God Speed, Mom

Day Lilly

My usual mode in this space is to find the ugly, the crazy, the leftie-pinko nutcase idea and argue against it. Cops need a punch in the face. We should burn D.C. and impale all 600 or so members of Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court as a start, then genocide our way through the civil servants . . . blah, blah, blah.

If you come this way looking for that today, go away. This isn’t that. Not today. My Mom passed quietly on June 5th, 2006 in the afternoon. She was 83. There are times when I don’t want to stay in my usual mode and try to find comedy in all the ways my family is/was dysfunctional. I mean, I’m her son. How did that happen? No, this post, this moment, is time to look back and praise a good Christian woman who went home to Christ yesterday.

I found out about her passing while at work. At that moment I had an angry client who claimed I’d given her a dirty, used laptop that wasn’t properly prepared for her. Which, was almost true. None of the laptops we issue are new. All of them have had at least a few hours in the hands of a factory certified technician preparing it for the client. A fresh out of the box laptop would be unusuable. But, in computer-whack-a-mole as in cab driving I don’t deal with the 99% of the community that is fine. I make a living on the 1% that isn’t fine. This space is dedicated to the 1% who are not fine. And as we had a chance to help the angry client it turned out that another part of our team hadn’t created the necessary accounts for her so she could use her computer. Which . . . I could do but don’t have permission to do so I didn’t/don’t.

But, this isn’t about my wonderful, wild life in Desktop/Deskside Support. It’s about Ginny Webb, 83, wife of Robert Byron Webb, kin of the Peirsalls dating back before the American Revolution, Social Worker, mother of four, fierce champion of the downtrodden and good Christian woman.

Virginia Lee Webb, 83, passed away quietly on Sunday June 5, 2016 in the loving care of my father. It was a day like every other in his house for the last few years. She was waked, given breakfast, time watching TV until lunch, fed lunch, put back in bed at her request, then left to sleep until dinner. When my Dad went to wake her for dinner she had passed.

My Mom was every bit the mid-century WASP, upper-middle class woman. She bested the Jones. Her house (when we kids didn’t do the chaos kids do) was better than her neighborhood competition. 18 speed blender? Ours had 21 speeds. Karastan wall-to-wall carpet. 3 custom American Cherry cabinets that still prominently fill one wall of my Dad’s living room built by a cabinet maker and friend of the family. Our house was a contract and an architect’s rendering at the start. When it came to the marathon of status signaling stuff, my Mom had it going on.But, and I think this is something I loved about her. She had that aw-shucks Mid-Atlantic neurosis. What she had she’d say wasn’t nothing. She’d point to the Janes across the street who mixed their cocktails in Waterford barware. Or to the Florida room Mrs. Metz had Mr. Metz build on his vacation time. Or across the street, the Czech neighbors, who had the better Tupperware set. Never mind that she could pay off the house by selling the family silverware.

We didn’t feel rich. We felt normal. Yeah, we had the usual dysfunction that comes with upper-middle class success. I was a huge fan of John Bradshaw for a time. I did my share of time in therapy. But you could never accuse my Dad of being out of anything. It’s not as true as in once was. It used to be that I could eat for a month on what he thought was enough groceries for a week. But we could do that and we did.

Ginnie Webb’s career as a social worker starts in Washington Township. Then she got a job with the county as a field case worker. I can remember riding with her to client’s houses in the ’60’s when you could lose your check if you had a man living with you or you weren’t doing the needful.

An aside. This site is about story and the way we narrate our lives and how that is influential on and descriptive of ourselves. So, facts here suffer. This post is no different. I remember visuals, images of her. I don’t remember narrative that well. So, these words are impressions, metaphors, allegories that talk about my memories of her. If you know different, good on you. Post what you know in the comments..

Ginny Webb is a Piersall, with roots in Southern New Jersey that go back before the American Revolution. She graduated with a degree in Social Work and was a licensed social worker for Washington Township, Gloucester County and later, the State of New Jersey. She has a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Rutgers. There are many of her clients who were glad she was on their side, many who can count her as one of the team who helped them get back on their feet. When choosing sides between her superiors and the client, she chose the client, losing many of these fights but never willing to give up the good fight for those she felt needed a champion. She hated the way welfare and public housing treated those it was intended to help. Where she could, she tried to get her clients off welfare and into housing they leased/owned.

