Epilogue - Thanks

Thank you for reading about Lolly’s life.  I still love her dearly and I always will.  I just know that someday we will meet again, in whatever form, and she will no doubt show me some of the beautiful cross stitch and quilts that she has been working on.

 

Greg Hoerner

Lolly’s Journey with Ovarian Cancer

This has been, by far, the hardest chapter for me to write.

First, it is helpful to know that Lolly was in the hospital several years before we moved to Port Orchard because of a tumor in her neck.  It turned out to be benign but the hospital stay, surgery, anticipation of a cancer issue and then recovery were all tough.  A couple years after that Lolly was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (irregular heart beat) and we had another 5 day hospital stay, tests, drugs, scares of imminent heart attack, etc.  Any hospital stay is difficult at best, but throw in surgery, constant tests, lack of sleep, dehumanization, drugs for every possible suspected condition (many of which are caused by the drugs themselves) and it becomes terrible.

In May, 2010 Lolly was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  It was fairly late stage because the only symptom she presented was distention in her tummy.  Her blood marker for ovarian cancer, called “CA-125,” was at 2,000 (normal is around 20).  Within a week of the diagnosis Lolly underwent major surgery.  She called the surgery a “super-sized hysterectomy.”  The surgeon said he got “99% of the tumors” (those he could see), but Lolly still needed chemotherapy so Lolly started on chemo.  She lost her hair but not her spunk; her blood marker got steadily better.  By December, 2010 her CA-125 had dropped to normal and stayed there several months.  Lolly and I decided (consulting with her oncologist) to stop chemo.  Lolly’s hair and our hope started to come back.

By May, 2011 it was clear that the ovarian cancer was not in remission.  Her marker shot back up again and she started on more chemo.  Lolly went through three or four chemo agents – her blood marker seemed to be improving but not fast enough, Lolly was weak, losing her appetite and her distension continued unabated.  By November, 2011 we were sure there was something very wrong.  We had Christmas lined up with our daughter, Michelle, in the San Francisco Bay Area and Lolly was not going to miss it!  We did celebrate Christmas with both of our daughters (and their families), and Lolly’s mother, Lauretta, but Lolly was so weak that I took her to urgent care right after we landed back in Seattle after Christmas.  It was clear that the cancer had spread.

Lolly spent a few days in the hospital again and we decided that Lolly would not be subjected to hospitals, chemo drugs, and such any more.  This was the most difficult decision of my life.   Many people ask me if it was difficult when Lolly passed away and I say, “Yes, of course.”  But, in fact, the days surrounding the decision to let my spouse of 40 years pass away were the most difficult days of my life.  I was very, very angry.

Lolly spent a week in a hospice care center in Tacoma and the nurses/doctors were absolutely fantastic.  I spent every day (and night) with Lolly while she was in the care center.  We arranged for Lolly to come home, to Port Orchard, and we spent another couple of weeks or so there.  Again, I spent every day (and night) with her and cherished every minute.  Lolly did not suffer, but she had lost almost 30% of her body weight, she was very weak, and it is hard to control one’s body in such a state.  However, she would smile and say that it will be fine.  Lolly and I had 40+ great years together, her daughters were doing very well and I would no doubt make it through the ordeal.  Her biggest regret was not having more time to be a grandma.

On February 7, 2012, at midnight, I gave Lolly her medications and, as I always did, a kiss goodnight.  We exchanged “I love you” and I went to sleep.  Around 1:30 in the morning Lolly passed away and I found out that I will never be the same again.  Even though I tried many times before Lolly passed away to craft an email about Lolly’s passing I couldn’t do it.  At 2:30 in the morning on Feb 7, in the room with her, I crafted the following email about Lolly’s passing:

 

Dear Family and Friends,

Lolly’s journey ended early this morning.  Lolly passed away peacefully in her sleep, at home, with me by her side.

I find it difficult to put into words my love for her now; I have a huge hole in my heart.  I find it difficult to adequately express my sorrow and grief.  Lolly has been a fixture in my world for more than 40 years and yes, I do realize how lucky I am for it.  Indeed, Lolly was loved by almost everyone who had the good fortune of knowing her.

Lolly was the victim of a particularly virulent disease, suffered much and complained little.  She fought valiantly for many months despite constant setbacks; Lolly is truly my hero.

Lolly and I have family and friends all over the world so we didn’t feel it would be considerate to stage a single memorial event.  I will try and have several small “Celebrations of Life” for Lolly in the coming months which should be convenient for many.  I also plan on putting together a “Celebration of Life” website for Lolly on the internet - I will let you know the location in the near future.

