Mother, teacher, woman of faith
Virginia Lee Bissell, a 10-year resident of Claremont Manor, died peacefully on Tuesday, August 14 at the Emeritus at Victorian Court assisted living community in Ontario. She was 94.
Ms. Bissell was born in Cumberland, Maryland to Maude and Cyrus Gilbert on March 7, 1918. She spent her formative years in Darien, Connecticut where her father was a pharmacist and her mother a nurse. She graduated from the College of William and Mary (the country’s second oldest college), where she was a Phi Mu, in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1939.
Ms. Bissell was active with her mother in the Altar Guild of Bruton Parish in Williamsburg and was fond of Dr. William A.R. Goodwin, the Bruton Parish rector who was the impetus behind the Williamsburg restoration. She also met John D. Rockefeller Jr., who Dr. Goodwin convinced to fund the restoration of the city to its original Colonial charm.
She married Frederick Green Bissell on November 8, 1942 and after the war they returned to Westwood, California where their first child, Richard, was born. Mr. Bissell soon obtained employment at Sunkist in Ontario and they moved there in 1948. In 1949, their son Robert was born at San Antonio Community Hospital.
Ms. Bissell was a parishioner at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Upland for more than 60 years. There, she and her mother were very active in the Altar Guild and in many other church activities for many years. A longtime member of the local Embroiderer Guild, her needlework graces St. Mark’s, her room at Emeritus and the homes of her sons and relatives.
Ms. Bissell was a Cub Scout den mother and a Girl Scout leader. She began to substitute teach in the Ontario-Montclair School District and studied for her master’s degree in education. Soon, she obtained her credential and taught 4th grade at El Camino School in Ontario for many years. She was very fond of her students and especially enjoyed teaching about the California missions. After retirement, she again substituted and taught at St. Mark’s school.
Ms. Bissell was a world traveler, enjoying trips to Japan, China and Europe as well as a cruise through the Panama Canal with her children in her later years. She was an avid reader, enjoying books of all kinds, especially those set in the colonial period. She also loved to write, mostly short pieces on history, her travels and Americana.
After her husband’s death, Ms. Bissell moved to Claremont Manor where she was a resident for a decade. At the end of her life, she was well-loved and cared for by the staff at Emeritus and recently assisted by VNA Hospice.
Ms. Bissell is survived by her sons, Richard of Riverside and Robert of Ontario; by her grandsons and their wives, Matthew and Denese Bissell of Gilroy and Marc and Laura Bissell of Gilroy; by her great-grandchildren, Kyle and Devin of Ontario and Luke and Grace of Gilroy; and by her daughters in law, Gabriela and Chere, who brought much joy, comfort and friendship to her life.
Cremation is by Draper’s Mortuary and interment will be at Bellevue Mausoleum, where Ms. Bissell will be laid to rest next to her husband. A memorial service will be held at St. Mark’s on Friday, August 31, 2012 at 1 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church or St. Mark’s Episcopal School in Upland or to The Price Foundation, P.O. Box 672, Upland, CA 91785.