Ethyle Giuseppe dies at 101

Ethyle Cole Giuseppe, above, at her 100th birthday celebration on Sept. 26, 2018. Giuseppe passed away Oct. 24 at 101 years old.

There is little doubt Greene County would be different if not for Ethyle Cole Giuseppe, who passed away Thursday, Oct. 24 at the age of 101. 

Giuseppe was born Sept. 27, 1918 at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, off South River Road in Stanardsville, the youngest of five children. She never had a new coat in her life, until she bought it herself after college.

Education was important to Giuseppe, impressed upon her by her mother who told her, “Improve your brain; don’t worry what you’ve got on.”

Giuseppe graduated from William Monroe High School in 1936, the salutatorian. “If we give voice to our principals we will never be ashamed to know that the boys and girls of the school are watching the careers of this class to follow in the steps of us who lead the way,” she said during her speech then, and that’s what she spent the next 83 years doing.

Ethyle Cole married Eugene Giuseppe, who served as principal for Greene County Primary School for years, in 1957 and they were married 50 years before he passed away.

The Giuseppes operated a poultry farm off South River Road, and until the age of 98 Ethyle Giuseppe still mowed her own yard, gardened and canned dozens of quarts of pickles.

She served as the first county administrator for Greene County, before she went on to be an accountant for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Virginia. She was a dedicated member of her church, South River United Methodist Church, where she didn’t miss a Sunday service for over 70 years.

Giuseppe gave back to the community through her own hard work, but also financially.

“I have enjoyed doing things for the benefit of the children of Greene. The first big donation was for the Giuseppe Center. Then, I made it possible to have a basketball court and bathrooms at the community park, a clock in the school gym and the greenhouse nursery for the agricultural students,” she said during her 100th birthday celebration. “My brother and I gave all the proceeds from our farm to the historical society and they have done well with the donation.”

Her generosity will be remembered by many, but here are a few words about Giuseppe after her passing last week.

Bill Martin, Stanardsville Supervisor

Ethyle Cole Giuseppe is one of Greene County’s icons – a philanthropist who gave so generously to our schools, our children, and our county park. She also directed a gift from her brother, the late Linwood Rhodes, to purchase the beautiful property that is the current home of the Greene County Historical Society. Ethyle has been a dear friend, neighbor and advisor of mine for many years and she will be dearly missed.

Carl Schmitt, community leader

Ethyle was a remarkable benefactor for the county. So many people, now and in the future, will have a better life because of her committing her resources to furthering education, building recreation facilities with the Ruritans and supporting individuals in their life pursuits. She had done so much that I once kidded her we should rename the county as Giuseppe County. She didn’t like the joke, even though she was deserving.

When I first met Ethyle, I was immediately struck by her no nonsense way of relating. Idle chatter was not her style. She would call me with, “Giuseppe here,” and launch into what she felt I needed to be doing. There was little point in arguing about it because she was right most of the time. If I had a good reason to disagree, she would listen and either stop the conversation with, “OK, Goodbye” and hang up, or restate her case so that further debate was useless.

Underlying our particular relationship was her drive to get things accomplished for the benefit of the county. A drive that is rare both in scope and in determination. I will miss her as will so many in the county. But if Saint Peter has some projects that need doing, he now has the right straw boss in the heavenly host to get them done.

Terry Benshoff, member of South River UMC

Ethyle was always the leader at South River Church, welcoming everyone young and old. She ran the Christmas pageant for so many years. My son debuted as baby Jesus and went on to be a sheep, then a wiseman under her direction of the years. I love her and thank her for her devoted service. She will be deeply missed.

Barbara Ballard, helped care for her

You know, I learned a lot from her. I mean, every time I was with her she would tell me something. Did you know she was the county administrator before Julius Morris? She actually shoveled the snow because she would not pay anybody.

We honored her at the 50th fling earlier this month. She didn’t go to school until she was 7 because she couldn’t cross the river. She continued to learn until the day she died.

