Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Images of My Mother, Olive May Andrews Shuck (8/29/15)

Images of My Mother
Olive May Andrews Shuck
John Shuck

West Side Baptist Church
Glendive, Montana
August 29, 2015

Olive May Andrews Shuck
November 4, 1923 - August 25, 2015

Mom and her brother Jack, and sister Marguerite.

Her Obituary

Here is my mom singing the "WAVES" Song.

On behalf of all of my mother’s family, thank you for being here.  She would have loved to see you today and would have spent as much time as she could catching up on the details of your lives.  The sad, ironic thing about memorial services is that the person we honor, in this case my mother, would have loved to be here to see all of you, and especially to see family members from afar.   

I want to thank this congregation and especially Jan and Dan Pust for being here for my mom and dad.  She valued your friendship and counsel and I know you did hers.  This is a compassionate and caring faith community and you meant a great deal to her.  

My mother lived to be 91.  And my father is 97 and still ticking.  Their longevity is due to genetics, certainly, and healthy living, good fortune, as well as determination, and I would also say the care and love of friends and family, and especially I wish to thank publicly my brother Gordo and sister-in-law, sister, Vickey.   They have been here daily for my parents, not only in these last years but for the last 40 years.   My mother’s last words were to Vickey:  “I don’t know what I would do without you.”  That is precisely true. 

My mother could never get enough of family.  Family never visited often enough or long enough.   I want to share a few images of my mom.   One is of her on the computer.   This is my mom:  

“Oh fudge.  Why does it keep going to that thing that says I can’t do it!”   

Children should never make fun of their mothers when they struggle with the computer.  They taught us how to use a spoon, after all.  

My mother was on a mission.  That was to keep connected with children and grandchildren by email or by typing up long letters and even on Facebook and Skype.  She was determined to keep connected.   We all received long letters with details of how many pints of corn she froze or beans she canned and cut-outs of jokes and pictures and scripture readings and things she wanted to be sure we knew like MUCH, MUCH, MUCH, LOVE all in caps.  

Another image of my mother is her face up next to mine holding my cheeks in both hands.  

“I love you, Andy!”  

“I know mom, I love you, too!”

A quick biography about my mom.  

She grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Her father was a chemist for Procter and Gamble.   My mom was the oldest of three children.  Her brother, Jack, died a few years ago.  Her sister, Marguerite, has been to Glendive in the last year.  She lives in Florida.  My mom graduated from Hughes High School in Cincinnati, attended college for a year or so and then decided along with a couple of her sorority sisters to join the Navy.  This was new for women in World War 2.  She joined the WAVES which stands for Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service.   Her father was a Navy man.  He chased German U-boats or submarines in World War One.  

My mother went to Hawaii and cared for wounded service men at the hospital just above Pearl Harbor until the war ended.  The wounded men liked her best of all the nurses because of her compassionate and caring manner.   She remembered Victory Day when they all cheered and tossed their hats into the air.  

Not long after the war ended and she went back home, she met my dad, a research scientist for Procter and Gamble, at a New Year’s Eve party.  They won each other over and were married on September 10th, 1948.  In just a couple of weeks they would have celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary.    

My father decided to leave the corporate world and enter teaching because he liked summers off.  So they moved to Los Angeles where my dad did his post-doctorate work at the University of Southern California.  Molly was born there in 1949.  Then my father got a position teaching Chemistry at what is now called the University of Montana in Missoula from 1951 to 1956.  Gordo was born in Missoula.  My mom liked to talk about going to Brownies In and Out with Molly and Gordo for hamburgers and milk shakes.   

My father kind of had this thing about living in the wild so they moved into this shack outside of Frenchtown.  It looked like something from the movie, “Deliverance.”  It didn’t even have plumbing until my dad’s father helped him install it.  

In 1956 it was back to California to teach Chemistry at Fresno State.   My mom liked California and their nice home but my dad was always on the move and took a sabbatical in Proctor, Montana.  I guess it reminded him of Procter and Gamble.  He cut Christmas trees and milked cows for a living.  Then finally he decided to let go of teaching altogether and bought a cattle ranch in between Winthrop and Twisp, Washington.  Those towns are in the news now with the wildfires.   I was born just as that move was happening. 

They ranched for seven years.  It was there that my mom got religion.  She was isolated out there in the boonies and was befriended by a woman named Lola Lufkin and attended the Assembly of God church in Winthrop with me in tow from infancy.   I still have an image of her in my mind shivering and wet after being baptized in Lake Pateros.

I have to say it was my mom’s fault that they moved to “the ranch” in Washington State.  What happened was that when they were in Fresno, she made a saddle for my dad.  A real saddle that you put on a horse and ride.   Like the Mel Tillis song, “If you got the hoss, honey, I got the saddle.”  

When we say that she liked sewing, we are talking major sewing: saddles, rugs, coats, pants, shirts, quilts, hats, wallets, belts, you name it, she made it.  My mother was green before green was cool.  Recycle, Reuse, Repair, compost, grow your own, make your own, she was all that.

Anyway my dad sat on this saddle that she made for him in front of the television and watched cowboy shows like “Rawhide” and “Have Gun Will Travel” and decided he needed to be a cowboy.  Thus the itch to buy a cattle ranch in Washington.  If my mom hadn’t made that saddle things could have turned out differently.  

