Sunday, December 7, 2014

One Teacher Who Changed Many Lives


Our little orange-stained fingers dropped loose change into the little white piggy bank church that served as the offering plate. Us preschoolers had munched on Cheese Puffs or puffy popcorn around the U-shaped table listening to the Bible lesson. We prayed, sang, and learned about Jesus in the Sunday School classroom of Mary G. Wipf. 

Aunt Bina (standing), Mom, Grandma Katie, Aunt Grace, and Mary G.

Mary G. was my mom’s cousin and like an aunt to me. The G stood for Gladys, her middle name, and she answered to Mary G. so as not to be confused with the other cousin, Mary J. Dammier. In May, Mary G. passed away. She was 90. Here is her obituary. Her birthday of December 8 was also her wedding anniversary and the birthday of my niece, Colleen, who ironically now shares a birthday with her husband, Jason.
 
Colleen & Mary G. share a birthday cake one year.

Mary G. and husband Warren were frequent guests in our home and travel companions to Kansas where one of their sons and his family lived. My dad often received good-natured teasing from them on his lengthy bathroom stops at courthouses during such trips. They teased me about some make-believe people we concocted to pass the time—I think their names were KillRoy and Virginia.


Mary & Warren in 1982, 40th Wedding Anniversary

Mary and Warren lived in Doland, and were the first town friends that I remember. Warren ran his own mechanics shop while Mary G. worked at the post office. They lived a modest life, but because they were not stuck out on the gravel roads in a farm house, this little girl considered them rich. They had a TV in living room, cable TV mind you, a garage for their car, a sidewalk to a front and a back door, and a cement driveway. To top if off, they had a basketball hoop with cement under it. They were rich.

Dad, Warren, Mom, Mary G., Mary J, unknown man (to me), Wayne, and Marcella

Their kitchen also fascinated me. The frig set on a slant so one could get to the basement—that wasn't creepy like our cellar—where the laundry room existed. The kitchen had no cabinets on the wall. Instead, Mary's dishes were in the pantry. It was fun helping her set the table or put stuff away because my little hands could see and reach it all. It baffled me how Warren would help her dry the dishes sometimes. I never saw my dad or my brother ever do that. Was this how town people lived? 

The Wipfs attended the major events in my life: piano recitals, school plays, birthday parties, and graduations. Many Sunday nights after church, we'd get together to play the domino game, Shoot the Moon, or Aggravation. At their house, our snack might be the colorful popcorn balls that I referred to in the post entitled, Treating with Tricks.


Mary G.: times with my sisters & me

Her 21 years as widow involved many changes: selling items from Warren's business, selling her Doland home, moving to Huron into assisted living, and then living her remaining years in the nursing home.

This year, on her birthday tomorrow, Mary G. resides in her heavenly home that she taught so many Ebenezer Church children about. The song "Thank You" by Ray Boltz is no doubt the theme song of her life.

I am happy-sad as I listen to it, for as the lyrics say, because of you, I am a life that was changed.


Do you have a close family friend or relative whose birthday or death was near the holiday season? What advice do you have for those who are coping with this type of loss for the first time?

Writer’s Note: I will write more about Mary G. in an upcoming Christmas post. To read more about Ebenezer Church's influence on my life, read the post, Skinned Knee with a Slice of White Bread in which I reminisce about daily vacation Bible school.




8 comments:

  1. My husband (your husband's "Pa") died in the hospital on the 29th of December 10 years ago. I remember the hospital kept playing songs like "I'll be home for Christmas" and "It'll be a blue Christmas without you". I wanted to scream at them to turn it off but it played on long after Christmas was over. A couple of years later I sat in another hospital waiting to have a nuclear heart test on myself and it was almost Christmas and they were playing the same Christmas music. When the tech came to wheel me in tears were streaming down my cheeks and he said "What's wrong hon?" I told him and he said I'll fix that. He turned the speakers off for that entire floor!

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    1. I can understand how those songs would get to you, Mom. Nice of the tech to not only notice you were upset but to do something about it.

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  2. My advice is simple. Time lessons the grief. It takes longer for some than for others. Find someone who's going through what you are and share your feelings with each other.

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    1. I agree. A human spirit full of empathy does wonders.

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  3. I saw Mary a couple years ago when I was visiting my Dad in assisted living in Huron. I don't think she remembered who I was, but I sat down with her and visited a while. It brought back a lot of memories for me, but it's also tough to see someone age and be compromised. Thanks for writing about this special lady who touched so many lives. -Helen

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    1. You’re welcome, Helen. The last time I saw Mary was about four years ago. She was herself, just a little slower. But the last time I was home, Dad had told me she had that vacant look in her eye and did not recognize people anymore, so I did not go. Selfish on my part. I wish now I would have gone.

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  4. Only advice I have is to live your days full, so you can look back on the good things. :)

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    1. So true, Katharine! Thanks for commenting on the post.

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