ForeverMissed

     Today, the family and friends of Ruth Kilgore Keeling Edmonson Rodgers who passed away just a few weeks ago would have celebrated her 93rd birthday with her. While we are no longer able to do that we can rejoice for having known her, loved her, and be grateful for the memories that she left us. For us, the 25th day of February will always be a day for that.  

     Long and remarkable lives deserve to be remembered and their stories told. We have established this page in the hope that it will always be a place to record or view remembrances. The Life section of this page has more about her life and we welcome you to add your memories in the Stories section. As might be imagined, there are literally hundreds of photos and videos that document Ruth’s long life. We are in the process of organizing them and intend to add those that may be of interest to the Gallery section as we find them. 

    Ruth, who had survived being widowed three times, raising two sons, and a myriad of other trials and tribulations that over nine decades of life could throw at her, passed away on January 16, 2019, in Harrison, Arkansas.

    She was born on February 25, 1926, in Low Gap, Arkansas to Aaron Asberry "Berry" and Nancy Elizabeth "Bessie" Rice Kilgore, descendants of area pioneers. Ruth was the 8th of 11 (six boys and five girls).  All survived their childhood in an era and place where the odds made that unlikely. Eight brothers and sisters preceded her in death and she was the last surviving girl.

    Ruth and her siblings were all raised in the remote farming communities of Low Gap and Parthenon. Ruth, as most of her siblings, left home as a teenager to make her way in the world armed only with a very limited formal education and a great work ethic.

    At 16 she got her first job as a domestic worker at a boarding house in Jasper, Arkansas. At 17, wanting to see the “big city” she moved to Kansas City, Mo. to live with an aunt.

    At 18, Ruth married Bernie O. Keeling, an Army veteran and owner of a garage in Harrison, Arkansas. They had a son and at 19 she became a widow and single mom.

    In 1950 she married Clyde V. Edmonson in Harrison, Arkansas with whom she had her second son. In the early and mid-1950s, Clyde’s work took them to live in Sunnyside, Washington, Portsmouth, Ohio, and Jacksonville, Arkansas. In 1957, Ruth and her family moved back to Harrison to be near family. She had missed the large get-togethers and card games that often ensued. She worked at Oberman Manufacturing Co., a garment manufacturer, with many friends and relatives. Ruth was a champion bowler and traveled throughout Arkansas and Missouri to compete. Team and Individual trophies packed her shelves. She became a widow and single mother for the second time when Clyde died in January 1966. In July 1966, she and her youngest son moved to Virginia Beach, Virginia to be near two of her sisters. It would be her home for the next 50 years.

    In 1968 Ruth married Alvin "Sally" Land Rodgers, who was a magistrate, bail commissioner, and a volunteer fireman for Virginia Beach. Ruth worked at Oceana Naval Air Station for a short while and then became a Deputy Sheriff. She continued to work in the Virginia Beach Sheriff's Department until she retired.

    Ruth and Sally enjoyed traveling, bowling, making music, and gardening. Most of all, they enjoyed fishing, crabbing, and tonging for oysters at SARU Point, their Northern Neck home.  In 1994, Ruth became a widow for the third and final time. She continued to live in Virginia Beach close to family and friends. Many of her best friends were fellow attendees of the Church of the Nazarene and she always had a great time at their luncheons.

    Ruth was a renowned Bingo player. She often joked that her game bag was fully packed like a sailor’s sea bag and always ready to go. She was also known to occasionally give one-armed bandits a workout.

    She loved collecting porcelain dolls, Boyd's Bears, vinegar cruets, teapots, beanie babies, angels, and cd’s of old country music standards.

    What Ruth loved most was her family. Due to fate and circumstances, she was only able to spend the largest majority of her years with one of her sons and his family. She was never happier than when she was with them. Ruth played a huge roll in the lives of three granddaughters and could not have been more proud of the young women she saw them become. She was tremendously proud of her whole family regardless of time and distance and loved them with all her heart.

    In 2016, at the age of 90, Ruth decided to move back to Harrison after 50 years to spend time with her other son and his family as well as numerous nieces and nephews. It also greatly shortened the physical distance to her two surviving brothers. She enjoyed seeing people and places that she had not seen in a long time.

