Archived Story

Virginia Bontrager turning 90

Published 4:09pm Monday, January 28, 2013

If you ask someone in their 90s, “What’s new,” they generally reply,
“Not much, I’ve lived 90 years.”

Virginia Bontrager

But for lifelong  Dowagiac resident Virginia Bontrager, she is more active than people half her age.
Recently, she told her doctor she was getting tired after a long day of
bridge and shopping. He replied, “You are 90 years old!”
Bontrager has lived an active life, one of which to be proud.

On Jan. 31, she will have achieved that 90th marker.
Married to Ervin Bontrager on June 10, 1950, the two lived a life of work,
travel, business ownership and more.

In 1955, they bought Shore Acres Hotel on Diamond Lake, and operated it successfully, selling it to Charles King and Al Kahn in 1958. It became Diamond Harbor Inn.
Virginia Josephine Ibbotson Bontrager was named after two grandmothers and
born to Harry and Irene Ibbotson in 1923 in Dowagiac. She graduated
from high school in 1940 and from Cass County Normal in 1941. She started
teaching rural school at 18.

“I taught three years at Hinchman School, “she said.
In 1945, Virginia went to work at the Air Force Depot in South Bend. “I took
a test and got a good job as certification clerk for payroll for 800
employees. When the war ended the depot closed in 1945.

Bontrager’s strength in mathematics opened a number of jobs through her life.
After the depot closed, she went to work at Fruit Belt Electric in
Cassopolis as their accountant, keeping costs in line, and in 1947, it was
up, up and away, landing a job with Trans World Airlines as a flight
attendant based in Kansas City, Mo.

Throughout this job, as well as many other pleasure trips, Bontrager’s love of travel evolved into crossing the Atlantic 48 times and the Pacific eight times.
As the years went by, the Bontragers purchased a self-service laundry in
Benton Harbor in 1959 they sold in 1966.

Filling a desire to get back into education, she started teaching again, and got a degree from Western Michigan University in 1966 a master’s in 1968.

Bontrager retired from teaching from Niles Community Schools in 1982.
On two occasions, niece Elizabeth Burchell and her husband, Tim, traveled
to Europe with Bontrager. The first trip was to the Alps, Switzerland,
Germany, Austria and Central Europe.  The second trip they visited Germany,
Poland and Hungary.

“These trips were not only beautiful, said Burchell, but educational, and a wonderful opportunity to get to know “Aunt Ginny,” as she is called by family members, even better! Virginia and Erv’s love of travel took them to the Caribbean many times. Ervin died in 1996.  Virginia has always been active. She was board member of Council on Aging for 20 years, Junior Arts and Michigan Association of Retired School Personnel both in Cass and Berrien counties. She enjoyed playing bridge and belonged to many clubs throughout the years. She was also a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Plans are underway for a tribute luncheon this spring, to avoid inclement
weather in January. Happy Birthday Aunt Ginny!


— Liz Burchell

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