Penelope Powell Bailey

Obituary of Penelope Ann Powell Bailey

She may have been petite in size, but Penelope Bailey led a life that was large in its lessons and love. Penelope Ann Powell Bailey died on October 2, 2021, at her daughter Ann’s house in Morgantown, West Virginia. She was loved by so many, even as she took her last breath. And while we admired many things about her, we will miss and remember her and try to emulate some of the things our mother taught us to love: -Family, first and fiercely. -Butter on toast, spread all the way to the edges. -A good book, a good book recommendation, and the local library. -Civility, hospitality and knowing a person’s name. -Jeopardy! -The ritual of happy hour, to reflect on the day and the evening ahead. -All the dairy products: butter, cream, and Hellman’s mayonnaise (dark blue label). -A beautifully set table. -Little bouquets everywhere. -Making lists. -Babies and puppies. -Naps. -Tidiness and being early (we could have used a little more help with those, Mom). -A prompt, thoughtful, gracious thank you note. -The practicality of the kitchen apron. -Laughter. Penelope was born on November 11, 1926 and grew up in Parkersburg, West Virginia, during a time when the family bank account was skimpy, but her life was made rich by simple gifts of food, family and friends. Being born on Veterans Day, it wasn’t until later in life when she realized the community parades were not in honor of her birthday. We laughed at her stories of escapades with her cousins (“the Dudley girls”) and family dinners. She loved languages and was impressively fluent in both Alfalfa and Pig Latin. She had many suitors but married her Parkersburg High School sweetheart, Robert Louis Bailey, and they enjoyed a long, enviable, and loving 68 years of marriage until Bob’s death in 2019. She and Bob set a standard, by their example, which all of her children, grandchildren and our friends who knew them try to live up to every day. Penelope’s focus was forward thinking, outward, positive and progressive. She stayed current and enjoyed discussing the news and understanding what was important in the lives of her children and grandchildren. At age 93, she announced she was thinking about getting a tattoo. She had great interest in and curiosity about others and skillfully steered conversations away from herself. One of her favorite phrases was, “Well, isn’t that lovely!” when we’d tell her a story about our day. She was an eager listener and learner. When she was 84, she and Bob sold their Washington Avenue family home in Parkersburg and moved to the Village at Heritage Point in Morgantown. At that time, she had been known as Penny for all of her years. But as she stepped into the Village, she announced that she would now like to be known as Penelope, her given name which she had always loved, and so we obliged. And while she loved her life in Parkersburg and cherished her years and many friends there, she embraced her new life, enjoying new friends, Mountaineer sports, lovely dinners in the Village dining room (especially lobster night!) and evenings out in Morgantown at Ann’s or Brent’s home or favorite restaurants. She was often complimented on her beautiful hair and skin, even in the last week of her life. She and Bob loved their special trips to explore new places or visit their children. Switzerland, England, Australia, Nova Scotia, Alaska, Ocracoke Island, Healdsburg CA, and Cape Cod were highlights and they also enjoyed WV State Parks and an annual visit to the State Fair of West Virginia. They traveled in style in an Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser station wagon. At the age of 86, Penelope decided from listening to the news that she should buy stock in Apple and Google, even though she’d never owned a cell phone or a computer. Later she added Starbucks to that list, an investment that Brent helped to support by bringing her coffee. Around that time, she also decided that Pittsburgh would be a great place for her second oldest grandson to live. She wrote a letter to him with “The top ten reasons to move to Pittsburgh.” She then decided this idea should be considered by all of her older grandchildren and sent the letter to each of them. So far, two have taken her advice. She was a dedicated wife and mother who expanded her horizons when her kids were grown and gone. She proudly served on the Wood County Board of Education, running winning campaigns with the slogan, “a Penny for your thoughts.” She had a lifelong love of books and enjoyed her service on the board for the Wood County Public Library. She loved to entertain, planning luncheons and dinners, special table settings and china, often serving her signature chicken salad. Penelope was preceded in death by her beloved Bob, as well as her sweet/ornery brother Edmund Lee Powell; her mother, Emma Shields Hall and stepfather, Benjamin Hoover Hall. Many of us miss her terribly already, including her children and their families: Benjamin Lee Bailey and wife Sarah of Charleston; Robert Brent Bailey and wife Liz Cohen of Morgantown; Ann Powell Bailey Berry, of Morgantown; Matthew Krick Vocke Bailey and wife Erin of Greensboro, North Carolina; and grandchildren, in age order: Graham Bailey, Emma Berry, Zannah Bailey, Brent Bailey, Lily Bailey, Ella Bailey, Lee Bailey, Stella Bailey and Elise Bailey. In retrospect, Penelope’s presence at Ann’s house during COVID provided comfort in our daily visits, and purpose in keeping her safe and content. This was only achieved through the work of a tribe we call Team Penelope. Ben and Matthew encouraged and supported from a distance, and Ann’s welcoming home, Brent’s daily visits and stories and Lizzie’s lovingly prepared special meals gave us a sense of routine and sustained love and care. Weekly Bailey Family Zoom calls helped her to reconnect with kids and grandkids, and she always asked the final question, “What’s for dinner?” We offer heartfelt thanks to the many people who loved and cared for Penelope, especially to Martha Chisler Wildman, Charlene Moats, the compassionate caregivers from WVU Hospice, Scout the great protector dog, and many others. We’re grateful for the medical consults and concern generously provided to us by Sue Collins and Drs. Marsh, Darbandi, and Bharti. If you would like to honor Penelope in some way, she’d be pleased if you’d make a donation to the Parkersburg and Wood County (WV) Public Library (parkwoodlib.com) or the library of your choice, or to the West Virginia Land Trust (wvlandtrust.org). You could also call your mother if she’s still with you; if not, call a mother you care about. Make a list. Admire a pretty flower. Sip a gin and tonic in the summer or a Manhattan in the winter (two cherries). Take a nap. Read a book. Watch Jeopardy. Penelope loved a party. We will honor her with an appropriate celebration at a time when COVID abates and we believe it is safe to do so. Please save your best Penelope stories for a future gathering. Arrangements are being provided by Hastings Funeral Home. Personal condolences and other symbolic gestures may be offered to the family by visiting www.hastingsfuneralhome.com.
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