    The common afflictions of old age which had slowly multiplied began to do so more rapidly in her final months. Her health went into a downward spiral from which she could not recover but, being the survivor and fighter that she was, would battle nonetheless. Ruth had inherited the undeniable determined spirit of her Ozark Mountain ancestors and it had served her well until the very end.  

    Ruth is survived by her sons, Bernie Keeling and wife Francis of Ava, Missouri, Carson Edmonson and wife Jeanne of Chesapeake, Virginia, Grandchildren Craig Keeling, Cindy Keeling, Melissa Nelson, Jennifer Rockwell, Becca Edmonson, Great Grandchildren Alex, River, Arya, and Brynlee.

    Ruth is also survived by her brothers Kenneth Kilgore of Vancouver, Washington, and Truman Kilgore of Fremont, Nebraska as well as an amazing number of nieces, nephews, and cousins.

A funeral service was held on Monday, Jan.21, 2019, at Hillcrest Home in Harrison followed by interment in Maplewood Cemetery. Pallbearers were Craig Keeling, Brian Capps, Vic Yoder, Steve McBee, Bill Lovell, and Curtis Lane. Honorary Pallbearers were the staff of Hillcrest Home.

We would like to offer a special heartfelt thanks to Betty Lovell Smith, Missy McBee, Bill Lovell, Peggy Lovell Campbell, Floy Villines, and Reba Ruth Villines Taylor who helped their aunt immeasurably in her final years.  

We would also like to thank all of those who were involved in caring for her, especially the staff of the Hillcrest Home. While we may not know you personally it does not make our appreciation any the less so.

In Memoriam donations in Ruth’s name would be gratefully received by the Parthenon Volunteer Fire Department, c/o Matt Miller, HC72 Box 262c, Jasper, AR 73741.

The heading, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken...", denotes one of Ruth's favorite gospel songs.

Update: 05-12-19 A Mother's Day Memorial was added to the Life Section of this page.

Tributes are short messages commemorating Ruth, or an expression of support to her closest family and friends. Leave your first tribute here, and others will follow.

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Mother's Day Memorial - May 12, 2019

     This will be our first Mother's Day without her and she is especially missed because of it. While that will always be so, we should remember all of the Mother's Days we were able to share with her and find joy in those memories. She was an extraordinary Mom, Grandma, and Great-Grandma which we can say without any bias whatsoever and a smile on our faces.  

     Mom played a large roll in my life for many decades and so it is that I know quite a lot about her life as well.  No doubt, most people could say the same about their own mothers. They would also probably say their mothers had been remarkable. Even had she not been my mother I would say mine had been extraordinary. Anyone who manages to have lived such a life deserves to have that said about them. Her life began in very humble remote surroundings with plenty of work and little education. Her entire life was, with very little exception, spent taking care of others. Even while living through personal tragedies and maladies her focus was on the well being of others. She laughed and loved and caused other people around her to do the same. She lived during times and in places where being a girl, woman, wife, mom, widow, and single mom was even much harder than it is now.

     As far back as I can recall I had an interest in history, especially family history. At family gatherings or whenever I heard people talking about the old days I was always making mental notes and would later write them down. I have been writing the stories of those that had a positive and lasting influence on my life. Several of them were aunts and uncles who passed leaving no children to help keep their memory alive. George Eliot wrote, "Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.". The stories are one way to keep from forgetting them. Mothers, of course, are usually at the top of the list of positive and lasting influences. The following is some of the story I have written about Mom. It was not really intended to be a Mother's Day Memorial as such but rather for the reason above, for those that I know are interested in her life, and for those that may one day be so. The following then is a synopsis of her story, as it were, giving consideration to the volume of material and the long-winded tendencies of the writer. My apologies. 

