Eulogy for Rosemary

My mom’s memorial service was yesterday. Pfoutz Valley UMC was packed – it’s not a big church, but still, we had to bring out extra chairs. It was an altogether lovely tribute to her – we think she’d have been pleased and possibly even impressed.

My sister and I worked on the eulogy  together, and her husband was kind enough to read it for us, because we each knew we couldn’t get through it without blubbering. Here it is:

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About ten years ago, we asked our mother to start writing down some of the stories and memories she’d like us to have. We asked her to include certain stories we had grown used to hearing, and to recount what it was like when she was a child. Lucky for us, she obliged, and we rediscovered the document recently. This made it easier for us to prepare a reflection of our mother’s life.

Mom was born on November 23, 1939, the youngest of five children to Pusey and Mary Losch. She arrived seven years after her next oldest brother, George, joining Doll, John, and Eleanor. She was delivered by Dr Harold Gelnett, the uncle of her future husband, Larry, in a small rural community called Pine Swamp in Juniata County.

Pusey moved the Losch family around a lot when Mom was little. After World War II, they moved to Millerstown, to a house with no electricity, plumbing, or central heat. They carried in buckets of water and wood for the cook stove, used a kerosene heater, and had an outhouse. As an adult, she would explain her extreme dislike of camping by saying, I did all of that when I was a kid because we had to — why would I choose to do that FOR FUN??

Despite spending her early years in a house with no conveniences, she had such fond memories of her family. They were a musical bunch: They all sang and played multiple instruments. They even had a family band! “Pop Losch and his Family” played for local square dances and had a live radio program on WKVA in Lewistown. Music continued to be a big part of Mom’s life, both vocal and instrumental, and she encouraged both of us in our musical pursuits — teaching us to sing harmony, starting us early on the piano, and driving us to private lessons. She sang and played in the band in high school. As an adult she sang in the church choir, and she played the oboe in the Greenwood Community Band.

Our mother was the first of her family to go to college, and was a proud graduate of Susquehanna University. Never one to squander an opportunity, she double-majored in Chemistry and Biology, and minored in English, and earned her teaching certificate.

Mom was a talented seamstress (she gives her sister, Doll, credit for inspiring her to learn), and sewed most of her own clothes and many of ours throughout our youth. She also loved cars, especially hot rods (there are three pages devoted to her cars in the memoirs she wrote). In addition to science, she taught internal combustion engines to three vo-tech classes full of skeptical boys in Reading. She loved the story about how she had driven our dad’s ‘59 Chevy, which had “trophied” in drag races, to work one day, and ended up drag racing, and beating, a car full of her vo-tech students, earning their respect for the rest of the year.

Mom and Dad married in 1963. Meg was born in 1967, they purchased a farm in Pfoutz Valley in 1968, and moved from Mechanicsburg back to the country. Betsy was born shortly after. We grew up near many cousins, aunts and uncles, and our grandparents, and were enriched by being part of this small, tight-knit community.

Mom was a volunteer with many local organizations. She was an active leader in this very church. She led Girl Scout and 4-H troops. She was elected to the Greenwood School Board and led the District through the somewhat controversial consolidation of two elementary schools into one. She supported Dad when he became a county commissioner. She and Dad liked to socialize—they had lots of friends and hosted their share of parties, from class reunions and Halloween parties to the monthly rotating gathering of the Card Club.

She spent lots of time renovating and maintaining our old brick farmhouse—painting, wallpapering, and refinishing furniture. She remarked, once you finish the last room, it’s time to start over with the first room! She also observed that if a married couple could hang wallpaper together and not end up divorced, theirs was a solid marriage indeed. (Mom and Dad hung a LOT of wallpaper.) She loved antiques and always let us know where a certain chair or serving dish had come from, so we would feel connected to our past. She also made sure we knew our genealogy. Though we moved away in 1985, our roots here run deep.

Shortly after Dad died in 1982, Mom returned to teaching, this time in the Harrisburg City Schools. She also got her Realtor’s license and sold real estate for a number of years. After Meg left for college, she sold the farm and moved herself and Betsy to Hershey, where Betsy finished high school. Mom was very proud of having put both her daughters through Dickinson College and took delight in having accomplished her goal of raising responsible, productive citizens.

Mom shared with us the high value she placed on accurate grammar, spelling, and punctuation. She loved wordplay and crossword puzzles, and treasured a good pun and quick wit. She was a good writer. She wrote a few clever poems, of which she was quite proud, but the best one was “O, the Cussedness of Winter.” We have included it in the program.

No one hated cold weather as much as our mom did. She put significant effort into her extreme dislike of winter, and rejoiced each year on the Winter solstice. So just imagine her delight in February 2007, when after meeting Bob Fried, he invited her to spend as much time as she wished with him at his place on Florida’s Gulf Coast! She jumped at the chance and, much to our surprise, was on the next airplane out of Harrisburg on a one-way ticket.

For the past ten years, Mom and RJ had a lot of fun and made many memories. They enjoyed talking shop about cars and real estate, went on cruises, visited the beach, hosted dinner parties, attended concerts, went out to eat, attended family reunions, and fed the wild birds and the deer together. RJ even accomplished the impossible and got our mother to ENJOY CAMPING! RJ, Mom loved these years with you. We will forever be grateful for the comfort and companionship you brought her, and the fun you two had together. We know your friends in Harrisburg and Fort Myers will be sorry to hear of her passing.

Our mother is survived by five grandsons. Seth, Ross, Eli, Jae and Kisung, your grandma — or “Bammy Rose” — was so delighted by you. She took immense enjoyment from watching you grow up.

