Marie Virginia Barrett Zanner can be summed up with two words: Brilliant and Stubborn
Born January 7, 1925, in Texarkana, Arkansas, Marie Virginia Barrett was the only child of William H. Barrett, a WWI veteran, and Lelia Daley Barrett, a schoolteacher. The ambulance driver went to the wrong hospital. This was an error of epic proportion, and was soon corrected when she was born again and issued a Texas birth certificate. It was an even trade.
She had a twisted spine at birth and the doctors said she would never walk. Her mother massaged and stretched her muscles every day. Marie Virginia not only walked, but she also danced and ran.
Her parents went in search of employment during the Great Depression, while she remained in a stable environment with her maternal grandparents. She learned many skills she used later in life: sewing and creative repurposing from her grandmother, and construction skills from her contractor grandfather.
At 15, after her grandmother died, she moved to Houston to live with her mother and aunt who were teachers there. She graduated from high school in three years and was accepted at Rice University (then the Rice Institute).
They said she was too young to register for classes. She registered anyway.
She was told women did not major in science or math. She majored in physics.
She graduated three years later, at the age of 20. She was the first woman to earn a Physics degree from Rice. After graduation she began an extended visit with relatives in Washington, DC. That visit lasted the rest of her life.
She soon discovered community theater and met Carl W. Zanner. They were married and she dropped Marie. She became Virginia Barrett Zanner. Together they helped found numerous theater groups, including Arena Stage, Chevy Chase Players, The Shakespeareans, The Genesians, Mount Vernon Players, Burn Brae Dinner Theater, and dozens more. Along the way she also produced three children (Carl Jr – “Bill”, Lelia and Tommy). As she became more and more involved in theater, she became Ginny.
Ginny knew everything there was to know about getting a show from conception to the stage. She could and did work every position involved in theater. Producing, directing, acting, costumes, set design, set construction, light design and implementation, anything else you can think of, and more. She shared her knowledge liberally.
Her professional career included working for the National Academy of Science, National Research Council, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, and finally 25 years with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. She collected, analyzed and recorded Ion Mass Spectrometer data, then translated it all into computer languages that presented the raw data in a useable form for NASA to share.
She was one of a group of GSFC employees who began MAD, the Music and Drama theater club at Goddard Space Flight Center to keep people awake while waiting for the next data dump. The club still exists today. She was involved in every MAD production until she was 95.
Mother of Lelia Zanner Moors, Thomas More Carlton Zanner, and Carl William Zanner Jr (deceased).
Grandmother of Heather Moors Johnson, Kathleen Marilyn Moors and Brian Harrington Moors (deceased).
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