Hundreds gather Saturday for birthday of long-time teacher and historian Virginia Radeleff
Miss Virginia Radeleff celebrated her 100th birthday on Saturday at the Springville Inn with over 200 friends and family who came from near and far to wish her many happy returns. The elegant celebration was hosted by the Tule River Historical Society.
“Such an exciting day. If you have your heart in Springville, it remains in Springville, wherever you go” said Carlas Hill, who went on to say everyone who grew up educated and mentored by Radeleff remained attached to all their friends and family, and had strong and independent values even though they grew up together in a small town. Even if they moved or traveled far away, the values, friendships, and substance of people remained the same.
Radeleff is a beloved educator and pillar of Springville and surrounding communities, and her family helped settle the town in the early 20th century. Her father was a blacksmith who also ran the gas station, with her mother operating the switchboard from 1928 until 1956, and a branch of the Tulare County library in their home.
Redeleff’s niece Wanda Bailey and family drove from Arizona to spend time with their “Aunt Jenna,” and Connie Ming, a dear friend of “Miss Virginia,” came all the way from Arkansas to see her.
She said Miss Virginia was one of the best basketball coaches they ever had in Springville, and Miss Virginia replied, “There are so many trophies down at the museum they didn’t know what to do with them all.”
“Thank you for all the happy memories,” said Ming.
“She is the most amazing woman,” said Shiffra Walder, “She knows everyone and what they do in town.”
“Miss Virginia and 30 of her friends started the Springville Historical Society 30 years ago,” said Hill. “She purchased the land for the museum and donated the majority of the artifacts in it. Who would have thought that we’d all be here for Miss Virginia’s 100th birthday? And she’s still here!”
“It’s a distinct honor to recognize Miss Virginia Radeleff and read a short history of her life,” said County Supervisor of District 5 Dennis Townsend, who presented Radeleff with a proclamation from the Tulare County Supervisors congratulating her on her 100 years of a remarkable and fulfilled life.
Here are just some of Radeleff’s biographical details that Townsend shared with those in attendance:
Virginia Juanita Radeleff was born March 19, 1919 at the Porterville Hospital on Main St. to parents William and Juanita Radeleff.
She attended Springville Union School, and later graduated from Porterville High School 1936, Porterville Jr. College in 1938, and UC Berkeley in 1940 with a teaching degree in Secondary Education. She later earned a second teaching credential in elementary education from UCLA.
She studied with Frank Latta and worked on research regarding the Yokut Indians of the local area.
She worked at North American Aviation from 1941 to1942, and received a certificate for Drafting and Blueprints from Los Angeles City College.
Returned to Springville and started teaching in the fall of 1943.
Radeleff has served in many capacities over the years. She was on the scholarship board of UC Berkeley. She has been a member of the University Womens Club, served on the board of the Springville Chamber of Commerce, is a lifetime member of the Springville Community Club and founding member of Wonder Women Investment Club.
She manned lookouts in Springville, spotting planes during WWII.
She first retired from teaching in 1979, but continued to do to long term substitute teaching because “that’s where her heart was.” She eventually returned to teach full time until her retirement in 1998.
Radeleff was the founder and first president of the Tule River Historical Society (where she serves as Treasurer to this day), and is also founder and organizer of the Springville Historical Museum, and is a prolific writer of local historical articles.
The Springville Chamber of Commerce gave her a plaque in recognition of her unstinting service to education and the community, and thanked her for everything.
Brent Gill spoke at length about growing up as a student of Radeleff’s, as did well-known local singer Jerry Hall. Former photographer-about-town and historian Jeff Edwards spoke about writing a book with Radeleff in 1947 about Springville, noting that she took control over the process and ordered at least 100 copies or more.
Gill spoke about Radeleff with great regard and asked her former students to raise their hands in the audience. About 25 raised their hands, but people dropped in to say hello throughout the afternoon, left greeting cards, brought flowers to their friend and very special centenarian.
“What a pleasure and honor it is to be here at Miss Virginia’s 100th birthday. She’s given the gift of education to so many people in the Springville community,” said Hall before serenading Radeleff with a few of her favorite tunes.
Brent Gill spoke about at least three generations of her students being at the celebration, and Hall spoke at length about all the teachers they had together.
Hall told about an experience with Mr. Simpson, his teacher, when Hall worked as a Highway Patrol officer. Miss Virginia reminded Hall of that story, and he told it with great humor at the celebration.
“Everyone passed through her class,” said Hill. “Then she retired and came back to teach Special Education and Kindergarten. She then retired again in 1998, and then got involved in founding and running the Tule River Historical Society and helped buy the land, build and organize the Springville Museum. She’s a driving force in Springville society.”
Kelley Hansen, who bakes cookies and pies and owns Ciderhouse Foods, spoke lovingly of Radeleff, and said she taught Hansen’s father, brother, and herself in the mid1980s.
“Miss Virginia played a mean game of Candyland, and she spent a lot of time with me to draw me out, got me to talk and socialize,” she said. “She’s so sturdy for her age and she’s very alert. You just have to talk to her and keep her involved.”
“It was a great Springville community celebration, and I loved seeing everyone get together, especially the older Springville crowd,” said Hill.