Archive for the ‘memorials’ Category


30 June 2012

Diana died this week.  She was a Christian woman in the best way, loving and caring and welcoming.  I met her when my father-in-law, Rich, brought her to visit us for a few days a couple of years ago.  Later that year, my visit to Portland, OR for a conference coincided with their visit to my sister-in-law, Jackie.

Rich, Diana, and Jackie and the Columbia River

Rich, Jackie, and Diana at a different vantage above the Columbia River

Diana loved to take photos, and she sent us papercrafted cards for every holiday while she could.  Every holiday including Hallowe’en, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. We also received papercrafted bookmarks that she made, with white flowers constructed of paper cutouts placed together with tiny dabs of glue, with bitty crystals in the center.

Most importantly, Diana was the person who Rich decided to share his life with.  They each sold their homes and moved to Oregon, far from where each of them had been living.  They bought a house where Rich could put together train layouts and Diana could do her crafts.  Diana will be missed by Rich and their dog Shadow, and by all of us who knew her and counted her as family.

We love you Diana, we know you loved us!


4 March 2012

This is a photo of Priscilla and Jay Edwards from August, 2010. Summers, I try to make it to my cousin Pam’s summer cottage in the Adirondacks of New York, along with my parents.  We love the lake, the smell of the pines, the abundant home-cooked meals, and the conversations.  For a number of years it has been a tradition for Pam to invite Priscilla and Jay for dinner while my parents are visiting, for a big yummy meal and Priscilla’s home-made applesauce cake with maple syrup icing.  Priscilla and Jay both grew up in the nearby town, Edinburg, and Pam is a “summer person” but Pam became good friends with Priscilla, who is the town historian.  Pam becomes friends with just about everyone, but my family also really enjoys conversations with the Edwards.

Jay was killed in an accident with his logging truck last week.  He wasn’t on the road and nobody else was injured.  He was 72.  Jay was full of stories about life in the Adirondacks, which he happily recounted over beer and good food. Logging is a dangerous job and Jay had survived all sorts of harrowing adventures (according to his stories) with his truck.  He’ll be much missed by his community, and my next summertime trip to Pam’s camp will be missing some Adirondack tall tales.

Tea without Buzz

22 July 2010

One week ago, I took Buzz to the vet.  He was vomiting, and lethargic, and had stopped eating.  He’d had a vomiting episode in May, and recovered just fine.  But this was different.

The vet diagnosed Buzz as constipated and dehydrated, and took an x-ray to determine exactly how constipated.  He was disturbed by the shape of Buzz’s liver as seen on the x-ray…it was almost as if bites had been taken out of his liver.  Weird.  Buzz stayed at the vet’s office all afternoon for intravenous rehydration and the vet also gave him a steroid shot and an antibiotic, just in case.  Blood was taken for testing, but the results would not be back until the next day (Friday), and it was suggested that I might need to bring Buzz back for more hydration.

On Friday, the vets were so busy that they did not have time to call me with the test results by 11 AM, and I was nervous so I took Buzz back to the vet.  There were anomalies in the blood test results, but they were inconclusive.  Maybe it was an infection, maybe something else.  I had the option of arranging for an ultrasound, but since that would either tell us that there was nothing we could do or it would be inconclusive, that seemed pointless.  Buzz got another steroid shot, another antibiotic shot, some subcutaneous fluids, and confirmation that he was no longer constipated.  Since he still wasn’t eating, I also got some Prescription Diet a/d food and a couple of syringes to squirt diluted food down him in hopes of stimulating appetite.  If cats stop eating, their liver becomes all fatty and it is a major problem, and the vet and I wanted to prevent further complications from whatever the underlying problem turned out to be.

I spent the rest of Friday in a whirlwind of activity, as I prepared to leave town for a physics teacher conference in Portland, OR.  I did laundry, pickled a large number of cucumbers, took care of Buzz, went grocery shopping, packed, cooked, and generally exhausted myself before having to get up at 4 AM on Saturday to catch a 6:30 AM flight.  My husband drove me to the airport Saturday morning with the promise to take Buzz back to the vet later that morning.

When I arrived in Portland, I had a very upsetting voice mail.  The weird “bites” out of Buzz’s liver were lymphoma, which was filling Buzz’s chest and which had visibly spread since the x-ray on Thursday.  Our only option was to keep him comfortable as long as possible, and when he started to suffer we would end his suffering.  In Portland, and not at home, this was tough on both of us.  However, my sister-in-law, her father and his companion were all there in Portland also (SIL lives in nearby Vancouver, Washington, and FIL and friend happened to be visiting from Massachusetts).  They met me with big hugs and sympathy, and that was much better than being alone in an unfamiliar (though very nice) city.

