How to describe the multitalented, always energetic Ethyle Cole Giuseppe, the Greene County businesswoman, community leader and philanthropist who died last month at age 101?
“Impressive” might suffice as a summary. So would “inspiring.”
But then, of course, you would need to know just why she was so impressive and inspirational.
As a young woman growing up in Greene, Ethyle Cole lacked the luxuries we take for granted today. The first time she had a new coat was when she bought one for herself after college.
But clothes weren’t the important thing; education was.
“Improve your brain,” he mother told her. “Don’t worry [about] what you’ve got on.” She took that advice to heart.
She graduated from William Monroe High School as salutatorian in 1936 — during the Depression. Even going to college was an accomplishment for a woman of her time and circumstances — but she did it, in 1939 graduating with a business degree from Strayer University in Washington, D.C.
She spent 13 years as general manager for a poultry company, and in 1972 she became Greene County’s first county administrator, helping the county make the transition into this new form of government — an impressive accomplishment for a woman in that era. She left the post in 1974, and went to work as an accountant for the University of Virginia’s Department of Pediatrics.
Meanwhile, she and her husband — Eugene Giuseppe, a long-serving principal of Greene Elementary school — were running their own commercial poultry farm. When she retired from UVa, she didn’t retire from work, turning her energies more than ever to the farm.
“Ethyle typically walked five miles a day, kept seven acres of lawn mowed, chopped thistles, picked up rocks, filled in groundhog holes, shot groundhogs, grew beautiful flowers, produced a bounty of vegetables from her garden, raised baby rabbits and peacocks and did anything that needed to be done for the farm,” her obituary reported. “One of her lifelong traditions was to put up 100 quarts of pickles every summer.”
She kept up with much of that work until just three years ago.
When Mr. Giuseppe retired, the couple also traveled extensively — including all the way to Antarctica.
So far, this is a story of a self-made woman — impressive and inspiring in its own right. But that’s not even the sum of it.
Ms. Guiseppe also became a beloved philanthropist for her county.
Much of this involved her church, where she achieved a 70-year-long perfect attendance record. Not only did she frequently donate to South River United Methodist Church, but also served in many elected capacities and even used her own home as a kind of church adjunct for its clothing closet and food pantry.
Ms. Guiseppe donated money to build Greene County Park’s Giuseppe Pavilion, completed in 2011, because she wanted to improve conditions for young people participating in sports. In 2012, she gave $500,000 to Piedmont Community College, resulting in development of the Eugene Giuseppe PVCC Campus in Stanardsville, where county students can earn an associate’s degree concurrent with their high school degrees.
She also made significant donations to the county historical society.
Ms. Guiseppe seemed to effortlessly combine many different roles — hardworking farm woman, dedicated church leader, reliable employee and manager, public servant, and generous philanthropist.
In the final analysis, perhaps she transcended them all to become simply unique, one-of-a-kind, a success story without peer. Impressive. Inspiring.