Pastors' Memoirs

Geneala Van Valkenburgh Swink, 1929 – 2007

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O May this bounteous God Through all our life be near us, With ever joyful hearts And blessed peace to cheer us; And keep us in His grace, And guide us when perplexed, And free us from all ills In this world and the next.

Geneala was freed from the debilitating ills of Parkinson’s Disease on Friday, March 2, 2007.

Geneala was born Jan. 15, 1929, in New Orleans. The daughter of a Methodist minister, the church was a part of her life from birth. Moving from church to church as preachers’ children do, Geneala grew up in Louisiana, Kansas and the Methodist Camp Grounds on the Biloxi Shores of Mississippi. She was graduated from Millsaps College and Emory University Graduate School. She became the Director of Children’s Work for the Mississippi Conference.

In March of 1962, she attended the Methodist Recreation Workshop in Leesburg, Fla. There she met a handsome, witty Virginia pastor, Fletcher Wilson Swink. He later stated in his annual Christmas letter, "We had a number of conversations about theology and related ecclesiastical subjects. It developed that she was to be the Associate Supervisor of the Laboratory School for Workers with Children at Lake Junaluska, N.C., in the summer. During the next few weeks, I began to feel an acute need for further leadership training." They were married on March 2, 1963. Geneala and Fletcher had one much cherished daughter, Martha Susan, and shared 20 wonderful years together until Fletcher’s death in 1983.

The Mississippi Conference’s loss was Virginia’s gain. Geneala served as pastor’s wife to Epworth, Skipwith, St. Luke’s (Falls Church) and Smith’s Chapel United Methodist churches. She was the Director of Christian Education/Diaconal Minister at Fairfax, Franconia, Crossman, Dulin and Stratford Hills United Methodist churches. During these years she became involved in the clowning ministry. As Rainbow the Clown, she visited nursing homes and taught many workshops to help others share this ministry. She was involved in children’s ministry on the conference level and wrote and published children’s curriculum.

After her retirement in 1991, Geneala enjoyed travel with friends, especially her Christian Educators Fellowship "traveling buddies." She returned to Dulin UMC as a member of the congregation until finally moving to the Hermitage in Richmond to be closer to her daughter. She was proud to be the first resident to be allowed to bring along a beloved pet. While there she lobbied for a water aerobics program and became a watercolor artist, winning ribbons at the State Fair.

Geneala was a faithful servant of God, devoted wife and loving mother. She is survived by her daughter, Martha Susan Swink Shippee.

Now thank we all our God With heart and hands and voices, Who wondrous things hath done, In whom his world rejoices; Who, from our mothers’ arms, Hath blessed us on our way. With countless gifts of love, And still is ours today.

— Martha Susan Swink Shippee




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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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