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Virginia Ingellis, WWII veteran and Mississippi’s first female American Legion post commander, dies at 96

A folded flag sits on a casket during ceremonial funeral training at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Feb. 22, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Sadie Colbert/Released)

Northeast Mississippi has lost one of its few remaining World War II veterans and a notable member of Mississippi military history.

Virginia Ingellis, a World War II veteran and the first female American Legion post commander in Mississippi, died on Dec. 8. She was 96 years old.

Ingellis was born in Rosedale, Mississippi, on Sept. 2, 1926. She joined the U.S. Army Air Corps on May 12, 1944, at 17 years old. She started out as a telephone operator and eventually ended up working in air traffic control, according to her son, Tony Ingellis.

Virginia Ingellis met her husband during a chance encounter at a party while they were both serving at Tyndall Field in Florida. Ingellis and her date were arguing, and the man said he would take her back to the barracks.

She declined, telling her date that she’d already found somebody else to take her back. When her date asked who, Ingellis pointed across the room to a stranger — Fred Ingellis.

“That guy right over there is taking me back,” she said.

They walked over to Fred Ingellis, and the man said, “Fred, I hear you’re taking my woman home tonight.”

“I sure am,” Fred replied.

That’s how the couple — a woman from small-town Mississippi and a man born in Hell’s Kitchen, New York — met. They were married for 70 years.

After being honorably discharged on Dec. 1, 1944, Ingellis went to live with her in-laws in New York until Fred Ingellis was discharged. The couple settled in Tupelo and raised their family of three children.

One of the first things Fred Ingellis did after the war ended was join the American Legion Post 49 in Tupelo. Joining wasn’t so easy for his wife.

“They wouldn’t let me join the post; they wouldn’t let women join,” Virginia Ingellis, then-86 years old, told the Daily Journal in 2012. “I went to the state convention and got on the floor and protested.”

After her protest, not only was she allowed to join the American Legion, she later became the state’s first female post commander.

“Mom would run that Post. She spent many a day up there,” Tony Ingellis recalled. “That was their life. Every summer, our vacation was wherever the state convention was.”

Ingellis remained active in Tupelo’s American Legion until about 2014 when a tornado destroyed the building, which has since been rebuilt.

“Our family has always been really proud of the service, not only of her and my grandfather, but my grandfather was one of five brothers who went into World War II and they all came home,” Chris Ingellis, grandson of Virginia Ingellis, said. “We just are so proud that’s where we come from — people who weren’t scared to give for their country.”

Chris Ingellis, 47, still has fond memories of tagging along with his grandmother to the American Legion on Sunday mornings to clean up after Saturday night events.

“I’d spend time with her and the other members that were there to help, and just would sit around the table and listen to them talk,” Chris Ingellis said.

Along with her love for the American Legion, Ingellis loved all of her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.


(c) 2022 the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

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