Thank you all for your kind words, thoughts, prayers and love during this difficult time.  If you get a chance, send out a thought or prayer of condolence not just for me, or our daughters and their families, but to everyone who was a friend or family member of Lolly; such is the love she generated in the world.

Greg Hoerner

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”    - Kahlil Gibran



Back to the Mainland

About the time I graduated the people of Washington State rejected Charter schools for the third time.  Also, the education system was shrinking, financially, and the school districts were laying off teachers and office staff.  It was a terrible time to get a job in education (in general, and especially in education reform).  We rented a place in West Seattle for a while and loved it.  We were a couple blocks from the farmer’s market, we could walk to a dozen restaurants and many shops.  Lolly did like the urban feel of West Seattle, I was less than a mile away from a decent golf course and we loved the view from our place. 

Naturally, I finally got bored and told Lolly that I wanted to find another teaching job.  She was fine with that, but at least could I try and work somewhere around West Seattle?  It never works out that way.  I got a job on Vashon Island, so we had to move yet again.  Lolly was so good at moving by now that she could do it in her sleep.  Off we went to a little cabin on Vashon Island and I taught at the high school.  It was a beautiful piece of land and a cute cabin, plus my commute was under five minutes.  The job went well and I made friends with several teachers – this looked promising as a place where we could just stay forever.

Things were not going as well for Lolly.  You see, unless you live on Vashon for 20+ years you are always a "mainlander."  Lolly was having trouble finding volunteer activities and wasn't making friends.  I was not happy being "stuck" on the island - you had to take a ferry to go anywhere other than Vashon.  Getting off the island for anything is an hour and a half ordeal and costs have increased for the ferry.  Lolly and I just came to the conclusion that we did not want to live in a place where a ferry time schedule dictated our lives.  Also, Lolly was not interested in renting a house anymore.  We bought/built a house in Port Orchard, Washington (near 4 great golf courses) and moved to the mainland.

Off to Stanford for a Master's Degree

I believe that everyone should be able to get a decent education, even those who have to attend the public schools in the poorest locations.  I read incessantly about education reform, Charter schools, and the like.  I wanted to do something more; I wanted to get a Master's degree in Education and help out with education reform.  Without hesitation Lolly agreed, of course thinking I would be going to the University of Washington or a close school.  No, that was not in the cards.  I was accepted at Stanford University, we sold the house in Gig Harbor and moved half of our stuff down to Palo Alto for a year.  Again, Lolly not only went along with her husband, the nomad, but she made sure we were comfortable and settled – even in our little apartment.

Stanford went well.  Both Lolly and I enjoyed the life at Stanford – the others in my cohort, the weather, things to do/see around the Stanford campus, and so on.  It was a fun time (except for the 60 hours a week of schoolwork for me).  Lolly took several "adult ed" classes - literature, history and such.  She had a good time.

Retired from Abbott, moved to USA

We decided to move to the Seattle area and settle down.  Of course, that wouldn’t last, but it was our intent.  We decided on the town of Gig Harbor, Washington.  The town of Gig Harbor is on the water and has wonderful views of the mountains and, well, there was a golf country club nearby.  We bought a house near the golf course and joined the country club.  I played a lot of golf while Lolly kept on volunteering, both at the golf club and as a worker in the food bank.  In addition she was a volunteer driver for seniors who had no other way to get to their doctor appointments, etc.   Lolly could never seem to step back quick enough when someone need help, so she did work as the Secretary for the women’s 9 hole golf group, then Treasurer and finally as Captain.  It was a golden time for her – we did very well as empty nesters!

I went ahead and renewed my teaching certificate and looked around for a teaching job.  I went back to teaching math after all those years.  I spent five years teaching at Annie Wright School in Tacoma while Lolly was very busy with her life.  It was wonderful.

Back overseas to Puerto Rico

I ended up getting a position as General Manager of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean with Abbott.  A confluence of several things forced me to retire from Abbott early.  Lolly never really enjoyed the life in Puerto Rico - it was very difficult for her to make friends, our daughters were gone and she did not find volunteer activities easily.  Also, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer and his doctors were very good at doing every possible procedure on him, including surgery, chemo therapy, radiation therapy, etc; all of this because he had an elevated PSA reading with questionable corroborating physical evidence.  After numerous trips back to try and help out I retired from Abbott.  We left Puerto Rico and spent the next year fixing my Dad’s situation.  We got him on the hormone therapy and he did well – he kept going for many years after that.  Lolly was very supportive during this very difficult time.

