Virginia Oakley Norris

Date of Birth

January 14, 1928

Date of Death

March 19, 2020

City of Death

Santa Barbara

Virginia (“Ginny”) Oakley Norris was born in Los Angeles, California on January 14, 1928 to Marian and Earl Oakley. Following her parents’ divorce, she and her older sister Betty were raised by their mother who worked as a district nurse for Los Angeles county.

For Ginny and her sister, growing up not only meant moving from place to place with their mother’s changing assignments, it also meant learning early to take responsibility for both schoolwork and household management. By the time she started an art degree at UCLA in the 1940s, her lifelong habits of frugality, initiative and inventiveness were well established.

One evening in the fall of 1949,Ginny attended UCLA’s homecoming festivities and happened to bump into a young man with whom she’d shared a class a year or so earlier. She couldn’t have known it as they chatted, but the fellow in question, then Scripps grad student, Robert M. Norris, would become her husband.

Married in 1952, Ginny and Bob moved to Santa Barbara where he took up a position in the new Geology department at UCSB. Santa Barbara would become their ‘happily ever after’, as they raised three children (Don, Jim and Betsy) in a community they would both contribute to, and participate in, for the rest of their days.

The civic-minded young couple joined the First Congregational Church shortly after arriving in Santa Barbara and were active in its events for their entire lives. Over the years, they would also both contribute to a wide variety of community and University organisations and committees. Ginny applied her formidable organizational talents to the UCSB Faculty Women’s Club, the Santa Barbara Library board, the Goleta Cityhood campaign, and other civic organizations.

Ginny was a born artist whose talent for sketching and painting became obvious by the time she was in her teens. But while she continued to draw and paint watercolors throughout her life, she discovered her greatest creative passion when she joined a spinners’ group while the family lived for a year in New Zealand.

Through spinning and knitting, Ginny would combine her design talents, her problem-solving skills and perhaps most of all, her love of teaching and sharing knowledge. Few things gave her greater satisfaction than seeing a student experience an ‘ah-ha’ moment as they mastered a new skill or grasped a key concept. Through her membership of the Santa Barbara Fiber Arts Guild, Ginny taught and mentored several generations of spinners and knitters, many of whom became lifelong friends.
There was nothing Ginny loved more than to be in the company of friends and family. She had the natural curiosity of someone with an inventive mind and took special delight in learning new things. But, perhaps above all, she was blessed with a wonderful sense of humor and sparklingly quick wit. And, though Alzheimers stole much from Ginny in her final years, to the very end she could still raise an eyebrow at a bad joke.

Virginia Oakley Norris, 92, passed gently away in Santa Barbara on March 19, 2020 holding her son Jim’s hand.

Ginny is survived by her children Don (Christine), Jim and Betsy (Bob), her sister Betty and her grandchildren Ariel Norris and Aaron Dodson. She was preceded in death by her half-sister Mary, her husband Bob Norris and grandson Jack Norris.


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