Not many people outlive their life insurance policies. At 100 years old, CUI donor Virginia Hoffman Slusser just did.
“At 100, it expires,” she says with incredulity from her Burbank home. “I did not know that insurance policies expire!”
Virginia continued to drive her car and manage her own rental property in Newport Beach until a few months ago. She was 46 years old when John F. Kennedy was shot; 51 when man first walked on the moon; and 63 when Ronald Reagan was first elected. She shows few signs of slowing down.
“When people say something like, ‘It was 1960 when that happened. That’s a [long time] ago.’ To me it was pretty near recently,” she says. “The ’60s and ’70s were a good time.”
Virginia recently made a generous donation to Concordia Irvine of a triplex rental property she and her husband Gerry built in Corona Del Mar in 1969.
Virginia’s gift will have a tremendous impact on our students for many years.
“Gerry and I used to have lots of fun driving down to Corona Del Mar where we had a little apartment there to stay overnight, have nice dinners out and go down to the ocean and all,” Virginia says. “It was wonderful.”
She heard about CUI from her pastor, Rev. Mike Harnack of First Lutheran Church of Burbank. Virginia visited the campus for a tour and to enjoy the Christmas concert. “My eyes just popped out,” she says. “I thought, this is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen to go to school.”
Tim Jaeger, executive vice president for university advancement, and others worked with her to create a charitable living trust.
“She used some of her assets in a creative, wonderful way to significantly impact our students, mission and ministry,” says Jaeger
Through it all, Virginia is thankful for her many blessings. She is grateful that she became aware of Concordia and is thrilled that her gift will benefit students for years to come.
The living trust “was just wonderful because now I don’t have to worry about rentals and maintenance and all that,” Virginia says. “That I could afford to give this building to the university is quite an accomplishment in my life.”
Saving up to buy real estate turned out to be “the smartest thing” she and Gerry did on the financial side, and when Virginia decided to donate her rental property to CUI, the proceeds were put into a living trust. “It’s worked out so well that I would have done it sooner,” she says.
“Virginia’s gift will have a tremendous impact on our students for many years,” Jaeger says. "That I could afford to give this building to the university is quite an accomplishment in my life."
Virginia’s Lutheran roots go deep. Her grandparents worked as a cook and custodian at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis in the 1800s. Because they lived on the property, Virginia’s father was born on the seminary campus itself in 1886.
On September 3, 1917, Virginia was born in St. Louis. To put her age in perspective, when she was born:— The United States, under President Woodrow Wilson, had just entered World War One. — The Bolshevik revolution in Russia had not yet occurred. — Commercial radio did not exist. — Arizona and New Mexico had just been admitted to the Union. — Abraham Lincoln’s oldest son was the chairman of the board of the Pullman railway car company.
When Virginia was an infant, her parents decided in the spring of 1918 to go homesteading in Montana.
“My mother must have been out of her mind to try to bring a six-month-old baby across country, but they did that” in what Virginia believes was a Franklin automobile, she says. But first, they drove all the way from St. Louis to Los Angeles to visit relatives—a journey that took two and a half months.
“Cars those days didn’t go over 35 miles per hour,” Virginia recalls.
Once in California, her mother refused to leave, and so the family settled in Los Angeles and her father, a trained jeweler, got a job in jewelry manufacturing. Young Virginia and her older sister played with paper dolls and jacks. They rode a big, red street car to the grocery store.
“When I talk about street cars, I think, where did street cars go?” Virginia says.
The family moved to five acres in Roscoe (now called Sun Valley), where her father built a house which still stands, and started a chicken ranch. Virginia loved to knit, crochet, and do beading and handwork of all kinds.
“My father being a jeweler, I guess I got a little of his talent,” she says.
They had no telephone, television or radio, of course.
“I have lived through a lot of new devices and new things in life, but electronics and I today don’t get along at all,” she says, quipping: “I read in the paper yesterday that 58 percent of the people are on Facebook. The 42 percent that are not have a life.”
Finding that there was no nearby Lutheran church, her father helped found First Lutheran Church of Burbank when Virginia was around eight years old. When the interim minister was unavailable to preach, her father would read the sermon.
“He was such a good Christian that he would do anything,” she says.
In 1938, at age 21, Virginia was hired by Lockheed, a small company in Burbank. There she met a young riveter, Gerry Slusser, who worked on airplanes for Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes. Virginia and Gerry married in 1941 when the company was churning out airplanes for the war.
“It was all camouflaged for safety purposes,” she says of the facility which is now part of the Burbank airport.
Not all her life has been easy. Virginia and Gerry had one son, Ron, whom they lost in an automobile accident. Ron was a physicist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“I think the greatest joy of my life was my son being so intelligent and such a kind young man,” she says. “Ron’s last job was to take messages from all the unmanned space crafts and get them to talk to each other. Is that what they call ‘progress’?”
To make it even harder, Gerry died six months later. They had been married 68 years.
“I had two years of very difficult times,” Virginia says. “You just ask for guidance from the good Lord because I had no relatives to help me.”
As for advice on living longer, Virginia says simply, “I eat what I want to. I have hot fudge sundaes once in a while, and I love chocolate. I don’t restrict my diet.”