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Updated: 05/20/2013 11:18:04AM

Virginia Thompson McKinley

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Virginia Thompson McKinley died of natural causes Monday, May 6, 2013.

Virginia was born July 16, 1924, in Decatur, Ga., to Alexander and Lillie Mae Thompson.

The Thompsons soon moved to Cairo, Ga., where Virginia grew up and graduated salutatorian from Cairo High School. Virginia worked her way through college, attending the Florida State College for Women (now FSU) where she obtained a degree in Music.

Virginia was a born teacher with a strong commitment to public service. After college, she taught music in Tampa, where she met and in 1950 married Mac McKinley. The growing McKinley family lived in London and Maryland while Mac served in the Navy, before returning to Florida and settling in Hillcrest Heights.

While raising three sons, Virginia remained an active leader in community service. She believed education could lead to a better life for everyone. Virginia participated in and often chaired school organizations and committees, taught music, and procured grants for programs at Babson Park (now Dale Fair) Elementary School. She belonged to the League of Women Voters, local Family YMCA, and the Regional Planning County Advisory Committee.

Virginia was a conservationist. She was a member of various conservation groups including the Ridge Audubon Society, Sierra Club, the Polk County Coalition for the Environment, and the Nature Conservancy. On her porch, she hosted initial meetings of the Environmental Lands Program in Polk County. She was the first Chair of CLASAC.

The Outdoor Classroom Project, including the Scrub Plum Nature Trail at Dale Fair Elementary School, was one of Virginia’s favorite projects. With friends, neighbors, the school, the environmental community, and the Babson Park Community Church (which dedicated the Scrub Plum site), Virginia raised awareness of important Florida natural habitat while supporting local education. Decades later, students roam the Chapman Oak Trail, The Firehouse Trail, and the Scrub Plum Trail, experiencing Virginia’s idea of “Outdoor Classrooms,” where they explore their local environment and can combine the study of art, writing, social studies, science and math. In 2010, the Green Horizon Land Trust awarded Virginia its Blazing Star Award for her life work in conservation.

Virginia loved music and sang throughout her life. She enjoyed close friendships, too many to list. She loved her family, children, and grandchildren and was a wonderful mother, sister, wife and grandmother.

She is survived by sons, Jim, Richard, and Bill McKinley; brother, Kenneth Thompson; sister, Ellen McNeill; grandchildren, Donpaul, Sara, Jesse, Sam, Logan, and Hannah.

A memorial service is at the Babson Park Community Church at 3 p.m., Saturday, May 25.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Green Horizon Land Trust, 225 E. Stuart Ave., Lake Wales, FL 33853 or Ridge Audubon Society, P.O. Box 148, Babson Park, FL 33827.

Condolences may be sent to the family at

Marion Nelson Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.