the country. She felt that the tide was indeed turning, and sooner than any of us had expected.

Fare thee well, Mom. You are and inspire the best.


  1. Pam B.17:58

    My condolences on your loss; it's never easy to lose a parent. Your mom sounds like quite a woman! I wondered if something had happened because you hadn't posted anything on your blog in quite awhile. My thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time.

  2. Sophia20:14

    Thank you for sharing about your mother. She sounds like the kind of outstanding person I would have enjoyed.

    I lived in Concrete, WA, for a year as an intern. Whidbey Island is nice. The whole area is wonderful.

    I think in that story when they wrote "Scatchet", they probably meant "Skagit", as in the river.

    My sincerest condolences on the loss of your mother. And my sincerest compliment that you got to grow up under the direction of such a lovely mother.