Del. Rob Bell 58th District

It’s a real loss to our community. Everybody aspires to leave the world a better place than when they came in. For her, that’s clearly the case. And she is leaving things behind that will make it better, especially for students in Greene County, for decades. She was an inspiration to everybody who wanted to be in public service. And she had more energy than people a third or a fourth of her age. We just saw her at the ribbon cutting at the high school. And we’re all going to miss her very much.

Sheriff Steve Smith

Her generosity and her love for the county were amazing. She was just a wonderful asset to us and we’re going to miss her very much.

Dr. Andrea Whitmarsh, superintendent of Greene Public Schools

As a school system, our vision is to empower our community’s children for lifelong success. We strive for our students to be educated so that they not only experience personal success, whatever that may be, but also so that they are productive citizens who can give back to their community. One of our graduates of whom we have been most proud was Mrs. Ethyle Cole Giuseppe. Not only did she and her husband, a former principal, achieve personal success, but they used that success as a vehicle to give back to our community. One of the main areas of focus for their giving was our youth, and I can say with absolute certainty that their gifts have positively impacted the lives of many of our community’s children.

From the scoreboards in our high school gym to the bathrooms, concessions, covered picnic stand and Giuseppe’s Hoops at the park to our wonderful greenhouse for the horticulture program, to the historical society where our students can learn about the history of Greene, Ethyle always looked to fill a void in our community that could benefit our young people. Her most recent gift and one I am thankful she was here to celebrate was “Cole Commons,” the area at William Monroe High School where students have the opportunity to eat lunch outside each school day. This was also the location for this year’s homecoming dance, as well as other festivities, such as movies under the stars. This was yet another way Ethyle was able to find something that would benefit the youth of Greene County.

If you had the opportunity to sit and talk with Ethyle, you not only know she was a passionate lady who was strong willed and dedicated to her church and community, but you also knew that she felt strongly about the value of education. She took time to congratulate parents and children on their accomplishments, always sought ways to help others so that they could become better people … the same she wished for herself. Ethyle’s mother instilled in her a passion and commitment to education. Whether moving closer to town to enable her to attend school, or purchasing a buggy to make the three-mile distance to school easier, Ethyle’s mother dwelled on the importance of education and she did just the same. She graduated from William Monroe as salutatorian in 1936 and went on to college in Alexandria, not a common occurrence for women in that time. Throughout her life she sought to better herself and her community, specifically in the area of our children.

Ethyle gave numerous scholarships to students over the years to pursue their education at Piedmont Virginia Community College. In order to bring the college opportunity to even more students in our community, she donated half a million dollars to make the PVCC Giuseppe Center possible. This center, a tribute to her late husband Gene, made it possible for students of William Monroe to earn their associate’s degrees before leaving high school. While all school divisions in the commonwealth have the opportunity, the proximity of this center has made it a reality for our children. In fact, by the end of this school year, nearly 100 William Monroe High School students will have finished their associate degrees before finishing high school. Those graduates have gone on to Harvard, Yale, Duke, William and Mary, the University of Virginia, James Madison University, Virginia Tech and many other fine institutions.

Our students are able to do this because of their hard work and the efforts of many, but Ethyle’s donation to Piedmont Virginia Community College is what put it all in motion. This beautiful facility is just a short walk from William Monroe High School, and our students get to experience a taste of college life at the Giuseppe Center. This has completely changed the trajectory for some of our students who would not have had the opportunity to do so otherwise.

Through all of these efforts and her gifts through the years, our children have had more places to learn, enjoy and play, enhancing not only experiences, but opportunities for the future. I am incredibly thankful for Ethyle Cole Giuseppe and all that she did throughout her life to improve the lives of our youth here in Greene. Her gifts will continue to give for decades to come and have truly made our community a better place.

The community is invited to remember Ethyle Cole Giuseppe this Saturday at 11 a.m. when the service will be streamed from the South River United Methodist Church location to PVCC Giuseppe Center for the public.

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