   Mom was born February, 25, 1926 in the small remote Ozark mountain community of Low Gap, Arkansas to Aaron Asberry "Berry" and Nancy Elizabeth "Bessie" Rice Kilgore. For the record, Ruth was actually Mom's middle name. Most people never knew her first name as she absolutely loathed it and refused to ever use it. As a lesson well learned from a very early age I will still not use it. My Granny (Bessie) recalled the day Mom was born as being bitterly cold, the creeks so frozen they could be walked across, and the wind so loud it all but drowned out the sound of Mom's first cries. As was locally common practice, Mom had been brought into the world with the assistance of a midwife who had considerable experience but with no formal training. Medical care in general usually consisted of home remedies and procedures that had been passed down. Doctors were a rarity. Mom was to be the 8th of 11 (6 boys, 5 girls). All would survive their childhoods strong and healthy in a time and place when the odds made such a thing unlikely.

   Mom had been the newest born into a family descended from Scots-Irish and German immigrants who had pioneered the Ozarks in the early 1800s. They had been hardy and determined enough to live and thrive in a land that was and still is as hardscrabble as it is beautiful. Mom had inherited a lot of that hardiness and determination. Many people might have called her determination stubbornness and did. Her hardiness and stubbornness, rather her determination that is, served her well her entire life. She endured with grace that which others thought unendurable.

   Undoubtedly, Mom’s childhood experiences played a big roll in the person she became. Naturally, her family, friends, community, and the era were major influences. In 1926, Arkansas was lightly populated and many parts of the state were isolated or remote and would stay so for many years. The social and economic sufferings brought about by the Civil War which had ended about 60 years earlier were still being felt. That was greatly apparent in the mountains where Mom had been born and would be raised. At the outbreak of the Civil War, the Ozarks were mainly populated by subsistence farmers like Mom’s great-grandparents and grandfather. During the war, the farms were repeatedly pillaged by both Union and Confederate guerrillas. Many of the farms had been unprotected and easy prey as farmers joined or were forced into service by one army or the other. As men chose to fight on different sides, families who had been friends and neighbors for years became enemies overnight and remained so even during Mom’s life. A few families even saw brothers join opposite sides. Everyone suffered and many suffered greatly. Some families hid in caves and some fled with what little they had left. Those who would become Mom's relatives in Low Gap and Parthenon heard the saltpeter (think gunpowder) works at Boxley being blown up by Union troops and watched a night sky light up as the nearest town of Jasper was burned to ashes. After the war, marauders continued the pillaging and took what they could of what little remained. Many farmer-soldiers had been killed, maimed, or had disappeared. Law enforcers were almost as rare as doctors and carpetbaggers were plentiful. Many communities in Arkansas had been left destitute and the recovery would be painstakingly slow. Incredibly, Mom’s great-grandparents and grandparents had managed to survive and scrape together enough to start over. They persevered, grew, and their story became part of Mom’s story.      

     Before leaving Harrison in 1966, we often went  to visit relatives in the mountains where Mom had spent her childhood and it was remote even then. One place she had lived was an outright adventure to get to. To see it, we left the paved road at Jasper and drove several miles on a dirt road with dust clouds billowing in our wake hoping not to meet another car and it’s clouds. Near Parthenon, we left the cars and walked across the field Mom’s grandfather and his father had plowed by mule, crossed a creek via a dilapidated "swinging bridge", and then hiked uphill through woods to a small clearing where the long-abandoned cabin still stood. As a side note, as recently as 1970 Mom's oldest sister, Gladys, was finishing up raising my cousins at Low Gap in conditions somewhat similar to the ones in which she herself had been raised. While she did have electricity the only modern appliance I recall is a refrigerator. She cooked the most amazing meals on a wood stove which along with a pot bellied stove served as their source of heat in winter. For many reasons Aunt Gladys was always one of my favorite people. 

