Friends remember missing woman

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Virginia Aberle, 29, of Chicago, Ill., went missing Aug. 3 during an early morning swim at the Wyalusing Beach. (Submitted photo)

By Kate Bowen

Early Wednesday morning, Aug. 3, our beloved friend Virginia Aberle went missing on the Mississippi River. She was an experienced camper on a canoe and camping trip with friends from Chicago. She was last seen on a dock at Wyalusing Beach around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Her fellow campers immediately notified authorities, who were on the scene by 3 a.m. A massive search and rescue effort was coordinated by the Grant County Sheriff’s Office, which entailed hundreds of volunteers from over 30 local emergency organizations and fire departments searching both water and land.

The recovery efforts since Wednesday have focused on the water, and operated in an official capacity through Saturday. Though the official search has ended, recovery efforts continue, coordinated by volunteers and Virginia’s friends and family—who have been at Wyalusing Beach every day. We have been deeply touched to see many of the volunteers involved in the official search return to keep helping.

Virginia was a vital member of our community and yours. She was from Chicago, but she also lived in Crawford County. She worked for FoodHub in Viroqua, connecting farmers and customers. She sat on a porch in Soldiers Grove and sang country songs with her friends. She went to the Friday Night Fish Fry at the Spring Lake Inn. Undoubtedly many of the readers of this paper encountered Virginia the way strangers most frequently encounter each other, in passing.

She was a lovely vessel of grace and light who floated into your store, or passed you on the road, or spoke with you on the phone at her job. She was an artist, an activist, and dedicated community organizer. Virginia was invested in the people around her wherever she was. She was a contributor and her contribution was deeply felt.

As a member of the Chicago artistic community she made space and provided support to artists through the collective Roxaboxen, and her own gallery Present, and supper club Balsam. As an activist she held space for social justice through Make Yourself Useful, a group in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. As an artist she made beautiful, esoteric objects that were as earnest and playful and bright as she was.

She will be greatly missed by all who knew her. But more than all of this, her whole life was a work of art. Her medium was service and sharing and what she produced was a community; a delicate tangle of people and space, of love and generosity, of intentionality and brilliance that is formed when we seek each other and come together.

We are still searching for Virginia and will continue to try, in the hope of reaching some semblance of closure for Virginia’s family and friends. It has been remarked that it is the great show of love and support for Virginia that has inspired locals who had no connection to her to continue donating their time to the search. Our sincerest and deepest gratitude to those citizens, volunteers, and local sheriff’s departments and fire departments who have returned to help us find this closure.

If you would like to contribute to the search for Virginia, we have set up a GoFundMe account called “Aid the Search for Virginia Aberle.” Donations of any amount are welcome and will go directly to her family to help cover the cost of continuing the search effort. Experienced boaters, divers, and volunteers may still be needed, and those interested can contact search coordinators at (608) 476-2331.

We appreciate the Courier Press and Editor Correne Martin for allowing us to share information about our loved one. And to the readers of this paper, your attention and care have meant a lot to us.

Though we are of many separate communities, beliefs and backgrounds, this week has been an important reminder that we are also a whole colony knit together by good works in service of one another.

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