In Her Memory
family celebrates life
of the late author, preservationist
book signing instead
becomes way to remember her
Lela Jane Bradshaw
(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
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.
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 wifes 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 dont 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
In addition to her public work, Jorgensens 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
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 Gingers 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 dont 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
didnt 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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