Virginia Griffith Helwig

May 02, 1934 ‒ April 03, 2020

Galena, Ohio

Virginia Aneta Griffith Helwig passed away on April 3, 2020 at Willowbrook Christian Village in Delaware, Ohio where she had been a resident since November. Virginia was born on May 2, 1934 to Eleanor Shade Griffith and Edward Griffith at Grady Memorial Hospital in Delaware, Ohio. She was a proud member of one of the founding families of Delaware County and grew up a farm girl. Her work ethic, lifelong love of nature and being outside began in the fields with her Daddy and her Great Dane dogs as she helped to raise turkeys on the family farm.

She graduated as one of 10 students from Berlin High School in 1952 and then went on to graduate from Ohio Wesleyan University where she was in the first class of women to march in the OWU marching band and where she met her husband, Richard. They were married in 1954 and for nearly fifty years, before his death in 2004, they were true partners in life. Together, they were founders of Auglaize Village in Defiance, Ohio and the Center for Ghost Town Research in Ohio as well as serving on Historical Society Boards in Defiance County, Delaware County and Big Walnut Area. She was an expert on pioneer cooking and would accompany her husband and later her son to Civil War re-enactments where she would serve as camp cook.

She was a fourth generation teacher who officially spent 42 years in classrooms throughout Ohio. Whether she was on the farm, in the classroom or in a living history costume, she was passionate about learning. She was most proud of her years as a first grade teacher at Noble Elementary in Northeastern Local Schools near Defiance, serving as a founder of the Young People’s Theatre Guild there, as a folk festival presenter at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC and as a latchkey teacher at Liberty Community Center in Delaware, Ohio.

She was an accomplished teacher because she had a genuine love for all people and truly believed there was value in every person regardless of age, gender, socioeconomics or the color of their skin. Her greatest legacy is that she taught both children and adults to always believe in themselves. Reading was her key to unlock the world for children and she was most proud of watching the lightbulb come on when she taught a child to read. She was an avid reader and book collector herself and she kept a Rolodex of all of the books she had read in her lifetime.

Her positive energy, unwavering Faith and genuine compassion for others helped her to overcome every hardship with grit and determination. She didn’t let her physical imitations stop her from giving to others and up to a few weeks before she died she was still sending cards out to people as part of her card ministry. She believed in giving back to her community and served as a member of the Sunbury Lions Club, the Big Walnut Seniors Club and various Methodist churches throughout Ohio, most recently the Galena United Methodist Church.

Lastly, and most importantly she unselfishly dedicated her life to her family, as a caregiver, role model, mentor and friend. She was happiest when she could host a big meal with all of her family gathered around the table. She is survived by her three children Rick Helwig of Sunbury, John (Louise) Helwig of Delaware and Beth (Tim) Carlson of Orwell. She deeply loved her three granddaughters, Katherine Carlson of Richmond, Virginia, Erica Carlson and Emily Carlson, both of Orwell, Ohio. Though she was an only child, Virginia was also very close to her first cousins who served as her surrogate siblings and she is survived by Max Griffith of Galena.

She was preceded in death by her parents, husband and first cousins Allen “Bud” Shade, Barbara Shade Gooding, and Donna May Hale.

The family would like to thank the staff at Willowbrook Christian Village in Delaware, Ohio Health Hospice, Ohio Health Home Care and Sourcepoint, as well as her many doctors for their compassion, love and care for Virginia.

Because of her love of books, the family wishes in lieu of flowers that all memorials be made to the Big Walnut Community Library, 44 Burrer Drive Sunbury, Ohio 43074.

The DeVore-Snyder Funeral of Sunbury is honored to serve the Helwig family.

Private family services to be held due to the COVID-19 crisis.

To share a fond memory of Virginia or to offer a condolence to the family, please visit

  • Helwig Family, So sorry for your loss. She was such a sweet lady. She had lots of history to talk about especially at the Griffith reunions. My late mother (Mattie Mae) and I always had a great visit with her.
    Love, Annie Haas

  • She was such a good soul and most certainly lived a full and generous life! The Berlin Community will mourn, as will others, the passing of one of our greats!

  • This community is so fortunate to have had her experience and all those children that benefitted with education she provided have become a part of the adults all over Ohio. To Beth,Rick, and John, we send our sympathy. All my life I was privileged to be around the Griffith family. Virginia was an example for all of us. God has blessed us.

  • I will always remember Virginia and her thoughtful and caring ways. She has been a loyal friend for many years I learned as much from her as her students did and will probably learn something new every time I think of her I will miss her dearly

  • Rick, John, and Beth,

    What a grand lady. I feel privileged to have known her. Her footprint in Delaware County is large and I still remember her talking about the history of the Johnnycake area at a Big Walnut Area Historical Society meeting. She will be greatly missed.

  • It has been our honor and privilege to have known Ginny these last fifteen years of her life. Ginny was a woman of great empathy and kindness. We offer our deepest condolences to all of her family and friends.

  • Rick, John & Beth,
    I am so very sorry to hear about your mother. She was a very special lady and a wonderful neighbor. She was always so thoughtful in sending cards to let us know she was thinking of us during Gene’s illnesses. I will always remember her fondly.

  • To the Helwig family, You have my deepest sympathy in the loss of your mother, grandmother, sister and friend to many. I have known Virginia for a very long time through her leadership and kindness for the Delaware County Senior group that meets at Pjs restaurant in Sunbury. She was a loyal and faithful leader for this group for many years. I enjoyed talking to her and loved hearing the history stories she would tell. May you find comfort in knowing that she loved our Lord and with his promise to us that we will meet her again someday. God bless you, Jona Baer (a server at Pj’s)

  • Rick. Thinking of you in the event of loosing your mother. Our prayers are with you and your family.
    George and Alice Keller and sons Craig and Brad

  • I send my deepest sympathy to Rick, John and Beth and all your family. I just found out this evening that she had passed seeing the obituary in the Delaware Gazette. In reading your tribute to her, I experienced “her positive energy, unwavering faith and genuine compassion . .”

    I only knew Virginia for a few months but she was such a wonderful, special person who was so helpful to me during the last few days of my mother’s life last September. She was a positive “sunbeam” on the other side of the curtain during those last days in Cherith. Virginia was there for a short stay and I was so blessed to have her there at that time. Her smile and soft conversation was most comforting to me during my long hours in the room. She was able to actually lighten up the room as we spoke of flowers and gardening. I strongly felt her caring spirit.
    After my mother passed, I was so drawn to her like I had known her for many years. She always asked me how I was doing and reached out for my hand. I did go into her room a few days after my Mom passed. She compassionately said that it must have been very hard to come back into this room. I told her that it was more important to do this just to see her. I visited her a couple of times and then she went home.
    When she came back to stay I was so happy that I could see her again and that her health was improving.
    I visited her until Willow Brook stopped visitation. She told me about her husband, her teaching and I witnessed the many cards she was going to send for Valentines Day and St. Patrick’s Day. I was amazed at the number of cards she would send out.
    I sent her several cards when I couldn’t visit and looked forward to seeing her again.

    I want to you to all know what a treasure Virginia was to me. I will never forget her.

  • Rick, John, Beth and families,

    We are so sorry for your loss. Ginny was a wonderful person who was light in the life of so many people. We appreciated the cards she sent, sitting on her porch on July 4th and so much more. She truly made you feel special. Please let us know if you need anything. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Glenn Hale and Family