     Mom and her siblings spent their childhoods farming as a matter of survival. Subsistence farming required a lot of hard work on everyone's part in order for the farm to sustain the family. It also required the fickle cooperation of the weather, pests, and crop diseases. Electrification didn’t start to appear in those rural areas until 1937. Granny (Bessie), Mom, and her sisters had to perform an almost endless number of cooking and housekeeping chores without electricity. There was also no indoor plumbing. Grandpa (Berry) and the boys worked long days using many of the same ways and means as those before them. There was very little money. Excess crops, livestock, fish, and game, when there was any, were used primarily for barter or to help family and friends. Almost nothing went to waste. Food scraps were fed to the livestock or used in other ways. Clothes were handed down. Shoes were mostly worn in winter, on Sundays, or on rare trips to town. Rags were often used to piece together quilts. Beds and pillows were often stuffed with chicken feathers or corn husks.  Broken tools and parts were re-purposed. During Mom’s early years, transportation was still primarily horse, mule, wagon, or foot and the entire county consisted of unpaved roads until 1951. Looking back, Mom’s life appeared dirt poor but since most of her friends lived likewise she didn't recall thinking of herself as such. The fact that they managed and prospered as well as they did is a testament to the hard work and skills of all of them and those before them. Otherwise, you probably wouldn't be reading this.

     It was not all hard work and no play. I heard lots of stories about the pranks Mom and her siblings would play on each other. Their early childhood fun was found in many of the same simple games and pastimes passed down for generations. Toys and dolls were mainly homemade as store bought toys and dolls could be ill afforded. Mom said she never had her own store bought doll until she started collecting them much later in life. Mom started collecting many things in her later life which I feel was for similar reason.   

     While there were no TV's or radios there was a lot of music. Music had been an inherent part of life for the pioneers and settlers and they had passed it down. Many families had at least one home taught banjo, mandolin, guitar, or fiddle player.  Mom said her first childhood memories were of music. Often, after supper, her father would remove his fiddle from the peg behind the cabin door, rosin the bow, and play the tunes his father had taught him. As a little girl, she recalled telling him that his fiddle’s echo made it sound like there were other fiddlers in the mountains playing along. Probably in jest, he had replied that there were and that they were his father and grandfather. She recalled wondering how that could possibly be as her mother had told her they had been in heaven for a long time. Low Gap and Parthenon had small General Stores which also served as post offices and meeting places where the musicians often played and sang. Church, funerals, and holiday events also provided opportunity for the musicians and for friends and neighbors to get together. Mom never learned to play an instrument but continued to love music her entire life.  Her favorites were the old country standards and singers like Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline. Mom was also what I would call a closet or shower singer and could often be heard singing but only if she thought no one was around.  

    Whiskey had been another inherent part of life for the pioneers and settlers and they had passed that down as well. Moonshine stills could be found in many of the hollows or hollers as Mom would pronounce it. Many not only could be found but were found by revenuers who did their best to eradicate them with questionable success.  Like I said, a very determined people. Mom never exactly told me why but she never drank a drop of alcohol or smoked a cigarette in her entire life and was quite proud of it. I think Granny (Bessie) must have instilled an aversion to alcohol into most of her children. Granny and most of Mom’s siblings were either teetotalers or light drinkers with maybe one or two exceptions. For at least a couple of them I am quite sure it wasn't for religious reasons.  While Mom never seemed to mind those who drank in moderation she did have a problem with those who drank to excess. Tobacco farming had also been passed down but evidently wasn’t as taboo.  Granny herself dipped snuff which I always thought was just a more demure way to chew tobacco. I will spare you my spit cup anecdote except to say, Granny, wherever you are, you owe me. A few of Mom's siblings smoked cigarettes. While there were no TV’s, Mom and her siblings would go to the “picture show” (movies) in Jasper when they had a dime to spare.

    Religion had played an important part in the life of the pioneers and settlers. They had also passed down their beliefs but apparently some of their descendants caught more than others. I believe the Baptist faith was the dominant denomination in the area. I never knew Granny (Bessie), Mom, or several of Mom's siblings to be regular church goers and they were not outwardly religious. Mom, when asked what her religion preference was would always say Baptist. Granny appears to have taught them to live by the “Golden Rule” and let others live how they will. Mom, by living example, appears to have tried to teach us the same thing. In my own mind, I like to think I learned it rather well but then the jury is still out.   

   Mom's education was typical of the other area children at the time. From 1st to 8th grade they attended the one room school at Boxley which had no electricity and a pot bellied stove for heat. Most walked several miles to school and some would ride their horses or mules on the rare days the animals were not needed on the farm. There were no buses but the occasional empty wagon passing by was always a welcome sight. After 8th grade, having learned their basic “three R’s” and being of a size to be of considerable help, most of the children went back to work full time on the farms, sawmills, or other labors. Even with such a limited education Mom and some of her siblings managed to venture far into the world and do well.

