In Memory of My Mom

This is what I read at my Mom's service today...

Mary Frances was born on July 10 in Baraboo Wisconsin to Don and Jean. Their legal names were John Donald and Imogene Clara but Mary’s family had a penchant for nicknames and Imogene Clara very much disliked being called Imogene Clara so nicknames it was and will be for this story.

Mary had three sisters, Donna, Betty and Alice and two brothers, Jack and Jim. But there was more to Mary’s family than just her siblings. She grew up with first cousins and second cousins and probably third and fourth cousins if it were mapped out and many aunts and uncles. Many of Mary’s favorite memories of her childhood included staying at her Uncle Louie’s farm with Aunt Madeline, her cousin Sharon and Sharon’s brothers.

Mary’s family moved several times as she was growing up and finally settled in Adams, Wisconsin. Mary left home in her early 20s for the big city and lived in Madison.

One weekend, Mary was visiting her parents when the local Sheriff had a get together at his home that was attached to the jail. Jean invited everyone back to their home for coffee and sent Mary and a young night jailer back to the house to start the pot. And that is the short version of the story that I like to call “How my parents met in jail.”

The two coffee makers had talked and exchanged phone numbers and, despite Mary’s disclaimer that she didn’t come home very often, she visited the very next weekend. It wasn’t long before Mary and Charlie were engaged and they married on July 27th. Mary’s cousin Sharon was her Maid of Honor.
Mary Pfister on her wedding day
Mary gained more family with her marriage:  Charlie’s parents,Hazel and Albert, his Grandmother Edie and Step-Grandfather Henry, and his siblings Betty, Joan, Mary, Bill and Phyllis. Plus, some more cousins and aunts and uncles. Just as with Mary’s family, Charlie’s was also close.

The folklore has it that it rained throughout the honeymoon so the two had to spend a lot of time indoors. I never want to think more deeply about that but let’s just say it was productive time because 9 months and 6 days later they welcomed their daughter, Kathleen Mary, to the world.

I like to think they didn’t have any more children because you can’t expect to achieve perfection twice but I know my Mom would have welcomed and treated any other children the way she treated me.

With love. With caring, With interest. With kindness.

Our family moved to Arizona and my Mom found something new to love. Our state and the Southwest. She took classes in anthropology, Native American studies and the history of the Southwest and eventually got her Associate in Arts degree from Scottsdale Community College.

One of her great joys was taking out of town visitors all over Arizona. From the Grand Canyon to Tucson to Nogales and every museum and monument in between, she could, and would, inform everyone of the history and significance of each location. In great depth.

She loved the flora and fauna of our region. So much so on the latter, that there were many zoo visits where the rest of use tried to rush through the creepy critter sections, as one should, and my Mom would linger behind so she could pet a snake or a gila monster or even hold a tarantula.

My Mom said that, while she was born in Wisconsin, Arizona was her home. That is why we are here in this place where we are today. My Dad has said more than once how much my Mom would appreciate the view from this spot and I agree.

In addition to being a wife and mother, my Mom wore many other hats in her lifetime. She embraced her role of Grandma and treated her only Grandchild, Steven Charles, better than one could hope.

With love. With caring, With interest. With kindness.

Our home was always open to my friends and Steven’s friends and the neighbors and my Mom welcomed them all. She wanted to know about their families and ultimately their own kids and she loved to hear stories and see pictures of everyone.

Of all the paying jobs that my Mom had, working in a library was her favorite. Whether it was at the University of Wisconsin, Marquette University, Scottsdale High School or even Yavapai Grade School, she loved being surrounded by books. She loved reading and learning and she loved passing on her knowledge.

My Mom was a lifelong crafter. She sewed, knitted, crocheted, quilted and did embroidery. Many of the new arrivals in our family and among our friends received handmade and treasured gifts from Aunt Mary. She didn’t limit her giving to just family and friends. In recent years, she used her skills to make beanies for the troops to wear under their helmets or on cold winter nights.

My Mom was not a vain woman but she always wore jewelry even if she wasn’t leaving the house. She loved earrings, necklaces, rings and bracelets. I will be forever grateful how that love made it easy to shop for presents and treasure the fact that we had some matching pieces that we would coincidentally wear at the same time.

She also wouldn’t leave the house without applying lipstick. And, she had to wash her glasses before she could go out the door. It always seemed like she decided to start both of those tasks the very minute everyone else was lined up at the door to leave. But, she would not be hurried. She took just as much time as she wanted even if our impatience sent us all the way to wait in the car with the engine started. Which happened more than once because one word that is never used to describe a Pfister is patient.

To say she could be determined is an understatement as Mom could be tough when she needed to. She battled and won against both colon cancer and breast cancer and she lived with diabetes for many years.

You may have noticed that I didn’t put in any dates in this story. It’s mostly because you could then do math and the math works out poorly for me as I think my age just can’t be right.
The memorial card front and back.
I think we found the perfect quote.
But, there is one number that’s very important to the story of my Mom’s life. Fifty-three. Fifty-three is the number of years that my Mom and Dad were married. More than a lifetime for many of us here but it wasn’t long enough.

It was my Mom’s time to go. It just wasn’t our time to be ready for that. Thank you to everyone who has been so kind and caring and giving. The support we’ve received from family, friends, colleagues and healthcare personnel has given us all immeasurable comfort.

Mary Pfister left behind a husband Charlie AKA Chuck AKA Shorty, a daughter Kathleen AKA Kathy and a grandson Steven AKA Steve. The nickname thing has continued. She also left behind her siblings and her brothers and sisters in laws:  Donna and Myron Bentfield, Betty and Dick Sobczak, Jack and Rose Mary Terry, Jim Terry, Joan Holden, Mary and Dick Hauser, Bill and Betty Pfister, Phyllis and Jim Braund, Bill Holden and many nieces and nephews, grand nieces and nephews and cousins. She also left behind countless family and friends who are still reconciling themselves to the loss of a great human.


Lori Forsythe said…
Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing the history and the stories of your Mother. You and your family are in my thoughts...Lori
Anonymous said…
Lovely tribute to your mom, Kathy! I know that must have been a very difficult piece to write but you did it beautifully in a way only you could do ... love your writing style. Hugs to you, Stephen and Shorty from John and Connie
Ann Seibert said…
What a beautifully written dedication to your mom! It made me cry. I'm so sorry that she's gone. Love and hugs to you. - Ann

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