Moving to San Diego

I was made General Manager of a small business Abbott bought in San Diego.  We moved to San Diego and spent five great years there.  The weather went from absolutely horrible in Chicago to probably the best overall weather in the world!  Wow!  We had a nice house in a nice neighborhood, the business flourished, the girls did very well in school and we all enjoyed the California/San Diego lifestyle.  Lolly went back to school to take some college courses she missed (including Organic Chemistry – yuck) and she had a fulfilling few years as a travel agent (after acing the travel agent school).  Looking back this is the one time we should have stayed put for 10-15 years.  However, the travel agent business was dying so Lolly was looking to get out.  The vagabond bug had hit me and I was interested in going back overseas during my waning years with Abbott.  Both Lolly and I had so much fun (and challenge) living overseas that we wanted to enjoy it during the final years of my career.

Moving back to Chicago

After Singapore, Lolly and I agreed that it was time to get back to the USA.  Our girls had never really attended a school in the USA and Michelle was nearing high school age.  We wanted our children to experience high school in a public school (albeit a good one) in the USA.  They ended up a year ahead, academically, because of the quality of the American schools they attended overseas.  We kept them at grade level and tried to pique their interest in other things while they the academics caught up with them in their grade level(s). 

We moved back to the Chicago area, but this time in a nice house in a beautiful neighborhood.  This was a cinch for Lolly!  She loved the house and girls flourished.  My job was interesting as I worked for another division of Abbott (Diagnostics) and learned a ton about the diagnostic products.  I also got to travel a little, both domestic and international.  Life was good, except for the weather in Chicago.  Lolly and I still hated the weather (we did have one good year when Spring fell on a weekend).  I was not enthusiastic about working in the home office after having my own businesses for so long.  I started to look around for other opportunities and fell into our best posting. 

Living in Singapore

We stayed in Singapore for three years.  We lived in a lovely condo building, had a swimming pool with a swim-up bar, met several of the residents and enjoyed entertaining/being entertained.  The weather was warm but great.  Lolly volunteered at school again, made sure the girls were okay, and again helped out with the Girl Guides.  I had responsibility for Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand so I had a busy travel schedule; Lolly kept everything running like clockwork at home.  Again, realize that we have now moved to another country, new schools, new driving habits (much, much more sedate) and culture.  To just land and make a house, with two kids, work in this situation is a monumental task.

Lolly enjoyed the organized aspect of Singapore.  It was much easier for her to drive in Singapore and our condo was close enough to walk to shopping, restaurants and so on.  It was our first "urban" location and Lolly really enjoyed it.

Living in Thailand

After Greece we moved to Thailand.  Okay, it was a bit of a shock to go from Chicago to Athens, but going to Bangkok was incredible.  The Thai people, food and culture are absolutely unique in the world. 

I want to point out an important fact here.  During the move to Greece and now to Thailand I had my connection with Abbott.  I had friends and relationships with the local business as well as the Abbott family.  As General Manager of the Thai business I had important contacts in industry and politics.  It was actually very easy for me to transition.  However, Lolly had to keep the family functioning, put the kids in a new school and make sure they were doing okay, take care of the bills, decide what the family eats and wears, make sure Michelle and Kim are happy and doing well, etc.  Now she had to do all of that in a different, foreign country.  I am reminded of the two Greeks talking at the Taverna: “My wife cares about the little things in life, and I care about the big things.”  “Really, what does your wife care about?” “The house, money, food, children, school and our family.”  “What do you care about?” “Who should be Prime Minister and how the government should spend their money.”

We enjoyed Thailand very much and learned a great deal about the country, people and the culture.  Lolly made friends both in the school (she volunteered) and also in the American community.  Lolly helped out with Girl Guides (international version of the Girl Scouts) and even met Princess Sirindhorn at the Palace in Bangkok because of Girl Guides! 

Just when everything was settled down and we had a routine (around three years), I came home with another promotion – we were off to Singapore.  We went through the drill again.  Lolly was getting very good at organizing and carrying off an international move.  Boxes were filled, labeled and set aside for shipment either by sea (we didn’t need them for 1-2 months), or by air (things we needed right away) or with us as luggage.  This was a materials management orchestration, and Lolly was a maestro.

Living in Greece

We spent three fantastic years in Greece.  I worked in the Middle East as a Marketing Manager, which meant a lot of travel, but my time at home was magical.  We went to the beach and windsurfed, made lots of friends, ate lots of Greek food, reveled in the people and culture of Greece and basically blossomed as individuals.  It was a blast.  Lolly took to expatriate life without a hitch.  It is tough to move away from your siblings and family, but Lolly never complained.  It is tough to live in the style of another culture; there was no American television, shopping was an all day experience, you had to adapt to the ways of your host country (including people who drive like maniacs), and so on.  All of this Lolly did in stride; she was exceptional.

