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Virginia Horton Sword

Virginia Horton Sword

1911 – 2012

Born in Oakland CA in 1911, Virginia Horton Sword died peacefully after a short illness on Monday, September 10, 2012, at the age of 101.

Her parents moved to Morgan Hill in 1913, then around the Santa Clara Valley. After elementary schools in Cupertino and San Jose, Virginia graduated from Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill in 1929 and San Jose State Teachers College (now SJSU) in 1934 with a BA degree and a Special Secondary Credential to “teach all Librarianship Subjects”. She interned at San Jose State and in San Francisco.

Married to Martin Wells Sword in 1936 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Burlingame, the family lived in various towns around Northern California, including San Carlos, Cambria, Sacramento, Herlong, Quincy, and Chowchilla, before settling in Auburn in 1951.

The Sword family lived at 462 High Street until purchasing 5 acres on Bald Hill Road in the spring of 1953. Virginia first worked at Halls Drug in the Livingston Building. In 1952, she accepted the position of Auburn City Librarian. The Library at that time was located in the Carnegie Bldg. on Almond Street. Holding the position of City Librarian until1959, she always said that her proudest accomplishments were the establishment of the children’s section and starting a popular children’s story hour. She was also very proud of her selection of Dorothy Sanborn as her successor. Dorothy led the library into the next phase, combining the City and County Libraries and was instrumental in getting the new facility on Nevada Street built.

Virginia was active in AAUW, she also worked with the Volunteer Bureau and was on the Sesquicentennial Committee and researched one year for the Auburn history book. She was a lifetime member of the Auburn “Friends of the Library”, and even when living in Citrus Heights the last 3 years, insisted on only getting books at the monthly “FOL” book sale in Auburn. She attended and was honored at the 100th Anniversary of the Carnegie Building on Almond Street in 2009. She enjoyed the “Dining Out” group and loved the Current Events class at the Auburn Library until she reluctantly gave up participating in both when her hearing seriously declined. Virginia loved to read and said “better her hearing, than her eyes”. After moving to a Citrus Heights Care Home in 2009 with her cat “Willie”, she continued to receive the Auburn Journal to keep up with events and people – still considering herself an “Auburnite”.

Martin Sword had been employed in Nevada County Schools Administration and was the Principal at Twin Lakes School in the San Juan Unified District when he died in 1967.

Sword worked with Wendell Robie on the concept and inauguration of a trail ride over the Sierra Mountains. First planned in 1955 as one, three, and six day trail rides, this event rapidly evolved into the internationally known Western States Trail Foundation’s 100 mile/24 hour “Tevis Cup” endurance ride from Tahoe to Auburn. Martin Sword was General Chairman (1956-57), and then President (1959) of the “Lake Tahoe-Auburn Trail Ride” then worked in the background for several more years.

Martin and Virginia were both active volunteers in the Rock Creek Fire Dept., Martin as Assistant Chief and Virginia as secretary and chief provider of refreshments.

Virginia was an honored guest at the Live Oak High School 1938 through 1955 All Class Reunion in August 2011 in Morgan Hill. Invited by her niece Elena Oberg Moreno and nephew Harold Oberg she was a representative of the class of 1929 and the only member present of any class prior to 1938.

There was an amazing amount of history during Virginia’s 101 years. Her mother, in a February 1913 letter, described how she held 2-year-old Virginia on her lap when they had their first ride in a “machine” and they had “no fear”. Virginia lived from the beginning of the automobile age, through the Great Depression, all the wars, man landing on the moon to “Curiosity” the second robot on Mars! Mentally alert almost to her death, she recently recounted a story about riding with a college friend who drove from Morgan Hill to Portland, OR and back during Spring vacation in the early 1930’s.

Predeceasing Virginia were her siblings, Thomas Horton of Santa Rosa, Maybelle Oberg Freeman of Morgan Hill, Lois Blackmun of San Jose; nephews, Thomas Horton Jr., Tommy Blackmun of San Jose, Harold Oberg of Salinas, Arlyn and Edmund Blackmun; and niece Barbara Weller McCarthy of Sacramento.

Survivors include daughters, Linda Sword Johnson of Orangevale and Merrill “Sabrina” Sword of Nevada City. She is also survived by her niece, Elena Oberg Moreno of Morgan Hill and many great-nieces and nephews.

In 1997 Virginia registered with the UC Davis Body Donation program for medical research. She did not want a Memorial Service. The family has respected her requests, and wishes to thank Sutter VNA & Hospice for their care of Virginia during the last week of her life.

In lieu of a Memorial Service and flowers, donations to the Auburn Friends of the Library, 350 Nevada St., Auburn CA 95603 or Friends Forever (cat rescue organization) at 530-885-4228 would be appreciated.


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