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Virginia Kelley: A Long Life and a Long View

Photo of Virginia Kelley.“We don’t always know what inspires a gift to UCSF,” says Talmadge E. King Jr., MD, dean of the School of Medicine. “But we are grateful to people like Virginia Kelley, who, although she was little known to us in her lifetime, will help young medical students in perpetuity.”

San Francisco native Virginia Markley Kelley left a bequest to UCSF to establish the Captain Arthur W.W. Markley Endowed Scholarship Fund. Perhaps it was inspired by her medical care during a long hospitalization for uterine cancer or by the care her first husband received when he had a heart attack aboard a Standard Oil tanker in the Arctic Ocean.

“My aunt was a no-nonsense woman who outlasted two husbands and all her doctors,” says her nephew Tim Schwarzer. “We do know that she valued education highly.” She was multi-talented and played a mean game of golf and bridge, traveled all over the world, and made friends everywhere she went. “We all just loved her,” says Tim’s wife Janine. “She was a bundle of energy, never tired, and drove like a bat out of hell.”

Photo of Arthur “Wally” Markley.Arthur “Wally” Markley was Virginia’s husband, a captain in the U.S. Merchant Marine who worked for Standard Oil. She was working as a clerk in an Oakland Safeway store frequented by Markley’s mother, who suggested that the young Virginia meet her son. The two married in 1941, and Markley built their home on Barrett Avenue in El Cerrito. It had a view straight out to San Francisco Bay to what’s now the Chevron Richmond Oil Refinery and Long Wharf, where Virginia could see his tanker come into port.

“Wally was gone at sea most of the time,” Schwarzer says, “so Aunt Ginny kept busy on her own.” She traveled on the tanker with him two or three times a year, venturing to Hawaii, Guam, Central America, anywhere that needed oil. She was on the tanker with him on New Year’s Day 1968 when he had the heart attack and died at sea.

Virginia remained active and later married Richard Kelley, a retired schoolteacher. After he died, she traveled with the Schwarzers to Italy at the age of 92 and was just as gregarious as ever—flirting with Italian men and making new friends. She continued working in the community and with the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Richmond, living to the remarkable age of 101. Another of her charitable bequests was to leave the church a freezer full of casseroles, which she had baked and stockpiled for church bazaars and other special occasions.


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