Throughout her life Gini read the riffle and cast her line. On May 7, 2017 she reeled in her lifeline and laid down her fly rod, trusting that her God would lead her home.
A life that was lived in her faith began in New York City. Virginia Lee was born to Richard and Adair Unwin on March 25, 1948. She was joined by her sister, Teresa "Tessa" Lynn, in Minneapolis in 1951. Richard's job at Honeywell took the family to Puerto Rico and that brought Gini a brother, Ricardo "Ric," in 1953 and a sister, Alicia Kay "Lisa," in 1955. The travel bug bit early and often as the family moved to Rio de Janeiro and later Sao Paulo, Brazil. Gini's amazing independence was demonstrated early in life at the age of 10 when she traveled alone to Santiago, Chile, to visit Richard's extended family. The Unwin family was regularly traveling from South America to the United States and the Unwin kids' baby books are replete with airliner "Jupiter Rex Wings," ocean liner "King Neptune Equator-Crossing" certificates and photos of summer jungle camps and family vacations in cozy Minnesota lake cabins and farms. Gini maintained a lifelong bond with friends and relatives on several continents and never lost her love of nature, travel and friendship.
Gini was a principled, intelligent and educated woman known for her social, professional and business skills. She received a bachelor's degree in sociology from Ohio State University and there, on a blind date, met her husband, Dale Claudepierre. They were married in Columbus on Dec. 19, 1970. Her career goals evolved from social work to business and she earned a master's degree in business administration from Wright State University.
Gini and Dale lived near Dayton, Ohio, for six years and moved to Birmingham, where they both worked for Ford Motor Company. Gini worked on many personnel assignments, and in 1985 she joined Dale in a three-year assignment in Hiroshima, Japan. Gini was a natural linguist and her language skills came to the fore and saved their bacon - or sushi - many times on business and travel adventures. They returned from Japan to Bloomfield Hills in 1988, and Gini continued her career into the first level of management at Ford. Dale and Gini also began to spend more weekends at their cottage on Lake Skegemog near Traverse City. The couple's strong partnership continued and in 1997, after a 20-year career at Ford, Gini opted for retirement to help Dale continue his career at Ford.
In the late '90s Gini turned her talents to managing two households and her second-life career of volunteering. She taught English as a Second Language to Japanese visitors, participated in Community Bible Study and was an active member of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Birmingham. They expanded their cottage, and after Dale's retirement in 2002 they began to spend most of their time in their "up north" home. Retirement also provided an opportunity to travel each year, and it began their love affair with New Zealand and fly fishing. It also provided time to visit Gini's extended family in Chile. Visiting with most of her 17 cousins in South American was a true joy for Gini and Dale that continues today. Dale and Gini provided a home for one of her Chilean "nieces" in 2007, and Pili continues to be like a daughter to them.
In 2010 the Claudepierres opted to sell their home in Bloomfield Hills and retire to their beautiful cottage on Lake Skegemog. Gini and Dale threw themselves into the lake community. Gini took on many volunteer activities at Feast of Victory Lutheran Church as well as at Acme Christian Thrift Store and Food Pantry (ACTS). She became the grant writer, and through her writing skills and charm she helped raise money to buy a building and help provide support to feed thousands of families in the area each year. Gini was also a strong alto singer and having taught Dale to sing, they both joined the church choir as well as the Elk Lake Community Choir. Their lives centered around serving their church and their faith at Feast of Victory.
The Lake Skegemog house has served as vacation-central for the extended Claudepierre and Unwin families as well as for friends from all over the world. When you were invited to an occasion at the Claudepierre home, you knew you were in for a gastronomical event with congenial people captained by a talented, gracious hostess. Not having been blessed with children, Gini and Dale were happy to help nieces and nephews in Ohio and Chile accomplish their educational goals and these kids, now adults, have continued to visit "aunt Gini and uncle Dale" for many years with their children.
Water is life, and Gini dove right in. Gini and Dale worked long and hard to raise vegetables in their greenhouse and share them with friends and family. Gini planted and harvested over a hundred heads of garlic each year and friends lined up to share the delicious bounty. Gini's cooking skills were amazing bolstered by her international recipes and experiences. On a two-week trip to Italy a few years ago she volunteered to be head cook at their villa and "invented " Italian to negotiate with vendors and local chefs.
Gini's days were filled with hosting friends and family, swimming, gardening, boating, fishing and just observing and enjoying the lakes. She loved her gardens and greenhouse, reveling in watching seeds grow into beautiful plants and flowers. Gini derived intense pleasure in bird watching - a pastime learned from her mother. She took joy in the antics of the winsome chickadees, in the majesty of the resident bald eagles, in the haunting call of the loons and everything in between. Gini watched over and cherished their beloved dogs and even their quirky lovebird, Mango. Neighborhood clocks could be set by Gini's woodsy dog walks with her black, curly critters. The latest family addition, a poodle puppy named Joy, was aptly named and greatly loved.
Gratitude is a byword for those lucky enough to immerse themselves in nature's beauty and bounty. Gini and Dale traveled far and wide to enjoy fly fishing and the pristine environments that trout call home. They journeyed to New Zealand to take in the sights, fish the rivers and enjoy new friends. They trekked to Chile to enjoy family and marvel at the natural wonders. Dale remarked that Gini was the perfect mate, reinforced by her Christmas present wish last year for a new fly rod! Throughout her life, Gini maintained a thankful heart and a joyful expression of her faith in God and love for Jesus.
To go fishing is the chance to wash one's soul with pure air, with the rush of the brook or with the shimmer of the sun on blue water. It brings meekness and inspiration from the decency of nature, charity toward tackle-makers, patience toward fish, a mockery of profits and egos, a quieting of hate, a rejoicing that you do not have to decide a darned thing until next week. And it is discipline in the equality of men (and women) - for all are equal before fish. - Paraphrased Herbert Hoover quote
Gini will be remembered at a funeral service to celebrate her life at Feast of Victory Lutheran Church on Saturday, May 20, at 11 a.m. Singers from her church and the Elk Lake Community Choir are invited to practice at 9:30 a.m. at the church, and visitation with the family will be from 10:15 a.m. until the start of the service at 11 a.m. A luncheon will follow at the church.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be directed to Feast of Victory Endowment Fund in Acme, or the Acme Christian Thrift Store and Food Pantry, Williamsburg.
Please visit the Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home website at www.reynolds-jonkhoff.com and share a memory with the family on Gini's tribute wall.
Published on May 14, 2017