Virginia Trostel James

Friday, March 28, 1919 - Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Interior Designer

Photo of Virginia Trostel James  - 1919-2018

Virginia Trostel James

Interior Designer

March 28, 1919 – October 16, 2018


Canton – The beautiful, vibrant, loving, and unforgettable Virginia Lawton Trostel James died very peacefully October 16, 2018 with her nephew and caregiver by her side. She was in her home – the home her parents built, in which she was born, in which she was married, and in which she lived the vast majority of her life. Faith, family, friends, fun, home and interior design were life to her! The scriptures tell us in John 14, “In my Father’s house, there are many rooms”. Surely Virginia is already back at work under the direction of the Creator decorating those rooms. Her death leaves an empty place, but a beautiful memory in the hearts of everyone who knew her.

Virginia was born the second and youngest child of George Michael and Jessie Virginia Woodall Trostel. She grew up on Pennsylvania Avenue in Canton and attended Pennsylvania Avenue Elementary School and Canton High School, graduating in the Class of 1937. Virginia then went on to study at Meredith College in Raleigh, majoring in Art in 1937-1938 (Class of 1940). From there, she transferred to Parsons School of Design in New York, NY from 1939-1941, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Interior Architecture and Design in 1941. Upon returning to her hometown of Canton, Virginia began working as a Decorator with Ivey’s of Asheville in 1941. Soon she accepted a marriage proposal from John Thomas James of Asheville, and they were married – at her home on Pennsylvania Avenue – August 1, 1942. The next year, the James became the proud and loving parents of their only son – Thomas Michael - while Captain James was in the service of the Army Air Corps in WW2. A cablegram from his parents informed Captain James “SON BORN, FAMILY ALL WELL, GOOD LUCK, KEEP IT UP”. Captain James participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy, and 50 missions over France and Germany. Back stateside in early 1945, while assigned to Orlando Air Base as an instructor, he was tragically and instantly killed, when the plane he was piloting crashed into another plane as he was making a landing. Virginia and young Michael were on base at the time.

Following the heartbreaking loss of her husband, Virginia returned to work as a Decorator with Ivey’s of Asheville from 1945-1947. In 1951, she established Virginia James Interiors, also calling it the “Little Decorating Shop”, since it was originally located in a small building rented from Champion Papers. In 1963, she moved her business into new custom-built quarters on New Clyde Highway. Along with operating her business, Virginia often collaborated with regionally renowned builder Howard R. Hall on building design projects, was an instructor in interior design at the Haywood Technical Institute in 1966, and participated in High School Career Days for students from 1958-1962. Virginia was a member of the American Institute of Interior Designers (AID) and its successor association, the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). She was also a member of the Canton Chamber of Commerce – later the Greater Haywood Chamber of Commerce. Virginia was an active lifelong member of Canton First Baptist Church where she taught in the Sunday School, was active in many building and renovation projects, a member of the Building Committee for the new sanctuary in 1958, and a long-time chair of the Sanctuary Décor (Flower) Committee.

Life was always rich, full and busy for Virginia. She absolutely loved her work – even with its challenges. She loved and enjoyed her customers, and they loved her! As one of her good friends and interior design colleagues – J. H. “Van” Van Landingham – described her, “Everything was always perfectly fine with Virginia!” She was talented, sharp, and normally very agreeable. Her business was successful and very enjoyable to her. It was her “other child.”

Virginia never remarried, though friends said she had “many good offers.”

While still enjoying life – her business, family, friends, and travel, the 1980’s and early 1990’s presented more sadness and tragedy. The deaths of her brother, George Howard Trostel, in 1982, her mother-in-law in 1984, her mother in 1987, and her son, a well-educated and accomplished horticulturalist, in 1992, reduced the size of her immediate family. Virginia really had two children – Michael and her decorating shop. She had now lost the most precious of the two as he joined his father in death. Though heartbroken, Virginia characteristically returned to living her life, returning to serve customers, many of whom had waited for her to handle their design projects.

In the late afternoon of a Sunday in January, 1989, she was hit head-on in an automobile accident that not only broke her nose, but certainly accelerated her developing arthritis. Over the next 29 years, the arthritis has – sometimes painfully – immobilized Virginia. Her cheerfulness and continued remarkable self-management throughout this ordeal have gained her more admiration and undoubtedly further enriched her life and character.

In addition to her parents, husband, son, brother, and in-laws, Virginia was predeceased by her sister-in-law, Janet Bell Trostel, in 2010, as well as a host of beloved and wonderful extended family members and friends.

She is survived by her nephews, George Michael “Mick” Trostel, II of Canton, and Joe Baker Trostel of Raleigh (partner Philip J. Mundt); her son’s partner, R. Lloyd Coleman of Cayce, SC; several beloved cousins; a host of devoted friends; and an outstanding team of dedicated caregivers led by Shawnda Hannah.

Visitation is Monday, October 22, 2018, 4-8 pm at Crawford/Ray Funeral Home of Canton. The funeral service is Tuesday, October 23, 2018, at 2 pm with a video and music prelude at 1:40 pm, Canton First Baptist Church, 74 Academy Street in Canton. The family will receive friends afterward in the Church Fellowship Hall. Burial will follow at Bon-a-Venture Cemetery, Old Clyde Road, Canton.​

In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred and can be made to Citizens for Bon-a-Venture Cemeteries, Inc., Canton First Baptist Church, or a favorite charity.

The family is grateful to CarePartners Hospice and Palliative Care (Dr. Langlois and staff).

Crawford / Ray Funeral Home and Cremation Service is honored to be caring for the James family. 


Composed by Virginia's nephew, Joe Trostel

Condolences from family and friends


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Joe and Mick, joy and sadness are the two emotions I feel right now. She and Mother were such close friends. Virginia was such and elegant Lady and was always so loving to me and Earleen. She is in a wonderful place right now with no pain. My prayers are for both of you. Memories are wonderful blessings. Love you both. Robin
Robin Cabe-Smith
Joe and Miick. We are very sad to realize aunt Virginia is no longer with us. She was the essence of beauty and poise. Always a smlIle regardless. Warn and generous to all. We will miss her terribly. We loved her so. God bless you both. Love, Lollie and Gene
Lollie and Gene Carder
My deepest sympathies. . . Canton has truly lost one of its lovely ladies. Sharon Byers Conner
Sharon Byers Conner
What a joy, what an honor to have known this amazing lady. Spent many hours listening to her intriguing and wonderful stories of her life and her family's life. Loved the days and nights I spent with this lady. Canton has sure lost a honor citizen. May God give the family comfort with her lose. Love in Christ, Juanita Trull
Juanita Trull
My deepest sympathy to you Mick & Joe. You certainly have been faithful to your Aunt. She was a beautiful lady, that lived a long and fruitful life. I know you will miss her, but take comfort in the knowledge that she is at rest with the Angels now.
Juanita Dixon
Mick and Joe, it was an honor to have met Ms Virginia a few years ago. She was a beautiful young lady. My thoughts and prayers are with the family.
Owen Fields
Joe, Mick and Phil, Our prayers are with you. Virginia will be missed but I’m sure she is making heaven even lovelier! God bless you all! Cynthia & Vassie
Cynthia Camp and Vassie Cooke
Mick and
Karen Hall