Obituary: Virginia “Jinx” Ann (Van Horne) Riedesel

Virginia "Jinx" Ann (Van Horne) Riedesel
Virginia "Jinx" Ann (Van Horne) Riedesel
Provided Photo

March 2, 1934 – January 27, 2022

Virginia “Jinx” Ann (Van Horne) Riedesel was born in Kenmare, ND March 2, 1934. She succumbed to glioblastoma in Carbondale, CO on January 27, 2022 with her son Doug holding her hand.

Prior to the unforeseen brain tumor diagnosis in late October 2021, Jinx led an amazingly vibrant, full, independent life full of music, art, laughter, fun and adventure. Many described her as 87 going on 67.

Jinx wrote, very specifically, in 2018, a directive to be included in her own obituary. That note stated – “Jinx will be cremated and did not want a funeral. Her memory can be honored by planting trees and flowers, EATING CHOCOLATE, loving generously and greeting each new day with delight.”

Virginia’s parents, Clarence Seaver Van Horne and Louis Anna Baumgarnter, and her brother David Van Horne lived in the post Depression/WWII era in Watford City, ND, Missoula, MT and ultimately settled in the small town of Wallace, ID.

At a young age, Virginia discovered a talent for music. She began taking piano lessons at the age of five and started singing shortly thereafter. On a Girl Scout outing around age ten, a collapsed tent, rock slide and poison ivy encounter gave inspiration for the nickname Jinx.

Jinx continued to work on her musical skills and sang with the award winning Jubileers at the University of Montana in Missoula. She met her first husband, Gib Leibinger, at U of M and, prior to finishing her undergraduate degree, moved to New Haven, CT to support Gib while he was getting a Masters degree at Yale.

The small town kids from Idaho and Montana (Gib was from Miles City) settled into East Coast life working on musicals alongside the likes of Dick Cavett, Pete “AR” Gurney, Rom Linney and many others who made their marks in the entertainment industry. To support Gib, Jinx worked as a secretary for the head of Nuclear Fuels at Olin Mathieson. She had an “L” clearance during this volatile Cold War era. When the FBI visited Wallace, Idaho to conduct interviews in town to make sure Jinx wasn’t a Russian spy – it caused quite a stir!

A move to New York City opened up new musical opportunities for Jinx. She sang in an opera and also sang in a chorus directed by Robert Shaw culminating with a performance at Carnegie Hall. This exposure led to an invitation to be a backup singer on Anita Bryant’s second album. Proving “her salt” in the recording studio, she was asked to audition for the Garry Moore Show and Perry Como’s Kraft Variety Hour. In 1958, a “call back” audition led to an opportunity of a lifetime. Jinx became one of twenty singers on the Perry Como television show. Ray Charles was the director of this talented group of singers. For the next four years, Jinx’s family and friends and millions of Americans would tune in to watch this well regarded program. Jinx often reflected on the thrill of being on stage singing next to guest stars like Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Rosemary Clooney, Eydie Gorme, Dick Martin and Bob Hope. Her last series of shows (eleven performances over three days) was a Christmas oriented performance at the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba on December 12, 1962.

After the final show at “Gitmo”, Jinx and Gib returned West to Evergreen, Colorado. Son Doug was born in 1966 and a divorce two years later led Jinx back into music. To make ends meet as a single mom, she recorded countless radio “jingles” for Fred Arthur studios in Denver. A number of those commercials were recognized nationally with awards.

Jinx became involved in local theatre doing melodramas with the Evergreen Playhouse and joined the Evergreen Chorale. When an upcoming concert needed more tenor singers, a few Denverites drove to Evergreen to assist. Jinx recognized a name from years in Montana on the chorus list – Phil Riedesel. Phil and Jinx both had met in Montana and knew each other’s previous spouses. A drink after chorus rehearsal led to a quick acknowledgment that both “were available” and fairly rapid courtship led to their wedding in 1972.

Phil and Jinx continued to sing together in the Evergreen Chorale and community theater – a notable highlight being South Pacific where Jinx played the role of Nellie. Moving to Littleton in 1978 to Bow Mar, Jinx and Phil continued to sing in the Denver Symphony Orchestra Chorus, and participated in many productions of the Bow Mar community “Black Outs”.

In 1990, Jinx performed in a small, tight knit (no pun intended) cast of players for the LIttleton Main Street Players production of Quilters. The production was a hit and led to State, Regional and National competitions. The cast was honored to represent the United States in Monaco at the Festival Du Theatre Internationale in 1993.

Jinx had been an active quilter prior to this well received role. Although Jinx was known as a musician, she was prolific in her other artistic endeavors. From her early years in Evergreen building rock gardens, to her beautiful perennial flower gardens in Bow Mar, she spent many happy hours getting her hands dirty. Winter days and nights led to prolific quilt making, needle point projects, painting (oil and water color) and photography. Jinx created countless greeting cards of her photos for her “Images By Jinx” business.

Jinx and Phil remained in Bow Mar and enjoyed 43 very happy years of marriage. As a couple they loved traveling and every trip they took included a musical focus. Whether it be a classical string quartet in Italy, a tango show in Buenos Aires, a Crystal Palace dinner theatre on ski trips to Aspen or a Hawaiian luau. Jinx and Phil also loved to climb 14ers, take river raft and canoe trips with friends, play golf and tennis and ski – Copper Mountain being their favorite “go to” mountain. Jinx could also throw a mean spiral when tossing the football. As a couple, they enjoyed many years as part owners of a condominium in Frisco as part of the “Frisco Kids” and enjoyed hiking and cross country skiing on nearby Summit County trails.

After Phil passed away in 2015, Jinx moved to Carbondale, Colorado in 2017 to be closer to her son Doug (Leibinger), wife Rebecca and three granddaughters Maddy, Brooke and Evelyn who live in Basalt. Jinx took pilates and yoga classes, painting and sculpture lessons, read three books a week and worked out with a personal trainer. Jinx continued to take piano lessons and practiced piano an hour a day playing difficult pieces by Brahms, Bach and Tchaikovsky. She performed with local Roaring Fork valley pianists who often performed for one another. She worked for months on a few pieces to perform in a 2019 Las Vegas recital with her first cousin (currently 95 years old) Ruth Johson.

Whether Jinx was jumping on a plane to take painting classes in Spain, or driving solo to Crested Butte to snap photos of autumn aspen groves, being a widow in Carbondale did not diminish her sense of adventure. Jinx’s independent nature inspired awe and admiration from her friends and family. Jinx maintained close friendships from her days at the University of Montana, the Como show in NYC, Evergreen, and Bow Mar and made many new friends in Carbondale over the past five years. Jinx continued to have a zest for life and a twinkle in her eye until the last days of her life.

A final notable achievement took place in 2020. On her 85th birthday, Jinx began what ended up resulting in 15 chapters and almost 500 pages of her “Memoirs – A Prism of My Life”. The endearing, well written history of her life experience will be embraced and revered by her family and friends for generations.

Besides son Doug and family, Jinx is survived by her step-son Kent Riedesel, step-daughter Pam Riedesel (Prestby), granddaughters Amber, Becky, Elisa and grandson Sam. Niece Kelly Van Horne and Krist and Sherri Van Horne and first cousins Ruth Johnson and Arlene Perry.

A “Celebration of Life” is planned for August 6, 2022 in Basalt, Colorado.

Please memorialize Jinx’s life by eating a piece of chocolate, planting a tree somewhere special, spreading wildflower seeds and greeting each new day with love and kindness.