Lolly made it a point to learn some Greek and to learn about Greek culture.  She studied Greek food and learned how to make many dishes which remained favorites in our household for many years after we left Greece.  Lolly helped out at the American School and at the American Club while in Greece.  She could not work (and earn a salary) as this would require a "work visa," and these were very hard to come by.

While in Greece we thought about having more children, but going through birth in a foreign country was an ordeal.  Most expatriate women simply went back home to the States to give birth.  We decided, after having big families growing up, that we would settle with our two wonderful girls.

Living and Working in Seattle and Chicago

After I graduated I took a job teaching in Seattle.  This only lasted a year (long story, but I still hate “New Math”) and I took a job with Abbott Laboratories as a sales representative in 1974.  Lolly was going to try and get a college degree in "Medical Technology" if she stayed at the University of Washington.  Even though she could not be a Med Tech she secured a job around this time in the pharmacy at Swedish Hospital as a Pharmacy Technician.  Her attention to detail and her accuracy made her very good at her job.  In 1975 Lolly gave birth to our daughter, Michelle.  Lolly decided to leave her job at Swedish Hospital and try being a stay at home mom.  As it turned out, she was very good at the whole "Mom" thing as well.   It was actually fairly easy as Michelle was a very calm baby, very curious and a joy.  We were living in Seattle, managing a rooming house in the University District and later we bought a small house in Lynnwood, Washington.  Life was great, my job was going well, and we were very, very happy. 

Lolly and I talked about it, and we decided to try for the brass ring – I asked to be considered for a job in Chicago at the home office.  I did get the promotion, but after living and working in Chicago for a few months Lolly and I both were less than enthused about moving to Chicago.  It was too expensive, I lost my job as a representative (and the freedoms of working "on your own") and had to be a corporate type at the home office.  On top of all of this the weather was atrocious.

We had our second daughter, Kim, while in Chicago in 1978.  Lolly, Michelle and I were all very excited about the new addition to the family.  Kim was a very even tempered baby and lots of fun.  Another baby put, however, even more strain on our already strained budget.  Even though our financial situation was tenuous at best Lolly was great during this period and became proficient at making Mac & Cheese 37 different ways (my favorite was/is still with some meat, i.e. a hotdog).  I also remember the cold winters in Chicago (it broke all records for cold and snow when we were there).  I distinclty recall Lolly doing her cross stitch.  She could sit for hours and nimbly stitch a beautiful picture or plaque.  The girls, Michelle and Kim, and I are blessed with many of these wonderful expressions of Lolly's talents.

I was contemplating going back to Seattle as a sales representative when an opportunity came up to work in the International Division of Abbott. In those days an expatriate could make out well financially because Abbott would pay for housing, cost of living, and so on.  Lolly was my strength through all of this.  You see, we were both naïve, from a small town and had no idea what we were getting in to.  However, Lolly never wavered in her support and encouraged me to press on.  I got the gig with Abbott International, spent one more year in Chicago and our little family was transferred to Athens, Greece.  Holy mackerel – how life changed for us after that!

Elementary School, High School and UW

I first met Lolly at the start of 7th grade at Assumption parish school, on Indian Trail road, in Spokane.  After 7th and 8th grade Lolly went to Marycliff High School (all girls) and I went to Gonzaga Prep (all boys).  My grades at Gonzaga were dismal, at best, while Lolly had basically all "A"s.  In my junior year at Gonzaga I finally “noticed” Lolly and asked her out.  A funny thing happened – my life changed completely.  My grade point average going into my junior year was 2.2; from the time I started dating Lolly until I graduated my grade point average was around 3.8.  Lolly said she wanted to go to college at the University of Washington so I had to go as well.  We both applied and were accepted. 

Lolly only stayed at the UW for a year or so; her scholarship had some issues and it was too difficult for her financially.  This would turn out to be one of only a handful of things which Lolly never really got over – she wanted to complete college.  In my junior year of college Lolly and I got married, at the tender age of 20.  We were young, I was going to school and Lolly was working as a secretary, but we decided to tie the knot anyway; we both knew it was good, and that it would last.  It was, and it did.  Our first home was a 10’x60’ trailer in Spokane (while I was attending Eastern), and we subsequently moved to a small apartment in Bellevue, WA while I finished my math degree from UW.

Lolly's Birth to 7th Grade

Lolly was born on April 23, 1951 in Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane, Washington.  Lolly's family stayed in Spokane for a short time and then moved to the Seattle area.  From there they moved to the Midwest as her father changed jobs.  Lolly’s parents went through a rough patch and ultimately Lauretta, her mother, divorced Lolly’s father.  Lauretta and her children (Lolly, Rick, Mike and Francine) packed up and moved to back to Spokane, just in time for Lolly to start 7th grade.