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In Memory: Virginia (Ginger) Watkins

Obituary - Virginia (Ginger) WatkinsVirginia Watkins, known to family and friends as Ginger, passed peacefully on August 22, 2023. She will be remembered as a loving sister, mother and grandmother, a dedicated teacher, and a loyal friend.

Ginger was raised in Belmont, Massachusetts and would go on to live in Arlington, Newton, and Boston before moving to Rye, New York early in 2023. Her love of learning and commitment to women’s education led her to Mt. Holyoke College, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1966. She went on to receive her M.S. in Education from Wheelock College in 1968, and later pursued additional education and training from Tufts University and Lesley College.

Ginger dedicated 30 years to teaching and mentoring in the Newton and Brookline Public Schools, retiring in 2011. She was wholly committed to providing equitable educational opportunities for young children who benefitted from additional learning support. She was passionate about creating warm, inclusive, and safe environments for learning, in the classroom and beyond. She adored her students, choosing to have lunch with them every day at school, and was equally committed to their families. She was a unique and important member of the teaching community, building bridges between school staff, and mentoring countless teachers, interns, and paraprofessionals formally and informally.

Ginger was also the proud mother of three daughters, whose needs she always met ahead of her own. With incredibly limited time and resources, she managed to support them in all of their endeavors. Whether in after school sports or evening chorus concerts, she found ways to be present as an engaged volunteer or encouraging audience member. She ensured that each of her girls had the opportunity to attend college in pursuit of their individual interests and she encouraged them all to study, volunteer, and work abroad before she herself traveled outside the country.

A transformational moment in Ginger’s life was her diagnosis with Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency in 1999, a condition that severely impacted her lungs. As was her nature, upon diagnosis she researched the condition, joined a community of “Alphas”, and began to advocate for their shared cause. Over the course of the next several years, her breathing would continue to worsen, eventually requiring that she wear oxygen 24 hours each day. It was then that she made the incredibly brave decision to join the national organ transplant list in search of new lungs.

Late one evening in 2016, Ginger was granted a double lung transplant at Massachusetts General Hospital, a procedure that would bring her seven years of new life, thanks to her organ donor and transplant team. She made the most of those years, traveling to Spain, England, and Ireland, enjoying reunions with friends, and advocating for research through her participation in the Alpha-1 Foundation’s signature fundraising event, the Celtic Connection. Most importantly to Ginger, she enjoyed more time with her family – reading books and baking banana bread with her grandchildren, adopting a senior dog, trying new recipes and restaurants, and taking road trips with her daughters and sons-in-law.

On the day preceding her death, Ginger shared with her children that all she had ever aspired to be throughout her life was loving, ethical, and good. She expected the same of them, and believed that, together, she and they had done a pretty good job.

Ginger was the youngest of three children and was predeceased by her sister, Janet. She is survived by her brother Jack and his wife Jane, her daughters Kate, Jennifer and Megan, sons-in-law Jeffery and Christopher, her niece Jennifer and her husband Brandon, her grandchildren and grandniece, and her dog, Little Mouse.

In lieu of flowers, Ginger’s family asks that you please consider becoming an organ donor and/or making a contribution to the Alpha-1 Foundation.


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