Later, my sister in law took me out drinking, at my request.  I’ve never been particularly good at getting drunk, but I made an attempt.  We toasted Buzz, and I recounted happy/funny memories.  We went to the Green Dragon, which has an astonishing array of local beers that I had never heard of, all on tap.  The helpful bartender quizzed us on our preferences and set up two tasting flights for us before we settled on “Fearless Scottish Ale” (see reviews at

Saturday night Buzz ate a little, my husband reported on Sunday.  Encouraging!

Unfortunately, Buzz was much worse on Monday.  Wheezing and scared.  My husband left work early to bring him to the vet, and Buzz passed at 12:10 PM.  My husband called me at the conference, and I left the session I was in to talk on the phone and cry.  We both cried.  I consoled myself with doughnuts from Voodoo Doughnuts, which my conference roommate had procured Sunday and kindly offered to share.

Buzz was six years old, a sweetie, and a dummy.  He was extremely tolerant of squeezing and hugging, and adorably was nearly mute.  Where some cats I have met are very vocal, the most Buzz could usually muster was a barely-audible squeak.  The one exception was when I returned him to the vet to get his stitches out after he was fixed (one testicle wasn’t descended and they had to cut in to get it out).  He uttered one loud and long “MEOW” as soon as he realized where we were.

Buzz loved to be given fresh water.  He didn’t drink water to excess, he just liked it fresh.  Either of us walking to the kitchen would be followed and squeaked at as we approached the sink.  Filling Buzz’s water mug held his attention, and he would often perch on the kitchen step stool and lean out as close as he could to the sink.  He never figured out that he could leap up to the counter and get to the sink himself.

Buzz was not effective at killing mice or scaring them out of the house, though he did catch a few.  He would bring them to the living room to play with them.  Still, my husband trapped significantly more mice than Buzz caught in the six years Buzz was with us.

Buzz was, like most cats, adorable.  We named him Buzz for the loud purr that, as a kitten, seemed extraordinarily loud to come from such a little cat.  He didn’t stay little for long.  At his peak, Buzz was a 15-pound lazybones.  He wasn’t obese, just big.  Here he is, being extra adorable, last summer:

Buzz was born to a feral mother and landed in the back yard of friends of ours in the spring of 2004.  They took him to the vet and arranged for his socialization, and we were pleased to be the lucky family that gave Buzz a permanent home.  Buzz was truly a lucky cat, and we were lucky to have been his family.

I miss Buzz!


25 January 2010

This is Janine, at Grammy Wilma‘s 90th birthday party six years ago.

We got word this evening that she died, suddenly, of unknown cause.  Janine was one of my mother’s favorite cousins, so much so that mom made Janine my middle name, though my mother has rarely seen her cousin since their childhood growing up in Florida.  My mother left Florida when she went to college, and recently Janine had been living in Marietta, GA, taking care of her mother Marjorie who died this past fall.

I remember once spending a day with Janine on a visit to my grandmother.  It was over spring break, and Janine took me to the beach.  I body-surfed the waves for what seemed like hours.  I got the worst sunburn of my life that day!  I remember boasting of it in social studies class on my return, making a big deal about not being able to lean back in my chair because of the pain from the SUNBURN I’d gotten in FLORIDA.  I was what? 12 years old? I think I was in 7th grade.

Mom was planning on visiting Janine this March.  They’d been corresponding often over e-mail.  I’m so sorry they won’t get to hang out this spring.  I’m sorry I didn’t know Janine better!


12 August 2009

I first met Madge when I was training to ride in the Philadelphia->DC AIDS ride in 1996.  Her husband, Dick, was the chemistry lab assistant at the school I was teaching at in Philadelphia, and they were members of the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia who were also regular ride leaders.  Dick invited me on rides, offered to lead groups of teachers on rides, and introduced me to Madge.

Madge was a wonderful, generous woman who immediately offered to let me stay overnight the night before the ride, and transportation to the ride start at some incredibly early hour of the morning.  She was encouraging and helpful, and made sure I carbo-loaded properly the night before the ride and well hydrated.