Ginny Webb loved craft for as long as I can remember. She sewed many of our clothes growing up, something that used to bug the crap out of me. She was good, though. There was rug hooking, embroidery, stitching, cooking, and later, some rather beautiful pottery that is at once melancholic and touching. My youngest sister still treasures the collection of unfired pots she left behind.

We came to know she had dementia some years ago when she got in a few car accidents and it became clear that she could no longer drive. Her short term memory failed her and the disease attacked her ability to moderate her emotions. Dementia and complications from diabetes slowly stole her motor control so that my last picture of her is with her in a wheel-chair, backlit by a favorite lamp of hers.

Most of us are part of the choir, the unheard blend of voices that combine into a beautiful song. We never get our 15 minutes, never walk a red carpet, never get caught answering a question with a headline worthy answer. We live, leave a story behind, and are fondly remembered and eventually forgotten. My Mom was Ginny Webb, and though Charlie Rose never called, is a star in my heart. I am privileged to have her as a Mom. I’ll miss her.


  1. You will find that my Dad’s version of events and mine differ. This isn’t as big a problem for me as it might be for some. My memory is unreliable. That I remember things differently is just that, I remember differently, no harm, no foul.

    1. Of course your version is different than Robert’s. Celebrate the difference. You’ve put a lot of your feelings into your story while Robert’s is almost absent of commentary. It’s an engineers perspective; what he did, where. You get no sense of what made him happy or sad about his life. But that’s how we grew up in Albany. I always felt protective of my feelings, for fear of criticisms of one kind or another. Robert even commented once about Ben’s success with his trumpet performances; that it wasn’t in the family tradition to compliment one another. Which made it difficult to feel good about your successes because they were never supported.

      1. One of the reasons I keep repeating that the blog will choose good story over truth is that I want the emotional honesty to come through even if the provable truth suffers.

        1. Truth isn’t necessarily in the “facts,” but rather in the feelings.

  2. Ginny was born August 8, 1933 in Buffalo, NY to Alfred and Virginia Picker. She has one sister, Joan Heller. Ginny’s father, Alfred was of Russian Jewish descent that emigrated to the USofA in about 1900. Her mother, Virginia Picker was of the Westfield, NJ Piersalls. Virginia Picker was a nurse anesthetist and Alfred was a pharmaceutical sales person who survived the Great Depression by selling cosmetics.
    The family settled in Haddonfield, NJ where Ginny grew up and graduated from Haddonfield High school before going on to the University of Delaware and completing a degree in Social Work in 1955. Robert met Ginny at the Haddonfield Presbyterian Church Young Adults Fellowship. Robert filled Ginny’s social calendar for the next year, proposed to her in June of 1956 and they married December 29, 1956.
    Robert had arrived in the South Jersey area from Albany, CA after graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in Electrical Engineering and getting an offer from RCA in Camden. Ginny was working as a social worker for the State of New Jersey when they met.
    When the couple learned that they were pregnant with their first son they also learned that there were some medical issues with the pregnancy and so Ginny stopped working. After their first son, Bruce Alan Webb was born they looked for and found a builder who had started construction on a tract of homes in Whitman Square.
    And so a life like so many began with the joy of watching their home get built, the many decisions about interior finishes, flooring, plumbing, and kitchen design. Over the next several years they settled into family life, with three daughters Karen, Linda and Joanne filling the house in addition to their son, Bruce.
    Robert’s career with RCA included a fair amount of travel, leaving Ginny the bulk of the work of raising four children. This was also the period where vacations never repeated the same destination year to year. Over the years the family traveled to most of the eastern states, witnessed two total eclipses of the son, and wore out their Chevy Nova II station wagon and camp trailer.
    Robert’s career also made in possible to take some of the family to the SF Bay Area to visit with his family there.
    This steady rhythm continued through the early 1980’s, when Ginny and Robert found themselves to be empty nesters. This open up time for Ginny to resume her career as a social worker and later, to complete her MSW from Rutgers University.
    Ginny resumed her social work career, working for a Dialysis Clinic and then returning to work for the State of New Jersey. In 1990 Robert was asked what he’d accept in a pension buyout offer, there was some back & forth, and a successful (for Robert) negotiation to have him retire early. This began a new phase in Ginny’s life, with her income becoming the primary income for a time.

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