Virginia Eck was born, raised and has lived her entire life in North Dakota. She is the 4th oldest of six children born to Samuel and Enola Eck. Ginny, as she is better known by friends and family, started her ranching and horse career at age 5. Her mother loaded Ginny, her pony, and the foal into a 2 seat Studebaker automobile and headed to the Bismarck Horse Show. The back seat of the automobile had to be taken out so Ginny’s pony and foal had room to stand up. Ginny fondly remembers getting a trophy for her first place “Cutest Cowgirl”. Who knew that day how many people Virginia Eck would influence, mentor, and provide for over the past 70 years since she was five years old winning ‘Cutest Cowgirl’ at her first horse show. Virginia and her mother operated and managed the 40 acre ranch east of Bismarck on Apple Creek Road, where Ginny resides today. They raised beef cattle, dairy cattle and horses. Enola died in 1983 at the age of 83.
Eck received her Bachelor of Arts Degree from Valley City State Teachers College in 1961, and taught first grade for 41 years in the Bismarck Public School system at various elementary campuses. She was an amazing teacher for up to 3 generations of families who grew up in Bismarck. I believe one of her prior students, now a college graduate, described Miss Eck, as a “tough love first grade teacher, and thank God for the Tough Love Teachers!”
Eck has an impressive rodeo history. She won the Miss Rodeo ND title and crown in 1963, and competed at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas for Miss Rodeo America. Virginia won the North Dakota Rodeo Assoc. (NDRA) Champion Barrel Racer title four years, in 1966; 1971; 1972; and 1973 on her AQHA bay mare, JoAnn’s Choice. She was a member of the Girls Rodeo Assoc. (GRA) in 1971 and competed in barrel racing at Professional Rodeo Cowboy Assoc. (PRCA) rodeos in ND, SD, and MT.
In addition to her rodeo history, Eck has been a member and served on the Board of Directors for the following equine related associations: the ND Barrel Horse Futurity Assoc.; the ND Quarter Horse Assoc.; the ND Cutting Horse Assoc.; and the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame where she served from inception of the idea for the hall through 2013.
Virginia recognizes Harold Schafer, who owned the original Blackburn Ranch north of Bismarck, as the most influential person in her life. She noted that Harold Schafer supported and assisted her throughout her college, ranching, and rodeo experiences in life. Virginia said, “He was an amazingly generous man”.
Although Eck never married and had children of her own, she has taken hundreds of boys and girls, teenagers, young adults, and adults under her wings of wisdom and expertise, whenever she was asked. She also volunteers at the United Tribes College Equine programs, and at the Burleigh County 4-H programs as needed. Eck has made a tremendously, positive difference in North Dakota history, and we say “CONGRATULATIONS” to her for a lifetime of accomplishments, achievements, and honors.