Virginia Gant Hoadley Tyte was born and raised in Bloomington, Indiana. But she traveled way beyond her home town!
Before the age of 18, Virginia had visited all 50 states in the U.S., as well as Mexico and Canada!
Virginia’s father owned and operated limestone quarries. He even had a “tall” order of note: to provide the stone to build the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Southern Indiana.
“Dad worked from dawn ‘til dusk,” Virginia remembered of her father’s career.
In fact, the family (which included Virginia, her brother and their parents) spent a lot of the season at the quarries, where she learned to swim.
In the off-season, her family would travel with their trailer. Her mother would homeschool Virginia and her younger brother along the way.
“They just put us in the back seat and took off,” Virginia remembered.
One of the most memorable destinations was the Grand Canyon, her favorite was Texas because she got to ride horses.
“We stayed in a lot of undeveloped places when we traveled,” Virginia said.
For example, in Florida, the family would pull up on an empty beach and camp.
Circus and Flying
Virginia’s maternal grandmother and family had a circus, which traveled the country. The Gentry Brothers Dog and Pony Show started with one of Virginia’s uncles training stray dogs, dressing them up and teaching them to act like people. They wintered in Florida and spent warmer weather in Peru, Indiana, or in Bloomington. Virginia loved interacting with the animals. The show grew to include clowns, acrobats and even an elephant.
On the other side of the family, Virginia’s father’s youngest brother, Ed, was a pilot and often transported goods. At his airport in Bloomington, he tried to get her brother interested in flying, but, as Virginia put it, “He didn’t care a hill of beans for it.” Instead, it was Virginia who took a shine to flying. The flying experiences planted a dream in her heart to one day earn her pilot’s license and do some flying on her own.
Starting a Family
When Virginia reached high school age, the family trips slowed down a little. Her senior year, she dated an Indiana University freshman named Don. When she attended IU, over their years on campus, their relationship bloomed.
Virginia earned a bachelor’s degree in business.
Don’s education, like many during World War II, was interrupted toward the end of the war. He was in the Air Force. Although he did not go overseas, he was one of the test subjects for research that would later help the USA break the sound barrier. He would get spun around in a centrifuge.
When Don discharged, he and Virginia got married and moved to Indianapolis, where he attended dental school. Meanwhile, Virginia worked for L.S. Ayres, a prestigious department store, as a buyer in the women’s department.
After Don’s graduation, the couple returned to Bloomington, and Don started his dental practice. The couple had five children, and after they were in school, Virginia pursued her great dream of taking flying lessons. She earned her pilot’s license in 1961.
“It was something I always wanted to do,” she explained.
Virginia flew Cessnas and single-engine planes, going as far as North Florida and San Antonio, Texas. Mostly, though, she flew locally.
Other hobbies during her married years included golfing, snow skiing, and swimming. Each of the children was on the school swim team.
One day, however, Virginia ended up with a surprise job she hadn’t asked for.
“I came home, and Don said, ‘I bought a bowling alley,’” Virginia recounted. “I said, ‘What are you going to do with it?’ ‘You are going to run it,’ he said. I did the books and all the scheduling for two years before we sold it.”
Meanwhile, the family continued Virginia’s lifelong tradition of travelling.
“Every summer we’d go someplace different and educational,” said one of Virginia’s daughters, Diane Beard. “We went to Gettysburg, New York, and other places.”
Volunteering and More Travels
Virginia always stayed busy. For example, she served as the volunteer director of the local fire department and helped manage the group. They even gave her a firefighter jacket.
“I liked the men I worked with, and it felt satisfying that we were able to help people like that,” Virginia said.
The Women’s Auxiliary ran Bloomington Hospital, and Virginia starting as a volunteer running the library cart. She gradually worked her way up to serving as president of the hospital from 1980-1984.
With their children grown, the Tytes continued to travel and went all over the world. Highlights included Japan, Africa, Russia after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Buenos Aires, Peru, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Scandinavia, France, Germany, England, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand and Australia.
In Australia, Virginia was randomly looking through a phone book when she found someone with the same name. She called the lady up and found out that they were actually relatives. The woman and her husband took the Tytes in and educated them about Australia from a local perspective.
Virginia and Don were married for 68 years before Don passed away in 2017. Their family now includes not only their five children but also seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Life at Morning Pointe
In 2020, Virginia moved in to Morning Pointe of Franklin, Indiana, to be closer to Diane.
“It was the right move at the right time,” said Virginia. “I am happy that she’s so comfortable here,” said Diane. “They call me whenever they need anything, and whatever I need, I can ask for and I get it. I’m thankful.”
Virginia participates in most activities at the center, from bingo to worship time to petting zoo visits. She even got to tour Columbus Air Base with a group from Morning Pointe in honor of Aviation Day.
“I have kept active and have never been one to just sit around,” she said, though she makes an exception to the rule for reading, one of her favorite hobbies!
When she was asked what she was most proud of in her life, Virginia cited her children as No. 1… and earning her pilot’s license a close second.
“It’s been a good life, and I’ve enjoyed it.”