Virginia Maples Innis, formerly Pasto, passed away Feb. 12 after a car accident in Point Loma. Innis was a fixture of San Diego, arriving to the area in 1945.
She was a writer, national landscape design consultant, award-winning master judge and professional flower design instructor emeritus, past president of the San Diego Floral Association (California's oldest and largest garden club) and past president of Point Loma and Palomar District Garden clubs.
Innis had an encyclopedic knowledge of subjects ranging from plants to history and sports "“ and anyone who had ever sat next to her on a park bench for a few minutes was aware of this.
She retraced her family genealogy, finding roots that extended as far back as the Revolutionary War. In fact, Innis traced family lines to the pallbearers at George Washington's funeral, two brothers and ancestors who had allegedly helped Washington lead the shoeless, ragtag American Revolutionary troops across the icy Delaware River in order to surprise the English on a freezing cold day after Christmas in 1776.
Innis had also discovered that she was related through the McNeill family to American icon of motherhood Anna McNeill Whistler, the famously posed, stern-faced mother of painter James McNeill Whistler.
Innis' vast knowledge extended to sports, and she was an avid Padres and Chargers fan, who vexed local men half her age when she continually won the betting pools. At 80, she even attended several Padres baseball games, which she thoroughly enjoyed.
Born Virginia Maples on a farm in rural Mercer, Tenn., in 1926, she attended high school in Memphis. Innis went on to marry artist Sammy Pasto and together they migrated to California about 62 years ago with two of her sisters, Ona Maples Kennedy and Ann Maples Waterson, both of Kensington.
Innis graduated from San Diego State University's College of Arts and Letters in 1954, majoring in journalism (social sciences). She was the first in her family to attend college, much less earn a degree. She later obtained teaching credentials and taught English, history and yearbook/journalism classes at Jordan High School in Long Beach, Mar Vista High in Imperial Beach and Coronado High. She went on to teach night classes at the Midway Adult School, now the Midway Transition Program.
In 1962, she remarried to San Diego architect Donald A. Innis. As sailing enthusiasts, the pair started the San Diego Sailing Club, teaching classes in the Point Loma area in 1963. The couple joined the San Diego Yacht Club soon thereafter.
Innis had a passionate and long affair with gardening, flower arranging and design, which she actively pursued until her death. Innis studied ikebana "“ the Japanese art of flower arrangement, also known as "kado," or the "way of flowers" "“ as well as other flower arranging genres, becoming a judge emeritus and a master flower design instructor. She judged flower exhibits all over California, including at the annual Del Mar fair. Innis even designed bold and stylistic flower arrangements which were positioned in front of classic pieces of art for the San Diego Museum of Art's annual floral extravaganza, Art Alive. She knew the Latin name of just about any plant and could not be stumped.
Innis was active in and belonged to more than half a dozen different garden clubs and flower societies, including the National Council of Garden Clubs, San Diego Bromeliad Society, the San Diego Orchid Society and the San Diego Cactus and Succulent Society. As a past president of the San Diego Floral Association, she was heavily involved in the planning of the association's upcoming 100th anniversary celebration.
Innis famously started the first flower judging school at San Diego Floral Association and was scheduled to be lauded at the event as one of the major contributors. She was also a writer and regular contributor to California Garden, the well-known gardening magazine established in 1909.
Innis is survived by her husband, Don; sons James and John Pasto and Don Innis, Jr.; daughters Christina and Cynthia Ona Innis; ex-husband, Sammy Pasto; six grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
Donations may be made to the San Diego Floral Association, the Point Loma Garden Club, Scripps Research Institute or the American Heart Association.