Virginia Ann Saito lived a long, full and adventurous life. Virginia passed away peacefully November 16th, 2023. Born in Clay Center, Kansas on June 17, 1936 to Otis and Ellen Branan, she boasted being born on the dining room table and weighing a whopping 13 lbs., 14 oz. “Ginge”, as she was known to many, was the second child, following her brother James (1935) and preceding her sister June (1939).
The Branans relocated to Payette, Idaho before moving to Ontario, Oregon when Virginia and June were quite young. Being close their entire lives, Virginia and June liked to brag who was better at everything from cribbage to cooking. Virginia attended Lindbergh Elementary school where she met Maye Sato. They soon became virtual siblings.
Virginia attended and graduated from Ontario High School where she made many friends including her dancing partner Mary (Thompson) Takami, another lifelong friend. Prior to graduation Virginia met James Saito, fell in love and married in 1953. They lived on the family farm in the Cairo Junction area and raised their three children, Michael, Michelle and Mark.
In 1963, they built the house they shared for the next 60 years raising their kids and working on the farm with her brothers-in-law. Virginia, Maye and her sister Janet, began the “Saito family weeding crew” often employing her children, their friends and many other high school kids during summers instilling a strong work ethic that lasted their entire lives.
When not farming during the winter months, Virginia bowled in the Ontario Nisei league, joining Maye Sato, Iku Iseri and Michi Nakamura to form the backbone of the Iseri Produce team, winning many league championships. She was a lifelong member of Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Ontario, actively participating in many church groups and functions.
Virginia loved to cook. She was always looking for the next great recipe. Her Mafa chicken is considered by many, the best in the valley. Numerous lifelong friends sat for hours ”chewing the fat” over a “never-ending” cup of coffee. Virginia didn’t just have simple friendships; she had extended families, including her beloved Boulevard Grange friends, especially the Leon Price family. Many called her house home even if just for a short time, including the sponsorship of a foreign student for citizenship.
After retiring from the family farm, Virginia began volunteering at the Ontario Welcome Center. She loved working there, meeting and visiting people from everywhere, joking, “I get to tell people where to go!” When she retired, the travel center honored her with a plaque and a State of Oregon flag that flew over the capital.
Virginia was preceded in death by both of her parents, brother James, sister June, granddaughter Staci, and the love of her life James Saito. She missed Jim greatly.
Ginge is survived by her son Michael (Arlene) Saito, daughter Michelle Fortier, son Mark (Shawna) Saito, numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, and many Lifelong friends.
Virginia’s bubbly personality, kind heart and loving spirit will be missed by all who knew her. She is alive in our hearts and memories. Ginge will live forever in our souls.
The family would like to thank the caring staff at Edgewood Memory Care Facility, those wonderful angels at Ancora Hospice, Pastor LeRoy and Vonnie Raynor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church. They all helped make our difficult time bearable.
Services on Tuesday November 28, 2023 at Pilgrim Lutheran Church, 208 SW First Ave, Ontario, OR 97914. Viewing at 10:00 am at Pilgrim Lutheran Church. Order of Service begins at 11:00. Gravesite services at Evergreen Cemetery following the Order of Service. Memorial Luncheon following gravesite service at the Boulevard Grange, 3890 Hwy 201, Ontario, Oregon 97914 (north of Cairo Junction).
Any cards can be sent to Lienkaemper funeral home.