She was born Virginia Thornton in rural Arcola, Ill. in 1918. Ginny’s dad was a civil engineer and her daughter, Kelly, said the family had the first indoor plumbing in town.
Ginny married her childhood sweetheart, James Wolford, a pilot. Two weeks later, he went to Canada to join the RAF to fight Nazi Germany in World War II and was lost in action.
Davenport subsequently joined the U.S. State Department and was sent to England where she was assigned to James Winant, the Ambassador to England, as his assistant. It was there she met, and frequently interacted, with iconic statesman Sir Winston (Winnie) Churchill.
“I was a great big fan,” Davenport said of Churchill. “He was a charming man and wonderful to know. He was so smart. He was very witty and he enjoyed smart people. You couldn’t really talk with him unless you had some kind of upbringing, education.”
After the war, Ginny returned to the States where she met William Davenport, a Naval officer, whom she married in 1947. They built a house in Point Loma where they raised two daughters, Kelly and Riley, and continue to reside there.
Becoming a centenarian is truly a rare milestone to reach, despite medicine and living well both gradually increasing humans’ longevity. Roughly one person in every 6,000 reach their 100th birthday today – 0.0173 percent. Fifty years ago, only one person in every 67,000 reached the century mark.
Davenport’s spirit is effervescent belying her chronological age. Summing up a century of life, she noted, “My family was always most important to me.”
Recalling WWII, Davenport was an “embassy girl,” a position she described as wonderful. “I was always committed to my job because I felt it was very important.”
Davenport is an artist. “I did a lot of paintings, I worked with acrylic,” she said. Her vividly colored impressionistic paintings adorn hallways in her home. She also studied weaving under Arline Fisch, an American jewelry pioneer in metal who taught at San Diego Sate University.
Ginny’s artwork joins husband Bill’s wooden farm implements from his native Georgia that hang on a living room pegboard.
Asked what she admires most in people, Ginny answered, “Honesty.”
“And kindness,” said Kelly, who added both her parents “are open-hearted, open-armed and generous with other people.”
To say nothing of youthful.
“I like young people,” said Ginny. “They bring you along with everything.”
What’s the biggest difference between today and yesterday?
“Politics,” said lifelong Democrat Ginny, who is a big fan of Obama.
Ginny and her father were both big car enthusiasts. When she got her pale blue Thunderbird, she said, “I felt like I was born.
“We used to sing the Beach Boys song, ‘Fun, fun, fun ’Til her daddy takes the T-bird away,’” Kelly said.
Ginny is glad mainstream race relations have substantially improved over the years, telling of a childhood incident that’s stuck with her.
When she was a child, she and her father witnessed the sheriff confronting an African-American man who’d just gotten off a train, to tell him to get back on because he wasn’t welcome.
“I asked my father, ‘Why did he put the man back on the train, why did that happen?’” Replied her father, “Ignorance.”
Ginny’s never been back to her hometown Arcola. “In my mind, it wouldn’t be any different,” she mused.
On April 8, Ginny Davenport had a big party with people flying in from all around the country to celebrate with her at her daughter’s home in Point Loma.