Dozens of friends and family said goodbye to Ethyle Giuseppe Saturday at both South River United Methodist Church and Piedmont Virginia Community College in Stanardsville. Giuseppe passed away at 101 years old on Thursday, Oct. 17.
The Rev. Dr. Will Dyer, former pastor at South River, offered the eulogy for the longtime county resident and benefactor.
“I’ll never forget the first time I met Ethyle. She invited me over to her house, and I go inside and immediately she looks out the window and she said, ‘Will, there’s a bear.’ And I’m thinking let’s get as far away as we can. Ethyle grabbed some apples and walked out and starts tossing these apples to the bear. I thought she lost her mind, but then I read this story about her when she was 2 years old and she had eaten apple butter for dessert and her face was covered in it. Her mother sent her outside to wash up and then mom looks outside only to find 2-year-old Ethyle covered in apple butter, and being licked by a bear. The bear licked her clean and then wandered off. That’s a remarkable life,” Dyer said.
Kendall Tata told the story of how she first met Giuseppe. After Tata’s mother, Jeraldine Morris McMullen Tata, returned home to Greene County after living away for 40 years she was showing her daughter around, including where she went to church.
“There was a car out front. I put my head in and counting money on the back pew was a lady and she looked at me and said, ‘Can I help you, honey?’ And I looked back at my mom and said there was a lady in there and I looked back in the church and she said, ‘I said, can I help ya, honey?’ I think I was a little intimidated so I stepped out and grabbed my mom,” Tata said. “And my mom put her head in and the lady stared at her and said, ‘Jeraldine Morris? Jeraldine Morris, you are a McMullen on your mother’s side. We are second cousins. We are kin by our mothers. I am Ethyle Cole Giuseppe’.”
It was Giuseppe who encouraged Tata to apply to the school system, where she is now a PE teacher at the high school and track and cross country coach.
“After she encouraged me, she insisted. And that enabled my mother and I to live here permanently for about 15 years. And I fell in love with this place,” Tata said. “When Ethyle said, ‘Can I help you, honey?’ I would have never imaged how much she would help me and so many who are forever blessed and fortunate to have been touched by her.”
Orion Faruque said he grew up in South River Church and Giuseppe was a big part of his life.
“I’m a musician and Ethyle gave me my first instrument, actually she gave me a violin, which I proceeded to forget how to play and got a drum set,” he said. “And she told me to bring my drums to church to play them loud for God.”
Dyer said people could go on and on with stories about Giuseppe, “but she would not want us to stand here and celebrate her because that’s not who she was.”
“I was reading a speech she gave not long ago and she said, ‘Where you can do something good, especially for children, go and do it’,” Dyer continued. “And I think Ethyle would say wherever you can go and do something good, period, then go and do it.”
Giuseppe didn’t miss a Sunday service for more than 60 years.
“The thing that mattered most in this moment is Ethyle loved God,” Dyer said. “She was here every Sunday loving on people and present. We’re sad and you should be sad. It’s appropriate to grieve but, but, but, but what Ethyle would have you know … is to grieve as people who have hope because Jesus Christ is alive.”
Giuseppe graduated from William Monroe High School in 1936, the salutatorian. 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. Giuseppe gave back to the community through her own hard work, but also financial-ly.
“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.”
She also donated $100,000 to the school system as part of its facilities’ improvements, which helped create the outdoor eating area off the high school’s new cafeteria, called Cole Commons. She learned of that only when she attended the open house and dedication ceremony for the new spaces at the high school and middle school on Sept. 29.