For Crying Out Loud: The Obituary

I know it’s taken me a long time to finish this obituary. I can finally read it without trying to swim through tears, and I want to continue with this For Crying Out Loud series, as grief touches every life. This obituary contains a few facts about Mom’s life, and everything people would have said at her memorial had we not been so busy being flooded with memories and choking with tears while sharing our grief. This is not a disspasionate obituary and is admittedly skewed selfwardly. I’m sad I don’t know many of the stories of her younger years and now the stories are gone. I won’t be mentioning many names out of respect for the privacy of my family members. All the names and words in the world will never contain the essence of her.

Mom was born in Thomas, Oklahoma on November 22, 1929. She had an older brother, and then a younger sister, and three more younger brothers. She is survived by her younger sister; her youngest brother and his wife; the wives of the two middle brothers; four children; many nieces and nephews; eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

She lived a hard life as a child; she didn’t remember having a pair of shoes until she went to first grade. In 1933 when she was three years old, her father packed the two children and his again pregnant wife, and his brother and his wife, into grandpa’s old Model A Ford truck and, leaving half the family behind, drove to Idaho with a couple hundred dollars (a lot of money in those days) in his pocket. Grandpa found a job managing an orchard for a farmer landowner, and installed the whole family with him in one of the farm outbuildings, a little 10 by 12 foot shack with a woodstove that took up much of the space.

The family farmed to feed themselves and make ends meet. Mom graduated high school in 1947, living a childhood during the Great Depression and coming of age during World War II. She worked at the drugstore in town as a soda clerk during her high school years, in addition to her household chores around the farm, and her schoolwork.

She married my dad November 17, 1951. She had four children: myself, in October 1953, my sister, July 1955, my brother, May 1957, and our youngest brother in August 1958.

While her children were in grade school she delivered Avon door to door, on foot, something she could do during school hours and still be at home when the children were out of school. She got her driver’s license in 1965, and worked in a chicken processing plant, cleaning chickens for packaging and retail sale. She then took a job at a tool manufacturing company walking distance from her home, and got so many merit raises for her hard work she earned more than most of the men. She took some college classes, studied her husband’s accounting books from his years at college, and took a job as an accountant at a pharmacy before she finally retired. After she retired she created additional income by selling Melaleuca products, and selling her garden art made from throw away materials like single old cowboy boot filled with succulents or old shovel heads with a plant attached made to hang from the wall of the garden shed.

She was a recycler before recycling was fashionable. All her vegetable waste went into the compost, paper was burned, and plastic bags and containers were washed and reused until they disintegrated. As dresses and shirts wore out they became aprons and hot pads and stuffed animals. She re-finished her hardwood floors two separate times, re-finished all the wood moldings in her home, and re-roofed her home by herself. She did her own house and room painting.

She was a master seamstress; she could sew anything, sewing all her own clothing including the suit she was married in. She sewed shirts for her sons, and dresses, blouses, and slacks for her daughters. She helped her children make a variety of Halloween costumes, including Cleopatra, pirates, cowboys, princesses, witches, and hula girls. She created swimsuits and bikinis at her daughters’ requests. She made her daughter’s wedding gown, including a beaded Juliette cap with veil, and the bridesmaids gowns. All the clothing was, of course, custom fitted, precisely tailored to the body she was making it for.

She never wasted a speck of material and turned the scraps into quilts, hand quilting them on a frame that often took up most of her living room. She embroidered pillowcases, and crocheted the edges of pillowcases and sheets and towels and gave them as gifts for Christmas or weddings. She made sure every child in her family had a hand-made quilt, starting with baby quilts and replacing them with the appropriate size as we grew. Over the years she gave each girl child a quilt rack she’d found at a garage or estate sale, so we could display our favorite quilts.

She loved arts and crafts, and working with her hands. She was a self taught painter and often painted on wood, and other materials, as well as canvas. She worked with textiles and material in many forms. She loved to decoupage, and create art out of materials that would otherwise be thrown away. When she received a wedding invitation or a graduation or baby announcement she would turn the paper into a beautiful individualized plaque, the text mounted and surrounded with lace and ribbon and all in a beautiful frame. She did all her own framing, keeping a stock of pre-made frames, and wood and glass to create any size she needed.

Mom loved garage and estate sales, thrift shops, and junk stores. She collected a set of silverware along with a proper wooden, velvet lined silverware box for each of her children and grandchildren from found purchases at garage sales. She was a voracious reader and collected first editions, old school primers, and various collectible titles during her forays to other peoples’ estates. She had a list of her children’s needs, sizes, and favorite things and bought them for way below retail prices when she found them at garage sales. She would poke through tool sheds at garage sales and buy handle-less shovel, rake, and hoe heads for practically nothing and turn them into garden art. She was an accomplished shopper and negotiator, always aware of the current retail and sales prices of her favorite foods and dry goods and never paying full price for anything she could buy on sale, making it easy to keep her cupboards stocked.

