Cover photo for Virginia Breed's Obituary
Virginia Breed Profile Photo
1912 Virginia 2015

Virginia Breed

May 14, 1912 — April 8, 2015

Virginia Breed, long-time resident of Norwich, passed away peacefully at her home on April 8, 2015, just a few weeks short of her 103rd birthday.

A beloved mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, she was also an author, traveler, community volunteer, church leader and choir member, avid card player, seamstress, and a licensed airplane pilot when women pilots were rare – and the list goes on. Always on the go, she lived a full life and will be greatly missed.

Born May 14, 1912, in the small town of Richland Center, Wisconsin, Virginia Pier was the youngest of three daughters. She excelled in school and at voice lessons and was sent off to college at the University of Wisconsin, even as the Great Depression hit. There she met Al (Alpheus) Wentzel and fell in love, with a courtship based on a shared love of singing and music. Virginia completed a bachelor’s degree in journalism, worked as a reporter on a newspaper (in 1934!), and married Al in 1935.

In 1946, Al and Virginia moved to Norwich, with their family – son, Karl, and daughters, Sue and Linda. Al ran Chenango Foods, canning green beans, while Virginia not only raised the three children, but kept the books for the partnership for years. Son Karl, a featured soloist with the Columbus Boy Choir, died unexpectedly at age 14. While the pain of that loss never went away, a warm and lasting relationship with a Swedish American Field Service student developed when 17-year-old Sven Orrsjo spent 1956 living with the family and attending Norwich High School. Virginia visited her “Swedish son” many times. Sven will always be family for Sue and Linda.

In 1964, Al died, and Virginia began a new phase of her life as Sue got married and Linda went off to college. Her passions included traveling, and she expanded that to flying herself after obtaining a pilot’s license and purchasing her own airplane. She was an active member of the 99s, a women’s pilot group. She flew in a women’s cross country air race, the Power Puff Derby, an achievement of which she was justly proud. She even flew her own plane to visit Sue and husband, Barry, in California, with Linda serving as co-pilot. During this time, Virginia was employed by the New York State Employment Service in Norwich, helping people find work and giving aptitude tests to teenagers.

Her interests also included sewing, playing bridge, and singing in the church choir. She was an active volunteer in local community organizations and in the schools and was known for her walking – three miles a day -- and her stationary bike riding. Her miles on the bike were equivalent to circling the globe!

But another phase of her life was still ahead. After a lifetime of friendship between the Wentzel and Breed families, love blossomed between Virginia and Claude Breed, after each had lost their spouses. They were married in 1980 and enjoyed seven years together, filled with family (five more children and their families for Virginia!) and travel. While Claude only lived until 1987, Virginia enjoyed many wonderful trips and good times with him.

Next, Virginia decided to dust off her writing skills and completed her autobiography entitled 85 And Still Alive. Check the book for all the details of her life – her family is very grateful that this wonderfully-written and fascinating account will always be available.

Her last years were spent at the Chenango Valley Home where she enjoyed exercise classes, bridge games, and her many friends, along with many family events and holiday dinners. Always interested in new activities and experiences, she enjoyed people and charmed with her often dry sense of humor and stories about her life.

Virginia is survived by daughters Sue Riale and her husband, Barry, and Linda Lampkin and her husband, Ronald Dickey; three grandsons, David Riale, Mark Riale and his wife, Jennifer, and Charles Marquess and his wife, Laurie; and four great-grandchildren, Caleb and Hope Riale and Gideon and Malakai Marquess. The marriage to Claude added five stepchildren and their spouses, eight step-grandchildren and their spouses, and 20 step-great-grandchildren. She considered all of them a great blessing in her life and surrounded herself with their pictures.

A memorial service to celebrate Virginia will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 9, 2015, at the United Church of Christ, First Congregational, with Rev. Joseph Connolly, pastor, officiating. There will be no calling hours.

Contributions in Virginia’s memory may be made to a charity of your choice.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Virginia Breed, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Starts at 1:00 pm (Eastern time)

United Church of Christ, First Congregational

11 West Main Street, Norwich, NY 13815

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