Tribute to Mom

This tribute will be given by the Hubster at his mother’s memorial service Saturday. I share the tribute for family and friends blessing.
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On behalf of my Father, my brother, sister, Mom’s daughters-in-law, and her grandchildren, I want to thank you all for being here today. Words are not adequate to express our appreciation to family and friends who have gathered here to remember my Mom. Your love for her and your support of us means so much.

Mother was born in Huntington West Virginia, the only daughter in a sea of 6 brothers. As such, she learned to defend herself from an early age. She had a vast extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and from the beginning family was of paramount importance to her. Family, and faith. If you didn’t know it already, Mom was a died-in-the-wool Baptist. It would be a continuous defining point throughout her life.

After graduation from high school, she boarded a bus and headed for Chicago Illinois, where she attended Baptist Missionary Training School. It always amazed me that this young woman, the only daughter of a fairly conservative WV family, would, in the late 30’s when such things were not the norm, head to the big city of Chicago and be influenced by thoughts, opinions, and theology that would not be easily embraced back home. She told the story of being in Chicago with the chance to hear a man preach, a man who had been largely vilified in many of the churches in WV because of his more liberal views. She said she decided she wanted to see what all the fuss was about and so she went to hear him preach and came away wondering why everyone was so upset. The man seemed to make sense to her. She wrote to her father about this and he, a founding member of Highlawn Baptist Church wrote back and reassured his daughter that there was a lot in this world and beyond that was not understood. He encouraged her to take it all in and learn all she could. I told this story to my daughter, and she responded, “Well, I guess I come from a line of strong women.” No kidding.

Mom had a passion for Christian education, and after graduation from BMTS she served in several missionary posts in NYC, Vermont, and West Virginia. She taught Sunday School, organized summer camps, ran youth groups, served on many state-wide denomination committees, and participated in conferences at Green Lake, an American Baptist Conference Center in Wisconsin. Mother also worked for the ABC/USA Publication Society in Pennsylvania. She regularly attended the American Baptist biennial conferences, where she knew practically everyone in attendance.

She certainly seemed to know everyone in West Virginia. It is part of family lore that we couldn’t get within spitting distance of the state line without Mother running into someone she knew. When I was looking at colleges I went to visit Alderson Broaddus College, and Mom, Dad, and my sister drove me down to Philippi, West Virginia. As we were checking into the hotel at Grafton, the woman at the reception desk said “pardon me, but aren’t you [removed for privacy]?” Turns out the woman had dated Mom’s brother about 45 years ago—and she remembered Mother. That kind of thing happened all the time.

While living in Pennsylvania, Mother met and married Dad, and they lived in Germantown PA with my brother and sister, who were born during the first 2 ½ years of marriage. I came along later, while we lived in Haddonfield, NJ.

It has always been apparent to my brother, sister, and me that Mom and Dad loved each other very much. There was no separating them. Like all children, we would try of course, but Mom and Dad always stood united. They taught us by their example and Mom’s example of how to live was evident and consistent; live a life of faith, love and support your spouse for all you are worth, raise your children to be responsible, independent adults, be a caring friend, and do all you can to help make the world better for others. These weren’t necessarily well-articulated talking points for Mom. We didn’t sit around the dinner table discussing the finer details of these principles. She simply lived them out each and every day.

After Dad finished seminary and started work in various churches, Mother settled in as a minister’s wife, a role she was born for. Mother was actively engaged in church life, serving on boards, teaching Sunday school, even singing in the choir, in spite of the fact that she could not carry a tune. While at [the] Baptist Church in Binghamton, Mother was the chair of the Board of Christian Education and I was a youth member of the committee. A debate occurred in a meeting about Sunday School curriculum with Mother and I, rather passionately holding opposite positions. I’m not sure what others on the committee thought about mother and son having such an obvious disagreement in an open meeting, but it is a testament to her skills as a mother and as a leader that she encouraged the discussion. It was no surprise to any that the committee voted with the chair’s preference. It may have surprised some that mother and son went home with their relationship well intact. I remember this event with such fondness and think it says so much about who Mom was.

