Virginia Lynn Suttner
Virginia Lynn Suttner
  • April 27, 1944 - July 7, 2016
  • Bloomington, Indiana

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Virginia Lynn (Ginny) Suttner of Bloomington, Indiana passed away peacefully in the presence of her family on Thursday, July 7, 2016 at the IU Health Hospice House. She ultimately lost a year-long battle with acute myeloid leukemia. Ginny was born April 27, 1944 in Elmhurst, Illinois. She was the daughter of the late Harold and Francis Maurine (Norton) Schafer.

Ginny was a first grade teacher and then principal for 17 years at St. Charles Borromeo School in Bloomington. Following her retirement from St. Charles in 2003, she served for 10 years as an educational consultant for the Indianapolis Archdiocese. In the latter role she traveled throughout southern Indiana evaluating and advising elementary Catholic Schools.

Following her graduation from York Community High School in Elmhurst in 1962, where she was junior- class president, a four-year member of the student council, junior prom queen, and member of the National Honor Society, Ginny enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She began as a mathematics major. But ultimately, to the good fortune of literally hundreds of school children whose lives she later would so greatly impact, she decided to change her major to elementary education.

At Madison she also first met her husband-to-be, Lee, who was a graduate student in geology. She was taking a make-up exam in geology one evening in the office of another graduate student. Lee wandered into the office for a break, saw her, and asked what she was doing. She replied that she was taking an exam. Unwisely, he asked if he could help her. She rejected his offer, somewhat angrily. Thankfully, two years later she did not reject his offer to marry her. Ginny and Lee were married on June 12, 1965 and shared the love of one another for over 51 years.

Ginny's attachment to Wisconsin began to grow while she was a young girl. Her parents had a vacation cottage on Lake Ripley near Cambridge, just a few miles east of Madison. Every summer weekend the Schafer family travelled to Cambridge. It was here that Ginny became an accomplished water skier, fisherwoman, and was introduced to golf. Except for water skiing, fishing and golfing evolved into lifetime joys for her.

Ginny, Lee, and their first born, Jennifer, moved to Bloomington in 1966, when Lee joined the geological sciences faculty at Indiana University. Within four years the family would grow to four with the addition of Jim and the twins, Lisa and Lori. No longer could Ginny spend the summers on Lake Ripley. Now she would spend nearly the next 45 summers of her life in the Tobacco Root Mountains of southwest Montana where Lee was teaching and doing research at Indiana University's Judson Mead Geologic Field Station. Lee would always leave a week earlier than Ginny to accompany the students on their trip west. Each summer she would follow in the family's station wagon with the four infants. Jim was just two weeks old when he made his first trip out with her; the twins were only a year old when they made their first Montana trip. Had all of this happened a century earlier, undoubtedly Ginny would have had the confidence, will, and determination to bring the family out by herself on a covered wagon.

While raising four young children, Ginny continued her studies in elementary education at Indiana University. She would go on to receive her BS degree in Elementary Education in 1978 and her MS degree in 1985.

Ginny's decades of summer Montana experiences in her beloved Tobacco Root Mountains profoundly imprinted her life and the lives of her children. All developed a near spiritual addiction to the mountains. All summited the Tobacco Root's highest peaks. And vacation planning for all continues to center on Montana and the mountains.

Although she did her best not to openly exhibit it, those who knew Ginny well learned quickly of her highly competitive nature, both in sports she played so well and as a fan of Indiana University athletics. If a game involved a ball and was being played in part by athletes wearing an Indiana University uniform, she had to be in attendance. In spite of her debilitating disease, less than four months before her passing she and her husband drove round trip over 20 hours to the NCAA basketball games in Des Moines; the following week they made the 24 hour round trip to Philadelphia. And Lee did not have to invoke any arm twisting in order to get Ginny to go. For both, winter, and mainly March, meant going together to basketball games, wherever they were. Fall was for football at Memorial Stadium. Spring was for baseball at Bart Kaufman Field.

Ginny was extraordinarily humble and never wished to be in a spotlight. Yet she could never avoid it. She possessed a genuinely natural radiation. This nearly always illuminated her in the presence of others, in spite of her efforts to remain in the background. Likewise, Ginny was most proud of her career achievements. Yet the family does not ever recall her speaking of these achievements in conversations with others.

Highlighting her lifetime of touching the hearts and minds of young children was her leadership at St. Charles School. During her tenure as principal the enrollment grew from under 300 to over 500 students. The curriculum was expanded with the addition of a preschool and middle school, and a day-care program. With the construction of a gymnasium and additional classrooms, the physical space of the school doubled in size. Ultimately, St Charles School would receive national recognition as a Blue Ribbon award-winning school. In spite of the major role she had in these remarkable achievements, Ginny always deflected full credit for them to her faculty, staff, parents of students, and the support of Father Charles Chesebrough. She felt