In Her Memory

Jorgensen family celebrates life
of the late author, preservationist

Scheduled book signing instead
becomes way to remember her

By Lela Jane Bradshaw
Contributing Writer

(December 2012_ – On Oct. 2, Madison, Ind., lost one of its most dedicated residents when Virginia “Ginger” Jorgensen died unexpectedly at her home. During her six years in her adopted hometown, Jorgensen became an avid and enthusiastic voice for the historic district of the town she so loved.
Her friend, Camille Fife, Preservation Planner for the city of Madison, says “Ginger was a passionate lady, strong but with a gentle manner. She was an expert on preservation matters and truly dedicated to the field.”
Originally from Arlington, Va., the 57-year-old Jorgensen left a husband, Dennis Jorgensen, two daughters, Lauren Pontoni and Lacy Hopkins; two sons, Brett Gardner and Dustin Hopkins; two stepdaughters, Kimberly Burke and Colleen Widemon; one stepson, Michael Jorgen-sen; 15 grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Ginger Jorgensen

Photo provided

Ginger Jorgensen
died suddenly on
Oct. 2 just prior to the
release of her new book.

Upon moving to Madison, Jorgensen immediately set out to help preserve the town she loved and the character that had drawn her to the area. Dennis explains that his wife’s enthusiasm for history was more than a hobby for her. “She was a professional,” he said. “Her love of preservation goes back to her childhood.” Jorgensen held a degree in public history with concentrations in preservation and museum management from Western Michigan University and served as Program Director for the Michigan Maritime Museum. In Madison, she was a board member of the Cornerstone Society and spent five years on the Historic Board of Review.
Dennis explains the perspective his wife brought to the Board of Review, saying that she believed “when you own an historic building, you really don’t own it, you are a caretaker. Your job is to preserve it for the next generation.”
He explains that his wife felt that the preservation of the downtown area was beneficial not only to add beauty and a sense of history to the community, but also was a vital key to the economic future of Madison.
Dennis says that while the fairs and festivals hosted by the town draw in thousands of visitors each year, it is not merely the art or the music or the boats that attract the crowds. “The stage that they are put upon helps make them successful,” says Dennis. And it was that “stage” of historic downtown that his wife fought to maintain.
In addition to her public work, Jorgensen’s commitment to history came out in smaller ways as well. She was an avid collector of graniteware and coverlets and kept antique booths for more than a dozen years at several stores, including the Lumber Mill Antique Mall in Madison.
“Her idea was to preserve everything she came across,” Dennis says, laughing.
At the time of her death, Jorgensen was preparing for the launch of her newly published book, “Ghosts of Madison, Indiana,” with multiple signing events planned. The family made the decision to go ahead with the event at the Village Lights Bookstore Oct. 12 and at the Lanier Mansion on Oct. 19.
“It would have been important to her; the book was her last major achievement,” Dennis said.
The book launch at the Village Lights Bookstore proved to be a time for the community to gather in support of the family. Dennis was joined by her daughter, Lacy, and son, Dustin, as they signed books with a stamp of made of Ginger’s signature and shared memories.
Bookstore co-owner Nathan Montoya said, “It was quite a bash! There were so many people here that we ran out of books half an hour into the event. We took a huge number of orders that night.”
Montoya explains that it was “a wonderful thing for her family that her book was so well received.”
Jorgensen wrote the book with the idea that it could serve as the basis for self guided ghost tours. Dennis said he has already heard store owners say that already people have come by, book in hand, wanting to see for themselves the places that she described.
Fife notes that “Even if you don’t really believe in ghosts, you will enjoy the way Ginger tells the tales.”
Montoya agrees that a belief in the supernatural is certainly not required to appreciate her work and describes the book as “an oral history” of stories that have been told throughout the years. “If you know Madison, you know these buildings,” he says.
Montoya added that he has heard readers repeatedly exclaim, “I didn’t know THAT happened in that building!”
He said Jorgensen would certainly be delighted to know that her work was encouraging others to learn more about history.
For her friends and family, the downtown area will now be even more special because it was important to Jorgensen. When they tell the stories of the buildings and streets, they will be sure to point out the ones that she loved best or had a hand in preserving. Fife certainly speaks for many when she says that Jorgensen “always knew what was right and had the courage to stand up for it. She will be sorely missed.”

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