Each step of life that we take creates our path forward. Some of these steps introduce us to people we would have never met, or passions we would have never pursued. This was the life of Josie Shotts – her brother-in-law introduced her to her future husband while she was working in the medical field in her early 20’s, and upon her death at age 86, her husband and children created a scholarship fund to support students pursuing a career in healthcare. 

There was a lot that happened in those sixty years between, to get the Shotts family to the Community Foundation of the New River Valley. Josephine (Josie) and James (Jim) married in 1958 and shortly after, started a family. Josie left her healthcare job, to stay home with her children. The family moved from Chapel Hill, NC to Blacksburg, VA when Jim took a job at Virginia Tech. Her healthcare career started before having children, and when they were older, she re-entered the workforce and was a school nurse for several years. While she didn’t work in healthcare for her entire adult life, taking a break to raise her family – that did not stop her passion for caring for others. She often volunteered her time at the Bloodmobile, the YMCA at Virginia Tech, and the League of Women Voters to name a few. Her children recall sitting in the Bloodmobile eating sandwiches and telling jokes to those giving blood while their mom volunteered all day, especially her youngest, Stephen, who has many memories of the Bloodmobile. 

Josie loved writing, and the family is still finding things that she wrote – some of which, they have never seen. She always had a book (or two) in her hand. She loved babies and always gave them her attention. Her son Phillip recalled a memory when she was on a subway in New York City and couldn’t resist playing peek-a-boo with a little boy sitting across from her, even if this wasn’t typical behavior for an NYC commuter Her first great-grandchild was born two months after her passing, and her family wishes more than anything that she got to meet her. 

Josie was battling kidney cancer and was in hospice care when she passed away in November 2020 with complications from COVID-19. Jim also contracted COVID-19 and spent some time in the hospital. Between the care and attention that Josie and Jim both received in their time of need, Josie’s background, and the community need for health care providers, Jim knew that he wanted to do something to benefit students going into the healthcare field. On more than one occasion, he heard a caregiver talk about possibly becoming a nurse or continuing his/her education, but they lacked the funds to pursue that goal. With the Josephine D. Shotts Memorial Scholarship Fund, Jim and his children will support and encourage students to achieve those goals. 

When it came to creating the scholarship fund, the Shotts knew instinctively where they would start the fund. Jim was one of the founding board members of the CFNRV, and he and Josie established two of its earliest endowments. It’s an organization that he trusts, and has the connections needed to reach broadly through our community and get the scholarship dollars into the hands of those who need it. The CFNRV takes care of the investing paperwork, outreach, and communications to identify and screen candidates and distribute funds. The family can be as involved as they want to be without worrying about managing the finances or the scholarship application details.

Josie’s pathway in healthcare has come full circle, from her early career in healthcare to becoming a full-time mother, then volunteering her time in various healthcare organizations, to the care that she received at the end of her life. Josie’s memory will continue to live on through this scholarship and its recipients. The family’s principal goals in establishing the fund are to help meet a community need – partly due to the pandemic – and to give back the care they have received by sharing a bit of their good fortune to help mark a brighter path for someone else.

Josie’s legacy will continue to live on with each student who receives a scholarship from this fund, and those closest to her will especially remember her each spring when they see a purple iris – and get to celebrate those scholarship recipients. For more information on starting a scholarship with the CFNRV, please contact Jessica Wirgau at jessicawirgau@cfnrv.org

Photos courtesy of the Shotts family. The above photo is of Josie and her husband.