Virginia (aka Jenna) Schulman, a lawyer, editor, social activist, and long-time Northampton, MA, resident, died on June 9, 2021, at the age of 83, at Sands Point Nursing Home in Port Washington, NY, after a lengthy battle with dementia. An eternal optimist, Virginia has been described by many as Fearless, and was always willing to help anyone at any time.
Virginia Ruth Schuler was born in Baton Rouge, LA and grew up in Virginia and Michigan. She was a creative and curious child with many interests, who edited her high school yearbook, and entered Antioch College in Ohio in 1956.
Virginia spent 1957-58 in Thailand with her family, while her father taught at a university there. Upon her return to the US, she moved to New York City, and earned her BA in Political Science from the New School for Social Research while working as a typist at the UN.
After a stint as a first grade teacher, she went on to NYU Law School, one of the few women to attend the program at that time. Virginia passed the bar in 1969 and became an attorney with the OEO program Mobilization for Youth. During this time she was also an active folk/blues singer, and sang back-up on several recordings.
In 1971 Virginia married Joel Schulman ’64 and they moved to the Catskills, where she became Director of the Sullivan County Legal Services office. She left that role in 1972 to become a full-time mother to their newborn daughter, Sarah. The family relocated to the Boston area in 1974, where Virginia continued her work as an attorney in a juvenile justice program. This work eventually led Virginia to a position teaching at UMass Amherst, starting in 1978.
Settling in Northampton, Virginia began child advocacy law, alternating her law practice with editorial work for Bergin and Garvey Publishers, the Greenfield Recorder, and Smith College — along with serving on the board of Center for Human Resources Development, as a Girl Scout leader, and other volunteer and activism work.
She and Joel and Sarah were active members of Havurah Haruach, an informal Jewish community, and frequent Look Park walkers. In 1995, Virginia seized on another opportunity to spend a year in Asia, this time working at the English language newspaper, the China Daily, based in Beijing.
In 2001, Virginia, along with co-plaintiffs Lisa Baskin and George Markham, filed suit through attorney Peter Vickery to compel Speaker of the Massachusetts Assembly Thomas Finneran to set a date to replace Bill Nagle Jr., who had resigned to take another position, as the local representative. After multiple appeals, Finneran finally complied, scheduling an election, in which Peter Kocot became the new Representative.
In her retirement years, Virginia bought a small piece of land on Hammond Pond in Goshen, and dreamed of building a house there. She was an avid Rail Trail cyclist, and spent many happy hours cruising the hill towns and walking in Look Park. Virginia began suffering from a form of dementia in 2012, and in 2014 moved to Port Washington, NY to be close to family.
Virginia is survived by her husband Joel, a retired writer and social worker, daughter Sarah Schulmiller, an affordable housing specialist, her husband Eric Schulmiller, Cantor at the Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore, their two children Tal and Ezra.
Additional family includes Virginia’s sister Kathryn Kirshner, two sisters-in-law, Abby Sheckley and Betty Schuler, and nephews and nieces Adam, Phebe, Jack and Dmitri Kiryk, George, Jamie, and Sagan Schuler, Ben and Jackson Kirshner, Anya Sheckley, Michael and Shane Lischin, and Jed Sheckley.
Virginia had a very loving relationship with her in-laws, Joel and Laura Miller and their daughter Tara. Virginia is also survived by dear Pioneer Valley friends Len Rifkin, Vivian and Lihuan Meyer, Linda Wallach, Eileen and Rachel Plzak, and many others. Virginia was pre deceased by her older brother John Schuler.
There are but two main features to Virginia’s legacy:
First, she was an eternal optimist; at age 3, observing frogs on lily pads, Virginia tried to emulate them, and began sinking before being saved by a passing young boy. Virginia supported the Green Party, Ralph Nader, and was an active member of Shay’s Rebellion.
Second, and most important, but flowing from optimism and good will, Virginia was ALWAYS ready and more than willing to HELP anybody, anytime, anywhere. That includes one large angry snapping turtle who was stuck on his back, whom Virginia re-righted with a long pole, a Parisian teenager who was lost in her own city, and reset on course only after Virginia unfolded, her huge tourist map; and clients as far away as Brooklyn NY and close as Hamp.