Virginia Coffey was born in 1933 in Stokes County, North Carolina. She lived there until 1975 when she remarried and moved to Avery County. Virginia was mother to Wayne, Sandra, and Teresa, grandmother to five, and great-grandmother to eight. After moving to Avery County, Virginia spent more than 40 years working at Crossnore Weavers before she passed away last fall.
The legacy of Granny.
But those are just facts, and facts don’t tell the true story of someone’s life. Particularly for someone like Virginia Coffey, better known as “Granny.” Granny spent 40 years in Crossnore’s weaving room, partly because she loved to weave, but mostly because she loved the women she worked with and the students she got to know. On a quiet day in the weaving room, weaver, Shirley Gragg and Crossnore Weavers manager, Lisa Banner shared stories about Granny. Shirley’s favorite memory was talking about the good ole days when she and Granny walked in the woods together. Shirley said, “We often talked about the women who dipped snuff while weaving at their looms.”
For the love of the children.
Granny especially loved the children of Crossnore. Shirley remembered a group of five sisters that came into care and how Granny “took a liking to one in particular named Summer.” Granny even stayed in contact with Summer after she left Crossnore. Then there was Stephanie Hoilman, a Crossnore kid who grew up and came back to work in the weaving room with Granny. Shirley said Granny would talk to any of the “young’uns” that came in. She would encourage them when they were down and challenged them to do their jobs well. But she didn’t shy away from telling them if they weren’t doing their jobs and often started with, “When I was your age…”
Lisa remembers Granny as a great mentor to everyone who worked in the weaving room. She set a great example by being at her loom every day, on time, and ready to go to work. When anyone arrived late to work, she would often repeat the old rhyme, “A dillar, a dollar, a ten o’clock scholar.”
Setting an example.
Granny worked hard at her loom every day and through the years, she worked on the Maltese cross tea towels, throws, capes, and baby blankets. In her later years, she focused on scarves, setting a goal to weave five scarves every day. Granny wouldn’t leave her loom until she got them finished. Sometimes when she was working fast, she’d leave at the end of the day and whisper to Lisa, “I finished seven scarves today.”
Granny worked right up to the end of her life. She was at work every day, drove her own car, went out with friends, and enjoyed listening to live music on Friday nights. It was the steady beat of her life, the rhythm she had settled into in her older years that kept Granny going. Right at the end of October 2018, Granny left work and stopped at the local gas station where she fell. She was transported to the hospital and died on November 5. But she died just like she lived – wringing everything out of life that she could.
Her memory will live on at Crossnore Weavers forever. And surely in the quiet rhythm of the loom, you can still hear the steady beat of Granny’s life.
“When you find your own rhythm, life dances with you.” – Unknown