Olive Virleen Verploegh passed on October 21, 2011 just a few days after celebrating her 96th birthday while under the excellent and compassionate care of the staff at North Central Health Care, Wausau, Wisconsin. Her family was by her side.
As a daughter, friend, wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, Olive Virleen (Blackmore) Verploegh did her best to joyfully reach out and touch the soul of each person in her life and give to and take from them all the good she found. As the wife of a man who regularly was able to slip the bonds of earth to touch the face of God, she was the concrete of the runway when he returned and the foundation of her family. She was a strict mother, a patient mentor and then the best friend that adult sons could possibly have.
Few people knew her as Olive; she was just ‘Virleen’ to her friends and family. The tall, lanky, talkative girlfriend of Popeye, she wasn’t. But there was a quiet strength in her small body. She readily admitted to being spoiled by her hard-working father as an only child. Pictures of her growing up reflect a smug and confident little girl and young lady. She was remembered well by her 12 classmates, which included Russell, in her high school graduating class of 1933.
Virleen was born in tiny Tingley, Iowa and grew up there with Russell A. Verploegh living just a few blocks away. They would then elope to marry after completing their college educations at the University of Northern Iowa — her satisfying the requirements as a teacher. She taught until becoming an air force officer’s wife as Russell enlisted in the Army Air Corps, earned his wings, and initially became an instructor pilot. The United States was fighting World War II in Europe and the Pacific and Russell left Virleen in Iowa expecting their first son, David, for an assignment as a B-29 pilot flying bombing missions over Japan. Three years later, after the war, their second son, Alan, was born at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois
Virleen and Russell’s 28 years in the air force was directed and protected by God’s hand. Assignments in Colorado and Texas preceded tours in post-war Germany and England where lifelong friendships developed and the family enjoyed rich experiences. It was there that Virleen began her formal training and experience to enhance her appreciation for growing, arranging, displaying and judging plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables attaining certification as a master gardener. They moved back to Texas and Mississippi before an assignment in exotic, multi-cultural Morocco. The opportunity for Virleen, Russell and two impressionable sons to enhance their appreciation and understanding of the world was not denied. The family studied the languages and culture of people around them and used all chances to educate themselves with expeditions around their North African host country, southern Europe and the Middle East.
Returning to the U.S. to a Massachusetts Strategic Air Command duty post and, after seeing David and Alan into the start of their college educations, Virleen and Russell had their last major air force assignment to a military diplomatic advisory role in Bangkok, Thailand during the Vietnam War. There Virleen took on a more active role of studying the culture and language of Thailand and interfacing with the Thai people from working class to the highest social, government and military roles.
‘Retirement’ from the air force meant only a change in careers for Virleen and Russell. They moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Russell’s three brothers had also migrated, to open a franchised Kampground of America and diligence and hard work paid off with a successful business. Later Russell’s lifelong love of flying again prevailed as he purchased an airplane and joined Albuquerque Flight Service as senior instructor pilot. He trained dozens of new pilots, including son Alan, before his untimely death in 1989 while Virleen continued her horticultural hobbies and work in the church.
Fifty years of Virleen and Russell’s marriage were characterized by not only an affectionate relationship but a moral, conservative philosophy of life, their love of country and their service to their church and God.
They are survived by son David; his life companion, Joan Lawler; his children, Kirsten, Todd and Erin and their spouses, and great-granddaughters Faith, Zoe, Laura and Tess; son Alan; his wife, Denise (Stolte), and their children, Sophie (Martinkus) and Evan, and loving friends and family throughout the world.
Since Russell’s death, Virleen moved from Albuquerque joining Alan in Champaign, Illinois and then Wausau, Wisconsin where she continued to serve her church and enjoyed her hobbies and her sons and their families — her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Hers has been a long life well-spent.
Brainard Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements. Private memorial services will be held at a later date in Virleen’s beloved Tingley, Iowa and Albuquerque, New Mexico. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Friends of North Central Health Care, c/o Volunteer Department, 1100 Lake View Drive, Wausau, WI 54403.