Here I am, ready to go at 6:30 AM outside the old Philadelphia Civic Center (since demolished), thanks to Madge and Dick.AIDSridestart

Since the AIDS ride, I continued to ride on occasion with Madge and Dick off and on for a few years.  Their Saturday rides were an easy pace that always featured a stop for pancake brunch.  Since they always started in Northeast Philly, however, I began to find it bothersome to drive there for a ride on Saturday morning, and after moving in with my husband I stopped riding with them altogether.

I am sorry that I have not ridden lately, I am sorry not to have spent more time with Madge.  She died on Saturday, on a ride with Dick and loyal riders who have been riding with them on Saturdays for years.  I have no photos of Madge, but I have good memories.

Dick, my heartfelt sympathies are with you, your children and grandchildren.  I will see you at the viewing on Thursday.  I’m so sorry for your loss.  I know you know how lucky you both were to have each other for so long.  She was one of those people who touch your heart and make you feel warm and cared for.


17 February 2009


This is Alison Des Forges, at the graduation party my parents held for me and my friends back in 1988.  Two summers later, in 1990, she helped me learn Scottish Highland dancing (we worked on the fling and the sword dance) during the last summer I spent living in my parents’ house.

This was when she was, to me, just my friend Sandy’s mom.  It was her house our little group of friends went to after senior prom.  She hosted us on New Years’ Eve our first winter break home from college, when we thought we might enjoy some alcoholic beverages. We wound up testing them to see which burned well and which didn’t, as opposed to drinking any.  What a bunch of nerds we were.  We grew up to be doctors and professors, travelers and teachers.  And Alison, having raised her teenagers and gotten them off to college, tried to stop the genocide in Rwanda.

That’s what she’s known for, now.  MacArthur “Genius Grant” awardee.  Human Rights Watch Africa expert.  But to me, she’s still Sandy’s mom, Jessie’s mom, Roger’s wife.  And she’s gone, on that plane that crashed outside Buffalo last week.  I’m glad I knew her, and the world is a much better place for having had her in it.  My sympathies are with all who were touched by Alison.


1 November 2008

This is Irmela.  She knew me from the day I was born, and attended my first birthday party and also my wedding three years ago (this photo was taken at the reception).  She had two grown daughters and a loving husband.  She loved her cats, collected frogs (not real frogs), and enjoyed art.  She made sure my dragon collection increased most years, and made sure Buzz got appropriately unbiased political information (Buzz was given both a catnip George W. Bush and a catnip Hillary Rodham Clinton.)

Irmela had a good sense of humor and was a good friend.  I hadn’t seen much of her lately, as my trips to visit my parents who live in Irmela’s part of the world have not been terribly frequent, but we did have dinner at her home a few years ago at Christmas when my husband and I drove out for a visit.

We heard Irmela was ill just a month and a half ago, and she succumbed last night to the cancer.  My heart goes out in deepest sympathy to her husband and her daughters, whose feeling of loss I cannot imagine.  Irmela was a wonderful person, and many will miss her.

I celebrate Irmela’s life; she touched thousands of students as a school librarian and made the world a better place.  I am glad to have known her, and I am so sorry she is gone.

Grammy Wilma

18 February 2008

On Saturday, I attended the memorial service for my maternal grandmother, Grammy Wilma. The service was in the Florida town where she had made her home for most of her life–where she had been a businesswoman and an actor/director and a pillar of the community. I cannot do justice to her life in this blog post, but I can at least post a couple of photos, one of which was taken at my wedding, and the other is from the late 1920’s, when my grandmother was a teenager. I wore that necklace to her memorial – it is a favorite of mine.

Things I remember about her:

  • She came to hear me give the first talk I ever gave at a national meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers, when I was in college
  • She sent me oranges from her grove in the winter, also when I was in college
  • She always welcomed me to come and visit, even on my own as a pre-teen. Once after a busy day I fell asleep on her sofa, and she had to drag me into the bedroom. I have no idea how she got me into the bed!
  • She never forgot the Fourth of July that I spent with her. I refused to use the very stinky port-a-potties at the park where we spent the day (and watched fireworks that night) and she was very impressed by how long I was able to “hold it.” I still have a steel bladder, which comes in very handy as a teacher!

Grammy Wilma is fondly remembered by her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, as well as by the community theater people of St. Lucie county and the Women’s Club in Fort Pierce. She died on December 8, 2007, at the age of 93.

Left photo ©2005, John Shetron Photography

Wilma, 2005

Wilma, 1928-ish

The inscription on the right photo reads “Love Always, Jus’ Wilma” in her impeccable copperplate handwriting.