Mom loved to play games. She particularly liked to play card games, Dominos, and Yahtzee. I suppose it is another example of her progressive spirit that she enjoyed cards and dice! When she became a permanent resident of the health center she pressed my Dad and my brother to provide her with a laptop so that she could play the many games she had enjoyed on the computer at the apartment. It is important to note that games brought out a different side of her personality, perhaps a side developed and honed from necessity of growing up the only girl with 6 brothers. She played to win. She was the nemeses of more than one Pinochle player on Wednesday evening here, and her children and grandchildren learned at an early age to come to the game table prepared for battle! It was great fun, but it was not for the faint of heart. For example, she loved her daughter dearly, but when it came to Dominoes, Mom was out to win. My sister and Mom had a running game of Dominos that started many, many years ago. A visit between the two of them always included an evening of Dominos. Their last round was just a few months ago at Christmas and even though the macular degeneration in Mom’s eyes made it difficult for her to see the dots, her passion to win was not diminished. The final score of that epic game: Mom, 65,790– My sister, 65,275. Mom, no doubt, is very pleased.

We are most fortunate to share so many wonderful memories of Mom. A gifted seamstress, she made many of our clothes while we were growing up. She made beautiful braided rugs, read voraciously, cooked and cleaned, and loved to bake. Christmas time was a special treat as Mom would make sure we had a wide-array of cookies available. We each had our favorites – peppercocker, shortbread, fudge, butter cookies, spritz, and Dad’s favorite – Rum Balls! She’d try new ones quite frequently and they would often get added to the line-up. She started the tradition of the [family] Birthday Cake, a simple 3-tiered cake with butter icing from a Fannie Farmer cook-book recipe. She made the best Bran muffins. I remember sharing those with friends in College and 30 years later they still talk about them!

Mom loved her family more than anything. She looked forward to family summer vacations at Bethany Beach, Thanksgiving with all of us at my brother’s family’s house, Christmas with either my sister or my family. She loved going to family reunions that were held every 3 years or so in various places across the country. Once her three older brothers passed on, she assumed the role of family matriarch, and ruled the roost with the clan. With her many nephews and nieces she was known fondly as Aunt Sis. She loved her grandchildren and took great delight in attending band concerts, plays, or other activities they were involved in. She made it a point to share in their lives, to get to know them, and to enjoy them.

She was the same way with friends. She was so gregarious. She just loved people; loved talking with them and hearing their stories. She loved talking about simple things—the ordinary happenings of each day—because those are the things that make up our lives, that show who we are. People responded to Mother’s genuine interest in them, and they remembered her.

That’s a big reason she loved living here at Green Ridge Village. She loved Green Ridge Village the moment she saw it. She ended up living here longer than anywhere in her married life and she did here what she did everywhere she lived. She invested herself in this community; volunteering in the gift shop and various other areas, creating meaningful friendships with most everyone she met, enjoying company and conversation, comforting others with a gentle touch or a big hug. She got a big kick out of introducing her children and grandchildren to Green Ridge folks. Of course, she was never sure if she had already introduced us during a previous visit so we got to re-meet many people each and every time we were here. She was even doing this in her last days with some of the staff at the health center. Family gathered at her bedside over the course of a few days before she died and staff folks would come into her room to tend to her in some fashion. Mom would smile at them, thank them for their help, and then ask them if they had met her family!

When Mom and Dad first moved to Green Ridge her American Baptist heritage compelled her to join the West Shore Baptist Church in Camp Hill. When her mobility decreased and the distance became too much, she conceded to attend Big Spring Presbyterian Church. Church meant a great deal to her. More recently she was unable to get to church at all and she missed attending the services. Still, the church was able to come to her with regular visits from the pastor and parishioners. Those visits were very much appreciated. More than one Green Ridge Village resident has said: DA was just DA. She was a steady influence to family and friends.

She died on February 21, 2011 at the age of 92. She lived a long, full, and meaningful life. She left this life with no fear and at peace with her God, with herself, and with her family and many friends. May we all be so fortunate. She is sorely missed.

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