Virginia Downing Wiseman
Virginia Downing Wiseman Virginia Downing Wiseman, 93, died at her home, Grenadier Farm, Bachelors Hall, Virginia on Friday, August 30, 2013. Ginny was born in Red Bank, New Jersey, December 19, 1919, the younger daughter of Burton C. Downing and May Alice (Vought) Downing. Her early childhood was spent in Red Bank and at the family’s farm in Monmouth County, New Jersey, where she began to ride on a lead line at age three and had her introduction to foxhunting watching the Monmouth County Hounds crossing the farm. At age 11, following the untimely death of her father, a businessman and Olympic cyclist, she arrived in Virginia, along with her older sister Dorothy, to attend Chatham Hall. As one of three junior students at Chatham Hall, she lived with Chatham Hall’s business manager and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Brush, who would be major influences in her life and was tutored until she reached high school age and became a regular student of the school. Mr. Brush was Chatham Hall’s director of riding and young Ginny, already, along with Dorothy, an accomplished rider, threw herself into the program with perhaps more zeal than she did her studies, although she never failed to maintain grades sufficiently high to avoid loss of riding privileges. Before her graduation, she began to instruct other students and upon graduation, she became Chatham Hall’s riding instructor. As a graduation present, she received a thoroughbred gelding, Grenadier whom she showed successfully in the Northeast during summer vacations, and whose grave marker became the front porch step at Grenadier Farm. While working at Chatham Hall, she met and on June 3, 1943, married, Ensign William Plumer Wiseman, a native of Danville. During his naval service in the Pacific, she returned to teach at Chatham Hall, sometimes avoiding the limitations of gas rationing by riding Grenadier from Chatham to Danville and stabling him in a stall at 968 Main Street, the home of Billy’s parents, Plumer and Nora Wiseman. Following Billy’s discharge from the Navy, they purchased a farm at Bachelors Hall which was to become Grenadier Farm. With assistance from Billy, while working to improve the farm and its buildings, she began breeding winning Dalmatians in conjunction with the Reigate Kennels of George and Mary Leigh Lane of Franklin, then one of the predominant Dalmatian kennels in the country. To the Dalmatians, she added Beagles with foundation stock from the Walnut Hall Beagles of Lexington, Kentucky and Toy Manchester Terriers and had show ring success with all three breeds. She arrived in Virginia with a fondness for lamb which was not then found in the meat shops of Danville. To provide lamb, as well as tidy grazing of the farm fields before the day of the bush hog, she began to breed a flock of registered Hampshire Sheep which grew to exceed 100. Ginny also kept chickens for eggs, pigs for pork, cows for milk and beef and grew a large vegetable garden. Through the 1950’s and into the 1960’s, much of the food at Grenadier came from Grenadier. Winter vacations in Florida fostered an interest in shell collecting with her late friend Frances (Mrs. Walker) Peers. That collection grew to some 10,000 cataloged specimens and is currently part of the collection of the Virginia Museum of Natural History to whom it was donated. She kept horses (not to mention Jim, the jumping mule) and continued to ride through the birth and childhood of two sons, and in 1960, at the request of friends began to teach again. What began as a very part-time accommodation to friends grew rapidly into a large riding program which for over 30 years had continually in excess of 200 students and 60 horses including boarders. The Averett College Equestrian program began at Grenadier under her direction and remained there for almost two decades. Ginny developed a regional reputation for turning out competent and successful hunt seat riders, for selecting field hunter prospects and for breeding excellent half and three-quarter thoroughbred hunters. Her fondness for equines and canines coalesced in foxhunting with the Sedgefield Hunt and, at the peak of her involvement, 20 horses and riders from Grenadier might join the followers of the Sedgefield on any given day. With the help of her sons, a small pack of foxhounds, the Bachelors Hall Hounds, was kept at Grenadier in the mid 1960’s and hunted locally. She was also an amateur whipper-in at Sedgefield until retiring at 78. She continued to teach and to breed hunters on a reduced basis into the past decade. She is survived by her sons, William P. Wiseman, Jr. “Buck” and Frank D. Wiseman, their respective spouses, Josephine Pettus Wiseman and Paige Collier Wiseman; grandchildren, Josephine Porter Wiseman (Mrs. Michael Skelton), the daughter of Buck and Josie; and grandsons, William McLauchlin Wiseman and Robert Collier Wiseman and granddaughter, Randall Downing Wiseman, the children of Frank and Paige. She was preceded in death by her husband and her sister. She is also survived by her hundreds of former students many of whom have continued to visit her at Grenadier Farm and who hold her in their memory.