She was an excellent cook, famous for her hot rolls, made for every holiday. She was a master food preserver, canning all manner of fruits and vegetables, making pickled cucumbers, pickled beets and dilled green beans, zucchini relish, and jams and jellies to make use of the bounty from dad’s small suburban garden. Before the ancient crabapple in our yard was cut down, she would gather the tiny tart crabapples and make the most delicious jelly. She was the kind of cook who could have nothing planned and walk into the kitchen and have a meal on the table 30 minutes later. You never left her home hungry, or without food to take home.

She learned more about gardening after she retired and created islands of food around her small suburban plot of land, including red and black raspberries, strawberries, onions, scallions, garlic, and summer vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, squash, eggplant, and pumpkins.

She was a life long learner, constantly reading and watching documentaries and political discourse on TV. She loved crossword puzzles and could do most math in her head without even a pencil and paper. She was self-taught in many subjects, including her art and picture framing, politics, history, religion, literature, and finances and economics. She was careful with her money and shared what she learned, teaching her children and encouraging her grandchildren to save for the future as well. She lived a frugal life but she had what she needed. She didn’t complain about what she didn’t have or compare her life to others; she lived her life simply in the comfort of a small home, making use of every square inch she owned.

Mom enjoyed the small amount of traveling she got to do, visiting her son at several of his naval posts, including Annapolis, Washington DC, and Williamsburg, Virginia; visiting Hawai’i and San Francisco; visiting her brother in Nevada; and taking ocean cruises with family and friends.

She was the best friend. She welcomed everybody into her home with open arms, accepting everyone her husband and children and brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews and grandchildren brought to her home. Mom had a way of letting you know you were the most important part of her day. She might argue with you, and lecture to you, but it was her way of sharing information that was important to her, and thus to you as well. She wanted to learn from you also, so you knew she was cherishing every minute of the discourse or the debate because she was spending time talking with you and listening to you. She treated all her friends and each member of her family, children, nieces and nephews like that, and welcomed each new in-law in the same way.

Mom loved babies. Her first baby was her youngest brother who was born when she was 14, and whom she was mostly mother to, as grandma tended to the farm and the animals and cooking for the rest of the eight person family. She married when he was 7 and he remembers being devastated when she left to have her own family. In addition to her own four children, she helped raise her older brother’s two sons, and often invited other nieces and nephews and family to spend time at her home. Each new grandchild has been welcomed with her sweet hands and kisses.

She was a volunteer Room Mother for each of her children throughout their elementary years. During those years mothers hand-baked or hand-made treats for special events at school, and attended and supervised these special events to help the teachers manage excited children. Between the four of us children she spent at least eleven years volunteering in this position to help in the classroom.

Mom was a Camp Fire Girl Leader for her two daughters and several neighborhood girls. She was a shy woman and taking this role was hard for her, but she wanted her daughters to participate in this kind of program and no other leaders stepped up. She took on the Eleanor Roosevelt attitude and did what she felt she had to do by becoming a leader. She was in the program for more than seven years as a leader.

Both of Mom’s sons are Eagle Scouts. Mark Hatfield spoke at her oldest son’s Eagle Court of Honor. Four of her five grandsons are Eagle Scouts. She was extremely proud of her Mom and Grandma Pins as the mother of Eagle Scouts and it became tradition for each young man to present the pin to her at their Eagle Court of Honor. She treasured the picture she had of herself with Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and her oldest daughter, when her daughter was named Scholar of the Year at the community college she was attending.

She was proud of all her children’s accomplishments and our work ethic. Her favorite brag about her children was all four of her children got out of bed and went to work every day. Until emphysema brought her down she did the same, working every day. Even after she became ill and retired, she walked and gardened and cooked and read every day, and taught herself how to do Sudoku puzzles in the last few years of her life. She tried to learn how to keep up with computer technology so she could e-mail her family and have another pathway to stay in touch.

Mom passed away June 26, 2013 in her own home, in her own chair after speaking with three of her four children that morning. She was loved by many and will be missed forever.

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4 Responses to For Crying Out Loud: The Obituary

  1. piratesorka says:

    That was lovely Kate. Your Mom never failed to make me feel special and always seemed avidly interested in whatever it was I had to tell her. I never thought of her as shy. She was a fine Camp Fire Girl Leader and I thank God she stepped up into that role since it freed me from a troop that I didn’t like and introduced me to you my beloved sister. It was my great honor to be in her presence so soon after her death and to be there for you. Thank you for letting me serve your mother in remembrance, I am sure she would have been tickled about it. Thank you for taking the time and tears to share all this with us.


  2. ma h says:

    Your writing is just getting fantastic. It is smooth and elegant and shows so much strength. Your mom sounds fascinating! Marianne


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