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.