   Mom took her first job off the farm in 1942 when she was about 16. It was as a domestic at a boarding house in nearby Jasper, Arkansas. The work was familiar and still hard.  She was paid in room and board, a little money, and no future. She did not stay long.

   At 17, wanting to see the “big city” she went to live with her Aunt Rose (her mother’s sister) in Kansas City, Mo and worked in a suitcase factory.

   Mom moved back to northwest Arkansas around 1944 to the town of Harrison. She had managed to save enough money for a down payment on an old car. That old car needed repair which led her to a local garage and it's owner, Bernie O. Keeling.  Bernie was to become her first husband and the father of her first son. At the age of 19, she became a widow and single mother when her husband died of cancer on Dec. 3, 1945. She never talked much about that time although I learned bits and pieces over the years to get a sense of what it must have been like. Single mothers and young widows, especially those in rural areas or small towns, no doubt find it difficult in today's world. I cannot imagine what it must have been like 74 years ago with few to non-existent government assistance, employment, or childcare options. Mom made it through that dark period with the help of her family and friends.

    In 1947 Mom met a man named Clyde Edmonson who was moving from Kansas City back to Harrison. Two things they had in common were that they had both lived in K.C. and both came from large families. She recalled her first impressions of him was that he was well mannered, well dressed, and that he had a nice car. At the time he was staying at what is now the historic Hotel Seville. They got married and moved to Sunnyside, Washington in 1950 where Clyde had taken a job at the Hanford Nuclear Site.  Mom said the cross country car trip involved mostly unpaved roads, few motels, and keeping a five year old entertained. I’m glad I missed it.

   They made their way back to Harrison in 1951 because Mom said they wanted me to be born on the old Edmonson homestead in White Oak and be among the extended family. They moved in with my Dad’s brother, Claude, while awaiting my birth. Mom recalled it as a time of sadness and joy as Claude died unexpectedly just a few months before I was born.

   We moved from Harrison to Portsmouth, Ohio in 1953 when Dad took a job at the Atomic Energy Diffusion Plant. Mom worked part time as a cook and waitress in a cafe. When Dad’s contract ended in 1955 Mom wanted us to move near a sister who lived in Jacksonville, Arkansas with her Air Force pilot husband. We moved and Mom and Dad bought and operated a cafe and an adjoining trailer park occupied by mostly Air Force families. One night, the cafe caught fire which also threatened to burn our home but Mom and Dad managed to extinguish it. Dad got burned in the process but Mom nursed him back to health in part by using what she said was one of Granny’s homemade ointments. I don't know what was in it and maybe it's better that way but I do recall it smelled rather bad. When my aunt’s husband was reassigned to another base they moved away and so did we.

   Mom always liked being near family so we moved back to Harrison in 1957.  Like many of her friends and relatives, Mom took a job at Oberman Mfg. Co., a garment manufacturer. They employed a large number of seamstresses who were paid according to the number of clothing pieces they successfully completed. The fast pace was halted only long enough to reload thread, replace needles, or clear other malfunctions like needle impaled fingers. I reluctantly recall how Mom would often come home from work with the tell-tale signs of the punctures, usually red dots beneath one or more of her fingernails. There was no air conditioning in the summer except for large fans. The working conditions, as they were then, most likely would not be allowed now. While the work was tedious and the wages small, Mom appreciated the job, the camaraderie, and the fact that there were extremely few alternatives.  As a side note, Oberman closed down around the time American garment manufacturers began outsourcing to third world countries. Dad sold insurance in Harrison and did quite well as he was a natural born salesman and had an inexhaustible knowledge of area families. He loved talking to people and helping them but what he loved most was family. He loved Mom’s siblings and their families and they loved him in return. Dad's love for us was palpable. It came as a shock to everyone when he died suddenly on Jan. 10, 1966. At only 39, Mom again found herself a widow and single mother with a 14 year old to finish raising and a 20 year old still living at home. Mom appeared to be truly lost but only briefly. On the way back from the funeral home I think she saw the profound effect the loss and her state of mind was having on me and she pulled herself together. I do not know how she managed to do it as I am not sure I ever have. 

