Virginia R. Lee Print
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Written by Ozaukee Press   
Tuesday, 21 November 2017 19:05

Longtime Port Washington resident Virginia R. Lee, who was best known as Gina, and her husband Bill turned their hobby into a business that kept them afloat for decades.
    The Lees loved sailing, and they parlayed that passion into a successful business as sail makers in Port Washington.
    “They couldn’t afford to buy all of the sails they needed, so they thought, ‘Well, we’ll just make them,’” their daughter Lorie Vesterdahl said.
    “They had a good business. Their customers were their friends.”
    The Lees had a passion for the water and always owned a sailboat — many of them built by Mr. Lee — so they spent a significant amount of time working on their boat or plying the waters of Lake Michigan.
    They operated W. Lee Sails, constructing and repairing sails, from 1976 until their retirement in 2004, serving customers from Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan.
    They worked from home for much of that time, but didn’t let the near constant contact bother them, their daughter said.
    “They were really the best of friends as well as husband and wife,” she said.
    Mrs. Lee died of a heart attack Saturday, Nov. 18, at St. Clare’s Hospital in Baraboo while she was visiting her daughter. She was 80.
    A 54-year resident of Scott Road in Port Washington, Mrs. Lee had moved in with her daughters Lucy Whyte and Linda Shannon in Monticello two years ago because of her failing health.
    Mrs. Lee was a native of Viroqua, born on Sept. 21, 1937, to Bernard and Rachel Olson Schaefer.
    After graduating from Stoughton High School in 1955, she entered a nursing program at General Hospital — now Meriter Hospital — in Madison.
    There, she met Wilbur “Bill” Lee. The couple eloped and were married in Dubuque, Iowa, on July 26, 1958.
    The couple moved to Port Washington in 1961.
    Mrs. Lee worked as a private nurse for a number of years before she and her husband started their business.
    In addition to sailing, the Lees enjoyed taking trips around the country on their Harley-Davidson motorcycle and vacationing in Florida.
    Mrs. Lee was “cheerful and kind,” her daughter said. “She was hard-working and generous.”
    She was a good cook who was known for her comfort food, her daughter added.
    “She always made dinner, every day,” she said.
    Mrs. Lee was an active member of the Van Ells-Schanen American Legion Post 82 Women’s Auxiliary and the Port Washington Yacht Club.
    She was also an active, founding member of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Port Washington, where she shared her faith through the Good News Clubs for children, visiting the elderly and teaching Sunday School on confirmation classes.
    She was a deaconess in the church, and helped shape her daughters’ faith through her actions.
    Mrs. Lee also led her husband to the church, her daughter said. For years, he wouldn’t go to church with her, but when he wanted a new motorcycle, Mrs. Lee told him there was one condition —he had to go to church with her for a year.
    He did, their daughter said.
    “She never gave up on him,” she said.
    Mrs. Lee is survived by her daughters Linda Shannon and Lucy (Randy) Whyte, both of Monticello, and Lorie (Jeff) Vesterdahl of Baraboo; grandchildren Sean (Lynn) Shannon, Jodi Shannon, Scott Shannon, Jeremy (Jenny) Whyte, Jacob (Brittney) Whyte, Luke (fiancée Natalie Brunner) Whyte, Tracy (Michael) Carbonara, and Billy, Brian and Ben Vesterdahl; and five great-grandchildren.
    She is further survived by her sister, Diane ( Henry) Merry of Scottsdale, Ariz.
    Mr. Lee preceded his wife in death in 2013.
    A funeral service for Mrs. Lee will be held at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 25, at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Port Washington. The Rev. Dan Krahenbuhl will officiate.
    Visitation will be at the church Saturday from 10:30 a.m. until the service.
    Burial will be in Union Cemetery, Port Washington.
    Funeral arrangements are being handled through Eernisse Funeral Home, Port Washington.