The ranch was a lot of work.  Not for me, I just played.  But for my brother and sister and parents.   My mom learned to garden and preserve food, make bread, churn butter and all of it.   My first memories are of my mother and me singing hymns in the pickup in the winter while my dad pitched hay off the back to feed the 300 cows.    

After seven years, a biblical time span, in 1967, my dad decided he had enough of the cowboy life and chose to go back to teaching and moved to Butte, Montana.  He taught at Montana Tech until he retired in 1978.   We lived in Butte for three years then bought a small farm, 80 acres five miles south of Whitehall.  That is the place my parents truly loved.  They lived there for 30 years.   We raised hay for sale.  The garden was colossal.   My mom’s raspberry jam was amazing.  

They grew vegetables most folks never heard of like Kohlrabi.  It’s best raw.   Spaghetti squash was another weird one.  My mom insisted it was just like spaghetti.  She would fix it like spaghetti with spaghetti sauce and what not.   “Taste it.  It’s just like spaghetti!”

“Well, mom, it is kind of stringy like spaghetti, but it is still squashy.”

Another image of my mother is her bent over in the garden weeding.  If not there, then cooking, baking fresh bread, hanging clothes on the line, summer or winter, cleaning, and most of all laughing.  Laughter filled our house.   She loved to tell stories of her family of origin and of early memories, tell jokes that never really quite worked and of course, hug, kiss, and squeeze people’s cheeks.   

She loved, her son-in-law, Kenny, and daughters in law Vickey and Beverly as her own.  There were no “in-laws” they were son and daughters.

I do have to say something about my mother’s dislike, well, disdain, actually seething hatred for expiration dates.   Children and grandchildren were constantly reminding her about the foodstuffs with expired dates.   “Grandma, these tater tots expired two years ago.”

“There is nothing wrong with those tater tots.  They were perfectly fine when I bought them, the last time you visited.  Stop looking at those…darn…expiration dates!”

My mom made clothes.  She made me a coat.  She let me pick the colors.  I thought bright orange and purple would go well together.   So she made me a purple and orange coat.  I looked like a disco ball going to school.   I still can’t imagine where she found energy and time to do all the stuff she did.
In 2001 the farm was too much work as they entered their late 70s and 80s and so they moved next door to Gordo and Vickey thanks to the wise suggestion by granddaughter, Mary Ann.   They adapted to the change and made Cracker Box Road home.   My mom had a good life.   As she wrote, “I love you all- “My cup runneth over” with the good family and life the Lord has given me.”

I remember once, this might be a bit colorful, but it actually came from my mom.  The conversation around the kitchen table turned to breast size.  My mother really said with a dry smile:  “My cups runneth over.”

Faith.  My mother was a person of deep faith.  A deep, knowledgeable faith.  She studied and knew her stuff.   When I went to seminary at Princeton, woo woo, we Presbyterians had to take ordination exams.  The first one was the Bible content exam, on places, people, themes in the Bible.  I sent her a practice exam.  Many of these students, would be ministers, didn’t pass the exam.  Others, barely.  I passed but missed a few questions.  My mother?  Aced it.    I know she kept many preachers on their toes.   Pastors at West Side Baptist Church excepted.

She was a person of prayer.   Another image of my mother is watching her intense in prayer.   She prayed before every meal.  Even though she prepared the whole thing, she thanked God for it.  We could tell what was on her mind, usually family, as she prayed for us.   We were not always well-behaved during prayer time.  She ignored our blasphemy and prayed on.  

She prayed for me when I went to school.  She prayed for me when I went to bed until I was too old for it.  Then I am sure she prayed harder.  She prayed for family, for friends, for the country, for children in Africa.    I often thought she was a little too worried for our souls.   When I was older, I tried to sneak some Presbyterianism into her.  

“Mom, the grace of God is infinitely larger than our feeble faith.  God’s got it covered.   We all have faith in our own way.  You taught and showed us well.”  

And it is true.  She wasn’t perfect.  No one is.  But she lived what she believed.  She deeply cared for people. She sought to follow the teachings of Jesus.  She taught us by example to be kind, to be compassionate, to sacrifice, to be honest, to be joyful, to be brave, and to think of others before ourselves.  She walked the talk.   

She prayed for her husband and by name for each of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  So we should name them for her now.

Of course, her number one, Gordon, her husband.

Her children:
Molly and Ken.  Gordo and Vickey.  Andy and Bev.

Her grandchildren:
Lisa and Joel.  Mary Ann and Tige. Craig and Ann.  Janelle and Ken.  Julie and Tom.  Katy and Amber.  And Zach, who preceded her in death.  My mom had a strong belief that death is not the last word.  If she is right about that then she is catching up with Zach right now.

Her great-grandchildren:
Olivia, Brett, Hunter, Sophie, Luke, David, Olivia (again.  When you get two great-children named for you, you know you are special), Emaline, William, and Taren.

By name, bless them all.  

My mother, Olive May Andrews Shuck, was blessed with a sweet spirit.   May some of that sweetness find its way into all who were blessed to know her.

In that spirit and on behalf of my mother, I want you to turn to the person next to you. 

I am serious now.   Grab their cheeks and say, “I love you!”

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful historical memory of a wonderful woman! Beautifully said and written.