    A few months after Dad died, Mom and I made a 28 hour Greyhound bus trip to Virginia Beach, Virginia to visit two of her sisters and their Navy husbands. During the visit Mom made the decision that we would return to Harrison, sell off most of what we had, and move to Virginia Beach. A month later we ended our visit and made the same bus trip back to Harrison and did just as she had said. Bernie Jr., being grown, decided to stay behind to continue his life and work in Harrison. Mom, upon receiving advice and agreement, decided that it would be best for my future if I entered a military boarding school instead of public school. So, three weeks after moving and my 15th birthday, I found myself in cadet gray. No doubt, it was one more hard decision Mom had to make for what was probably best over how she would have liked things.  

     One of my uncles had introduced Mom to a friend of his, Alvin L. “Sally” Rodgers, because he knew they had a number of things in common. They both enjoyed bowling, boating, fishing, beach-combing, gardening and food to name a few. Sally, who would become Mom’s third husband, had been a lifelong resident of Princess Anne County and Virginia Beach. The two locales had recently merged and it had created the “World's Largest Resort City", as the promotional called it.  What followed was a unforeseen, rapid, and huge boom in population and business. Sally was one of the city’s Magistrates, it's Bail Commissioner, and a Volunteer Fireman. Sally was recently divorced and had two young children, Joan and Steven. When they came for visits Mom gave them the same love, care, and attention as if they were her own. I often joked that she actually gave them a lot more than she gave her own. The pictures and videos of those days are reminders of the great relationship we all had. 

     After moving to Virginia we made vacation trips back to Harrison every year for many years. Sally was accepted by Mom's siblings and their families as if he had been one of them his entire life. I know that was due in large part because of their love and respect for Mom. For much the same reason Mom's siblings, especially my aunts, always treated me like gold. I will always be grateful to them for so many wonderful memories.   

   Prior to marrying Sally, Mom took a job at Naval Air Station Oceana in the bakery. Like many bakers, she worked the midnight shift. Due to her baking skills honed and refined since childhood she was soon recognized as a Master Baker. The story goes that some Navy pilots would not fly until they had stopped in for Mom's donuts and coffee. We joked that Oceana would not have become a Master Jet Base if it hadn't been for their Master Baker. The baker’s hours wore on her over time so she decided to find something with better hours and that would be a bit more exciting.

   It came as a surprise to more than a few when it was learned Mom had become a Deputy in the Virginia Beach Sheriff's Department at Princess Anne Courthouse. She locked up, looked after, and transported prisoners. She also occasionally served as a court bailiff.  Our fears for her safety pretty much vanished when we saw how easily she was able to establish a rapport with the prisoners. One of my uncles, also a Deputy, said that he had never seen anything like it in all his years in law enforcement. If they had an uncooperative prisoner they would call Mom over and she would smooth talk them into submission. They joked her that they didn't know why she had been issued a firearm when she obviously would never need it. It was convenient that Sally's office was only a few doors away. It was also convenient that they had designed and built their dream home a short walk from work.  Mom remained a Deputy until she retired.

     Of course, Mom never actually retired from baking or cooking and was renowned for getting a bit carried away doing both. I recall that for several years, near Christmas, she and Sally would turn the kitchen into Peanut Brittle Central to fill requests from numerous judges, lawyers, magistrates, city employees, etc. One year, I came home to find them making two special batches. One was for a senator friend and the other was for the senator to give the governor. It never hurt to be connected I guess. They finally had to halt the Brittle tradition when their annual stove-top production reached over 128 pounds and was likely to increase the following year.

     After retiring Mom enjoyed traveling, gardening, fishing, and taking care of a very busy Sally. After having served as Chief Magistrate for many years he took the job of Chief Deputy in what had become one of the largest Sheriff's departments in Virginia.  Mom had also been the major influence in getting Sally to form his own country/western band which played regular gigs at local venues. 

