Obituary: Virginia Pyke
October 4, 1934 – December 20, 2021
Virginia Ann (Burns) Pyke touched so many lives through her passion as an educator and her love for people.
Virginia passed peacefully on December 20, 2021, at the age of 87 in Boise, ID. She was born in Los Angeles County Hospital on October 4, 1934. She always pointed out that she was born in the same hospital that was featured at the start of every General Hospital episode (soap opera).
Virginia grew up in Los Angeles where she graduated from Manual Arts High School. She was raised by her mother and was an only child. Virginia had very little knowledge of her father or their family history. She was very involved in her church while growing up and singing in the choir was something that brought joy to her heart. Her religious beliefs were deeply ingrained in her to her final breath.
Education was Virginia’s calling. She received her degree from Pepperdine University and began teaching elementary and middle school in the LA area.
Virginia met her husband, Richard Pyke while in high school. Not long after they were married, their first child was born – Patti. Then they had a son – Dicky (Rich) who was born two years later. They moved to San Anselmo, California while Richard made his way through seminary and became a Presbyterian minister. Richard was offered a position at a church in Lompoc, California where they had their last son, Jimmy.
The Pyke family moved to Littleton, Colorado in 1967 where Virginia taught school and Richard became a minister at a local church. This didn’t last long as Richard was offered a unique opportunity to take over as the Presbyterian Minister at a small church in Minturn, Colorado. Minturn was a small town but supported a thriving mining community in Gilman, Red Cliff, and Leadville. The railroad was very active as well and Minturn, Gilman, and Red Cliff were full of life – Gilman even had a bowling alley.
The Vail valley was growing and needed educators. She started teaching elementary school in Vail in 1969. She recalled it like it was yesterday –
“We literally started as a one-room schoolhouse. We had 50 kids and 3 teachers. The kindergarten was in the basement of the church (Vail Interfaith Chapel) and we had one teacher there, but the main school was located above the clinic (Vail Valley Medical Center). Our playground was – what is now – the back parking lot (now Vail Health Helipad). In some ways, we were one big, happy family. When we took field trips, the whole school went.”
Vail was small and rich with the pioneers of the growing ski area as well as international residents that called Vail their home. The food, wine, and skiing were soon becoming world-class!
Virginia and Richard divorced in 1972 so she and the three kids moved to Vail from their home in Minturn. It was a struggle at times, but Virginia had an amazing support system in the Vail Valley. She always said that Vail was a magical place to live. She met her “soon-to-be” close friend Marie-Claire Moritz while teaching her boys. Marie-Claire and her husband, Chef Walter embraced Virginia and invited her to work for them in their restaurant – The St. Moritz. This was also a special time for her and her family. The St. Moritz created a social setting for Virginia. After teaching school all day she loved the restaurant and the atmosphere that the Moritz’s created. Virginia and Marie-Claire would speak often on the phone (good thing data rates did not apply back then). They would also get together and talk about so many wonderful things that life brought to them – and yes, the kids dominated the topics of conversation. Virginia worked for the Moritz family for over 20 years as a hostess, server, and everything in between, both at their first restaurant the St Moritz, and their second restaurant La Tour.
Virginia tragically lost her daughter, Patti in a car accident in August of 1977. This was a life-changing event. She had to dig deep and find strength for her other two children – Dicky and Jimmy. It is hard to comprehend losing a child at such a young age and there are so many questions unanswered.
Her life was extraordinary. She had an amazing opportunity to work for First Lady Betty Ford when they came to Vail. She did this for a few years while the President and Mrs. Ford would stay in the Bass House just at the base of Vail Mountain. She formed a relationship with Mrs. Ford and cherished the experience. There would always be a Christmas card with the official White House seal and a personalized message to her.
Virginia was an incredibly strong person. There were so many great people and families that became a strong support system for her; Walter and Marie-Claire Moritz, John and Sandy Bishop, Byron and Vi Brown, along with many teachers, Judy Minger, Marka Moser and Millie Hamner, just to mention a few and the many students she had the privilege of inspiring through her years of teaching. Yes, she was a “crier”, but this was a testament to her strength, conviction, and passion for life and the road she had traveled. She was a social butterfly with a kind spirit. She left everlasting impressions on people.
She has now reunited with Patti and is laughing with Marie-Claire.
Virginia is survived by her sons, Rich (Dicky) and his wife Susan of Eagle, Idaho; Jim and his wife Liz of Edwards, Colorado; grandchildren Justin Pyke, Hunter Pyke, Alex Meyers and his wife Charis, Jason Meyers, Ethan Pyke, Olivia Pyke, Eliza Pyke; great-grandchildren Sur, Cedar, Raglan and Scout. She was very much loved.