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 Virginia Lee <I>Garrett</I> Koehler

Photo added by M. Jensen Seggerman

Virginia Lee Garrett Koehler

  • Birth 13 Aug 1903 Dresden, Weakley County, Tennessee, USA
  • Death 15 May 1989 Geneva, Fillmore County, Nebraska, USA
  • Burial Geneva, Fillmore County, Nebraska, USA
  • Plot Sec. 1 Lot 178 Plot 05
  • Memorial ID 93924438

KOEHLER, VIRGINIA LEE—Virginia Lee Garrett Koehler was born in Dresden, Tn., on August 13, 1903, to Finis James and Elizabeth Burns Garrett.

Her southern origins remained with her always.

She never lost her Tennessee accent and perhaps was always a little lonesome for her Tennessee home.

Her father was elected to Congress in 1905, and served the 9th Tennessee District for the next 24 years.

At the time of Virginia’s marriage to Ben Koehler of Geneva, Garrett was the Minority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Later he was appointed by President Coolidge to serve as Judge on the U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals and in 1937 President Roosevelt appointed him Chief Judge of that high court.

Mrs. Garrett was also very active in Washington politics and cultural activities and became one of the funding members of the Congressional Wives.

When Virginia first met Ben Koehler at a “hop” at the Naval Academy, Ben was in his senior year as an Annapolis Midshipman, and a starring football player for the Academy.

Virginia and Ben both came of age-just as World War I was ending.
Ben played the songs of the Twenties on the piano, and Virginia bobbed her hair and danced the Charleston.

The two developed a sense of playfulness that they carried with them throughout their life.

Because of the disarmament following World War I, Ben elected to resign his Navy commission and after he and Virginia were married in Tennessee, November 5, 1924, they travelled by car to Oregon where Ben began his apprenticeship in the lumber business.

In two years they moved on to Louisiana, but in 1927 they returned to Geneva following Ben’s father’s death so that Ben could join his brother, John in the family lumber and grain business.

Virginia thought the move was like the previous ones, just a year or two, but she stayed a lifetime.

Her large Tennessee family thought she had moved to the frontier. “O Virginia, you are so far away,” they often said.

Judge and Mrs. Garrett were frequent visitors to this state and became friends with many Nebraskans.

From her parents, Virginia had learned the habit of community service, so she began a life of community involvement that has only recently ended.

The minutes of the Congregational Church near 60 years ago mention her service on boards and as an officer in many capacities.

Over the years she has served as president of the Geneva Woman’s Club, as an officer in many city organizations and on countless committees for the community.

She worked with others who planned the City Park and swimming pool in the 1930’s.

In the war years with Grace Wilkins and Vera Waring, she organized the U.S.O. for the Army Air Base here.

In the 1950's and 1960’s both she and Ben helped campaign for the county hospital.

Later Virginia organized the Hospital Auxiliary.

She was on the Library Board for years and helped with fund raisers for the church and charities.

Her daughters remember that she helped organize the Girl Scouts and children’s theater and neighborhood Fourth of July parades.

She made wrapping Christmas presents, dying Easter eggs, and constructing May baskets creative and delightful.

Only two years ago she organized and took nearly all her family, including three great-grandchildren to a reunion of her large extended family in Tennessee.

Virginia was ever in charge of her life. She had her priorities and her responsibilities in order.

A good friend to great varieties of people, she was always attentive to her own needs, for she truly understood that she must do this first to have the strength to carry out her duties generally.

She took the time to rest, to do ponderous amounts of reading and to enjoy times of quiet reflection and meditation.

She did not allow others to impose upon her and could very abruptly terminate a subject she felt had been belabored, but for the most part, she seemed able to choose to be amused rather than annoyed by faults and failings in herself and others.

She was a very strong person physically and mentally and able to bow to the inevitable changes that occur in life.

It was grievous to her not to be able “to see Ben through,” as she said; but she was wise enough to resign herself to her own inevitable death.

Virginia was a very family oriented person, who enjoyed and maintained a close association with all the Koehler relations and their extended families

She seemed to feel as Ruth felt about Naomi, that “Thy people shall be my people.”

She had enjoyed her own children, but she had special joy in her relationships with her six grandchildren and seemed to thrive on their company. She took particular pride in their individual accomplishments.
She and Ben provided a hospitable home and entertained frequently and easily.
Up until the time she entered the hospital, she was still entertaining and receiving guests in her beautifully redecorated living room.

The seemingly lost art of “gracious living” was a part of her life to the end; yet, she also was able to make the home a sanctuary for herself or any member of the family who might need a respite from the cares of the world.

Many people will remember that in 1945, the Koehler family was devastated by an automobile accident, which cost Ben much of his sight.

From that time on, Virginia was all the more at Ben’s side—sighting and driving for him.
The faithful companionship between them became all the more strengthened.

From the very beginning of their marriage, “and even today Ben with all his infirmities remained her most favorite person in the whole wide world.” This love continued even into these last seven years of Ben’s failed health; they together found a life of joy that overcomes sorrow.

One need only add what many younger people have observed over the years: it was from Virginia Garrett Koehler that they first understood what it is to be a lady.

She passed away May 15, 1989, at the Fillmore County Hospital, Geneva.

Virginia was preceded in death by her parents and by her brother, Burns Garrett.

She is survived by her husband, Ben; daughters, Suzanne K. Brinkman of Hastings and Virginia Knoll and husband, Robert, of Lincoln; six grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and a niece, Ann Garrett Statland of Washington, D.C.

Private family committal services were conducted from the Geneva Public Cemetery Wednesday afternoon, May 17, from the First Congregational United Church of Christ with the Rev. Charles Schepel officiating.

Mrs. Evalyn Foster accompanied the congregation who sang, “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past” and “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.”

The Nebraska Signal May 1989.

Family Members






  • Maintained by: Mary & Kent
  • Originally Created by: M. Jensen Seggerman
  • Added: 20 Jul 2012
  • Find A Grave Memorial 93924438
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Virginia Lee Garrett Koehler (13 Aug 1903–15 May 1989), Find A Grave Memorial no. 93924438, citing Geneva Cemetery, Geneva, Fillmore County, Nebraska, USA ; Maintained by Mary & Kent (contributor 47170788) .