Virginia Crouse, a lifelong Lima resident and philanthropist who was a primary donor in the construction of the Veterans Memorial Civic and Convention Center in Lima, died Wednesday morning surrounded by her four children. She was 93.
Her interest in the community was strikingly obvious, both in Lima and in Bay View, Mich., where she spent many years of the warmer months at her summer home. She provided support at the Market Street Presbyterian Church, the Lima Symphony Orchestra as well as rehabbing historic buildings in Michigan.
But most notably in Lima was that she and her husband, Jack’s, support in providing funds for the Civic Center.
“It’s because of her passion, she truly believed in the right of the citizens to have the opportunity to be exposed to theater, dance, film, music, all the things that go on there. She loved those things and she believed in those things,” said Crafton Beck, musical director and conductor of the Lima Symphony Orchestra, who described Crouse as a dear friend. “It comes from just an honest, genuine passion on her part.”
“We wouldn’t have a performing arts all at the Civic Center if it weren’t for Virginia Crouse,” said Dick Riggs, who recently retired as Development Director of the Lima Symphony Orchestra. He referred to his old friend as “Ginny.”
He said that funding became a challenge for years because much of the Civic Center had to be privately funded, and building estimate costs continued to rise. Even after her husband died, Crouse remained a leader through the project. Millions of dollars had to be raised, and she helped in making that possible.
“We named the Crouse Performance Hall because of her major gift,” Riggs said.
She was also one who enjoyed going there very much.
“Whenever the symphony performed, one of the first people to arrive in the parking garage and come over to the performing arts hall was Ginny Crouse. She was always there early,” he said.
Her ties to Lima were strong and deep. Her childhood friends included the late comedian Phyllis Diller, and her father, John Galvin, owned the Ohio Steel Foundry Co. steel mill in town, who was another great philanthropist.
Crouse was also involved with many nonprofits in Lima, including the YWCA, the YMCA and the United Way. A common saying of hers was, “If you sit down, you rust!” But one of her biggest passions was music. Her interest in music, perhaps, came from a young age.
“She was blessed with a gorgeous singing voice,” said Martha MacDonell, a longtime friend and a founding member of the Council for the Arts of Greater Lima. “When she grew up, music was really her passion. So for years, she has generously supported her beloved Lima Symphony Orchestra. And we have all benefited by hearing high-quality, classical music in our own hometown for years. It’s been wonderful.”
MacDonell described her “special pal” as having a dry sense of humor, being impeccably dressed and being so much fun to be around. An avid tennis player and golfer, she also loved her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren very much. One of her favorite memories is from when she, Crouse and Crouse’s daughter Karen Miller helped in rehabbing the City Club, an elaborate meeting room that’s now connected to the Civic Center.
“I will never forget the image of Virginia, this beautiful blonde. She was a gorgeous blonde,” MacDonell said. “She slipped out of her red Cadillac wearing her fur-lined coat and donned a hard hat and construction glasses, ready to inspect the City Club. I’ll never forget that. It was a wonderful image that I think will stay with me forever.”
Friends in the community not only described her as a generous donor, but as a perfectionist.
“I can picture Ginny standing on a weekday morning in the auditorium in Crouse Performance Hall, in the aisle … pointing at the floor and saying, ‘This will just not do.’ Pointing to the seats, ‘This is not acceptable.’ Pointing to the stage curtain, saying, ‘What can we do about this?’ She had such a passion with things being right,” Beck said.
“She had a standard about the things she did, and she wanted things done well,” Lima Mayor David Berger said. But that wasn’t all that made Crouse incredibly memorable to him.
“Another thing that was remarkable about her was the fact that she remained a vital part of the community until the very end,” Berger said. “I think for many people, when they retire, they tend to move away. Virginia had very deep roots in our community and loved Lima and the people of Lima.”