She also leaves behind her sister, Doll, her brother-in-law, Troupie, and her sister-in-law, Annamae. In addition, our dad’s sisters, Anne and Cathy, loved her like she was their own sister, and please know, she returned the sentiment many times over. She was proud to be a Beaver through marriage and grateful to have been so thoroughly welcomed into this family.

Before there were daughters or grandsons, there were a whole lot of nephews and nieces who looked up to their Aunt Rosie. We know you share our loss. Beyond her immediate family, there are in-laws, step-relatives, and countless friends, neighbors, colleagues, students, and classmates whose lives she touched.

In the memoirs she wrote, Mom recalled that she experienced frequent illness in her childhood. She had pneumonia 10 times by the age of 4, and her parents hadn’t been able to get their sickly daughter to church to have her baptized. One time when she was very sick in bed, with her mother by her side, she had this experience:

“Jesus appeared in the room. I sat up in bed and held up my arms the way a child does when she wants to be picked up. I said, ‘Mother, there’s Jesus!’” Our Grandma Losch, fearing her baby was going to die, made arrangements to have her baptized at home. Mom wrote, “From then forward, I knew I was His….It would be an understatement to say that I am grateful it happened.”

Well, Mom’s life came full circle, as pneumonia was the thing caused her final hospitalization in July. But we believe it’s likely that she saw Jesus just as she had as a child, waiting with outstretched arms to welcome her into Heaven, where she joined her parents, her in-laws, her first husband – and our dad – Larry, and her siblings, Eleanor, John and George.

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Edited to add: Cousin Mary “Mame” Miller and her daughter Nikki also made lovely remarks at the service. Both of them mentioned Mom’s pro-level talent for shuffling a deck of cards, and Nikki remembered her Aunt Rosie teaching her how to shuffle. So it was especially fitting that that old deck of cards I discovered? I left it to be buried with Mom’s ashes. You know – in case she needs to set up a quick round of Solitaire.

 

Flashback Friday: Second Grade

Miss Numer's 2nd grade 1974-75
Can you pick out Soupy Meg in this composite?

I found four elementary school class photos in a box of stuff this week.  The one above was second grade in the paleolithic era 1974-75.  The teacher, Miss Numer, recently retired from 40 years teaching second graders in our school district.

Sadly, Miss Numer died from cancer a few weeks ago. The online guestbook from her obituary includes comments that reflect the lasting impact she had on countless children, including the kids of some of her first students:

The year was 1972, and I was so excited to find out that I would have Miss Numer for 2nd grade… I can still see her long wavy red-orange hair molded around her gentle face and big glasses…29 years later, my daughter had the honor of being taught 2nd grade by…Miss Numer. …What a blessing it has been to have our lives touched by her.

Joan ‘Miss’ Numer had a huge impact on who I am today, as well as all the other students she impacted over her forty years of teaching. She entered my life as my second grade teacher. I always remember her as a kind, caring, and truly dedicated teacher who would do all in her power to ensure her students’ success.

My daughter and I are fortune to call Miss Numer our favorite teacher. Her ability to make each student feel like the most important person in the room for 40 years is remarkable.

I can’t help but remember how friendly, calm and admirable Miss Numer was. Not only was she teaching when I was in grade school but my son had the pleasure of getting to know her as well.

I myself have vivid memories of her classroom. It was situated at the top of the stairs, next to the girls’ bathroom, in the “old” elementary school building.  I can picture it as plain as day, though the building’s been gone for decades.  I remember beginning to learn cursive in her class. I also remember the life-lessons – no pushing in line and all that.

In high school, I joined a club geared towards encouraging students to pursue teaching as a career. I was lucky to spend time assisting Miss Numer in her second grade class. Although the elementary classrooms were now located in a brand-new school building, Miss Numer was the same teacher I remembered.  She took great interest in nurturing students throughout their school years.

Rest in peace, Aunt May

May Jarrett Beaver Zink

April 22, 1912 – September 7, 2009

Bob Zink, May J Beaver Zink, and Rev. Jim Grubb
Bob Zink, May J Beaver Zink, and Rev. Jim Grubb on October 2nd, 1993

Aunt May was my great-aunt. My father’s aunt. My Grandma Sara’s sister-in-law… and her next-door neighbor for many years (if adjacent farms can be considered “next door” ). They married brothers, my Aunt May and my Grandma Sara. And they each buried their husband in the early 1970s as both fell victim to melanoma, the same cancer that would eventually claim my father. (PSA: Wear your sunscreen! Seriously!)  They each remarried, and both eventually outlived their second husbands, too.

The photo above was taken at our wedding reception in October, 1993. Aunt May is pictured here with her second husband, Bob, and the Rev. James Grubb, who was one of the ministers who married us. (Rev. Grubb was a high school friend of both my parents, and was Curt’s minister when he was growing up in Williamsport, PA.)

Aunt May almost seemed more like a third grandma to me than a great-aunt. She graduated from Dickinson College in the early  1930s; her youngest son, Dave, followed her there in the mid-1970s. Dave and his wife Lyndy, also a Dickinsonian, opened their home to me in 1990, right after I’d graduated from their alma mater and took my first job in Washington, D.C.  Aunt May thought it was super-cool that I went to Dickinson, too. She was always very supportive of me.

My cousin “Mame” and her friend were high school French students of May’s in the early 1970s. Recently, they visited her at her nursing home. “Bonjour, Madame Beaver, comment t’allez vous?” they said in greeting.  May replied, very deliberately, “Comme Ci, Comme Ça.”

Eternal Rest

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace. Amen.

Requiem Æternam

Réquiem ætérnam dona eis, Dómine,
et lux perpétua lúceat eis.
Requiéscant in pace. Amen.