     What Mom and Sally enjoyed more than anything was spending time with family and friends at their waterfront retreat on Virginia's Northern Neck. It had taken over twenty years of planning and hard work to get the place like they wanted it. Sally's sister and husband, Ella May and Don Kuykendall, lived just across the water. It is impossible to describe all of the great times everyone had at "The River" and the place Mom and Sally had named SARU Point. After Sally retired, he and Mom had planned to spend most of their remaining years fishing, crabbing, and tonging for oysters.  

     Mom, at the age of 68, became a widow for the third and final time when Sally died in his sleep on June 11, 1994 just a few months after retiring.  They had been married for 26 years. He had become my step-father when I was 16 and he could not have been a better one. I was over 40 years old when he died and my wife and daughters loved him as much as I did. We had always lived nearby and had been able to see Sally, Mom, Joan, and Steven often. Sally left us with so many wonderful memories and we have always been thankful that Mom had managed to "reel him in" as she used to say.  Sadly, Joan and Steven became estranged from us not long after Sally's death.

     Mom found herself with a lot of spare time and tried to stay active. While we kept her busy as much as possible I don't think it could ever have been enough. Mom enjoyed time with her friends from the Church of The Nazarene, especially her best friend Evelyn Outman.  Mom continued to play a lot of Bingo, actually a whole lot of Bingo. I guess it should be said that it was her only vice besides the rare trip to play one arm bandits. 

    Mom never really got over Sally’s passing as I think she had been able to do with Bernie Sr. and my Dad.  The shadow of her loss always seemed to be near. Occasionally, you could see it cross her face when Sally’s name came up in conversation. Perhaps a more telling reason why I believe she never got over Sally’s passing is her answer to a question I asked her back in 2011 while drafting her Will. For the record, I asked her where she wanted to be buried and she said next to Sally.  I was caught completely off guard as, no doubt quite naively or perhaps selfishly, I had always assumed that she wanted to be buried next to my Dad.

     Mom had a very long list of physical problems that occurred over the course of the 24 years after Sally’s passing. Some, if not most, were quite serious especially given her age at the time they occurred. It is impossible, nor do I want to even try, to recall all of the doctors, surgeries, hospitalizations, recoveries, procedures, therapies, and emergency rooms. If they were all listed it would defy belief. No doubt, the hardiness and determination that I mentioned earlier served her well. She used to joke that if they kept replacing or fixing her worn out parts she could go on forever. As if her own problems weren't enough, she flew round trip (she hated flying) to California to rescue her younger 82 year old sister who had dementia from being put into an asylum. Mom had been determined to bring her sister to live with her and did. While that added to the number of doctors visits and additional stress at least her sister was physically quite healthy. Mom's role as caregiver ended when she was scheduled for major surgery and a lengthy recovery. Before she would allow them to admit her to the hospital Mom made arrangements for her sister to return to California on the condition that she live with family and not be put into a facility. It had not been the first time Mom had been in the roll of caregiver. Mom had brought Granny to live with us several times to help care for her when she was in her older age. It is worth noting that could only be said of Mom.  As I said, always thinking of others.

     In 2016 there were a lot of issues concerning my wife, daughters, and newly born first grandchild that made the likelihood of our moving out of state quite probable. Doing so would make it impossible for me to continue my physical support of Mom and her property. After a lot of discussion, the choices Mom was left with was to move with us, move into a local senior's apartment, or move back to Harrison to be near Bernie Jr., his family, and a large number of nieces and nephews. Understandably, she did not like any of the choices and was very upset that she was going to have to sell her house. Long story short, Mom opted to move back to Harrison.

     When Mom arrived in Harrison in 2016 she was welcomed by a host of relatives and friends that she had not been able to see or spend much time with for many years. We appreciate, beyond words, those that loved her and took great care of her until the end.  

     At the end of the day, certainly at the end of our lives, I think most of us want to look into our heart of hearts and find that we have done what was right and have left the world a better place than when we entered it. Having known Mom as well as anyone besides my own self, I know she did just that and expected no less of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. It is what we should all aspire to, it is the final Mother’s Day gift she would have wanted.


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