Virginia Dorothy Little (née Crossley), better known as Ginnie, was born on Oct. 12, 1942, to Leslie and Kathleen Crossley in Vancouver. Leslie worked as a mechanic and later as a letter carrier, while Kathleen stayed home with Ginnie and her younger brother Phil. “We used to sit in the bedroom, and she’d teach me how to whistle,” says Phil. “Ginnie was a hoot. She was always laughing and giggling.” Shirley George remembers “getting into trouble” with Ginnie, her lifelong best friend. They’d tie their hair in pigtails, “roller skate all over the place,” or go to the movies. “Singin’ in the Rain had just come out,” says Shirley, “and we’d go down Burrard Street singing songs.”
After high school, Ginnie got a job as a bank teller in downtown Vancouver. A co-worker introduced her to a navy man named Eric Badminton, and “they hit it off right away,” says Susan Fox, their daughter. The two were married in Eric’s hometown of Victoria on June 6, 1964; Susan was born in 1966, and brother Duane one year later. When Susan was in Grade 1, the family moved to Brentwood Bay, outside Victoria; Ginnie stayed home with the kids while Eric continued in the navy. He was often away, but returned in the summer “so we could go camping,” says Susan. On those week-long trips, “my dad would go fishing every day, and my mom would read.”
In 1988, Susan got married—and her parents got divorced. “For the most part, they’d been happy together,” she says, “but they were two different people.” Ginnie, who’d gone back into banking, handled it well: “She got an apartment in downtown Victoria,” Susan says, “and went to work.” Several years later, Eric passed away. At his funeral, a man named Don Little, who’d been Eric’s commanding officer, approached Ginnie to give his condolences. She’d briefly met Don before, and “thought my dad was not a nice man,” says Karen Pelletier, Don’s daughter. She must have changed her mind, though. Not long after the funeral, Don paid her a visit at the bank, and asked her out on a date; on Oct. 22, 2001, they were married.
The two brought out the best in each other. “Dad had been very stern with us kids,” says Karen, “and when I saw him with Ginnie, he was a different person, always happy and laughing.” Karen and her sisters, Kathy Minto and Chris Abbott—children from Don’s first marriage (Ginnie was his third wife)—had drifted from their father, but “Ginnie was really integral in bringing us back into our dad’s life,” says Karen. Ginnie became a part of Don’s children’s lives, too. Karen’s son played in a baseball league, and while Ginnie knew nothing about the sport, she made a point of attending games and asking questions, taking notes to help her remember. One summer, Ginnie “collected all this league memorabilia, and put a scrapbook together for my son,” says Karen.
Ginnie stayed close to old friends, too. Every year, she and Shirley, along with two others, would go to Reno or Las Vegas for a “Girls’ Holiday, No Men Allowed.” Her strong friendships and sunny disposition got her through tough times, like the illness of her son Duane, who battled hepatitis for several years. Duane eventually passed away from liver cancer. Shirley, who lives in Merritt, B.C., supported Ginnie through the loss of her son. “Both of us just kept talking,” says Shirley. “If it took three phone calls a day, that’s what it took.”
Over the past few years, Don’s health had been deteriorating, but he stayed home with Ginnie “till the end,” Susan says. On April 3, he died of pneumonia. Phil, Ginnie’s brother, was there for support. “I told her and his three daughters, you go hold his hands and tell him it’s okay to go,” Phil says. “And they all went in singularly, and had a good talk and a cry, and he went.” Don’s death was very hard on Ginnie, but she carried on. The annual girls’ trip to Las Vegas was planned for this October, and next April, she was going to take a cruise with Shirley and her friends through the Panama Canal. Ginnie was looking forward to the cruise, says Kathy, because “in all those trips they’d done, this was the first time she and Shirley were going to be roommates.”
A couple of weeks after Don died, “it was sinking in that dad was gone,” says Kathy. On May 12, taking care of his estate, Ginnie was on her way to deliver his death certificate to the housing insurance company. Walking at a crosswalk, she was struck by a pickup truck and died that evening. Ginnie was 68.