Longtime Sandpoint resident, Virginia Tibbs, died peacefully Saturday, July 13, 2013, at Life Care in Sandpoint. Her passing came just days after her photo with her beloved Arabian mare Cricket had appeared on the most recent River Journal cover.
The publication also featured a story about her decades of equine accomplishments. Earlier this year, the Bonner County Fair Board chose to honor her for those achievements during the upcoming 2013 fair.
Virginia’s passing also came on a weekend when many family members were involved in two horse shows 350 miles apart. After learning of her mother’s death, Laurie Tibbs folded the The River Journal cover, pinned it inside her hunt jacket and symbolically took Virginia for one last ride during a dressage class, winning the Region 5 Arabian championship.
“Mom, this one’s for you!” Laurie later stated. It’s safe to say that Virginia’s passionate love for horses lasted from beginning to end.
Virginia was born in Chicago, Ill., on Aug. 12, 1921, to Frank and Lillian Halter. The family moved to a farm near Wallace, Idaho, where her mother died in 1924. She and sister June accompanied their father to Burnt Ranch in Northern California’s Trinity River Valley.
When Virginia was 6, she moved to San Antonio, Texas, where she attended Ursuline Academy, a Catholic boarding school. She also attended and graduated from Marywood Academy in Grand Rapids, Mich., and later earned a double bachelor’s degree in French and art at Nazareth College in Kalamazoo, Mich.
During World War II, Virginia worked as a “Rosie the Riveter” at Kellogg Field in Battle Creek, Mich. She specialized in drafting projects associated with bombers needing repair from war damage.
She married Michael Brown 1943 and later returned North Idaho, this time, Sandpoint, arriving at the Amtrak station on Christmas night, 1945, with her son Mike and English setter Peggy. The family lived in town on Euclid until Virginia purchased a young Saddlebred mare from Dub Lewis (Dub’s Drive In) and soon received encouragement from neighbors to move to the country.
She purchased 40 acres north of the airport in 1950 and continued with her dream to raise horses. Virginia and her first husband divorced in 1953. She later married Harold Tibbs, a true cowboy and horseman who lived just down North Boyer Road. The joke was that she needed a tractor, and he needed some land where he could use his tractor.
Together, the couple developed the farm into a thriving Hereford cattle and horse operation, naming it Ponderay Hereford Ranch. The family worked together, tending to individual farm chores and participating in community activities such as horse clubs, the Cattlemen’s Association and the 4-H program.
Virginia served as a 4-H horse leader for 27 years, setting high standards and helping develop the local program into one of statewide prominence. Her horse interests also involved trail riding, organizing horse shows, riding in parades and most notably producing popular Western note cards, which often featured beautiful horses and rustic barns.
Her community service ranged from PTA activities to spearheading the annual St. Jude’s Trail Ride, which raises funds for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. As a member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, she sang in the choir for many years. Both Virginia and Harold were honored by the Eagles for their humanitarian work. In 2002, Virginia was chosen as one of five Women of Wisdom for the Sandpoint community.
Many homegrown professionals can remember time spent during their teen years, bucking bales for the Tibbs family and enjoying the generous, home-cooked meals which Virginia prepared for hay hands.
She loved to travel and kept abreast of local, national and world events. Anyone who knew Virginia, even during her final years, remembers a feisty, outspoken, strong, intelligent woman with a quick wit and healthy appetite for a good laugh. She was a Zags fan through and through.
Above all, this woman, raised primarily by Catholic nuns in boarding schools, deeply loved and took great pride in her family.
Virginia was preceded in death by her husband, her parents, brothers Frances and James, sisters Georgia and June and an infant daughter Jean Marie Brown.
She is survived by six children, including Mike Brown (Mary) of DuPont, Wash., Kevin Brown (Joyce) of Frenchtown, Mont., Marianne (Bill) Love of Sandpoint, Barbara Tibbs and Laurie Tibbs of Sandpoint and James Tibbs of Grants Pass, Ore.
Also surviving are grandchildren Maureen (Sean) Peterson) of Tacoma, Wash., Scott (Jenny Jo) Brown of Lander, Wyo., Laura (Sefo) Laumatia of Plummer, William (Deborah) Love of Sandpoint and Annie Love of Seattle.
Her great-grandchildren include Tanner and Rory Peterson, Aggie Sue and Betsy June Brown and Justine, Jacob and Grace Laumatia. A nephew James (Tommi) Halter, several nieces and nephews by marriage and numerous cousins in the Chicago area also survive.
Memorials can be made to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, the Bonner County Fairgrounds memorial garden or to the Gonzaga University men’s basketball program.
Virginia’s family would like to express its deep appreciation to Rose Mundell, Cecelia “Cis” Gors, the staff at both The Bridge for Assisted Living and Life Care for their love, friendship, wonderful care and compassion extended toward our mother during her final years.
A private family service will be held at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, followed by burial at Pack River Cemetery.
The family invites friends to join them in a celebration of life/wake, honoring Virginia the weekend of her 92nd birthday at Western Pleasure Guest Ranch, Sunday, Aug. 11 from 1-4 p.m.
Lakeview Funeral Home in Sandpoint is handling the arrangements. Please visit Virginia’s online memorial at www.lakeviewfuneral.com and sign her guest book.