I spent the better part of last week in northern Arizona for my grandmother’s funeral. I have a batch of freaky hometown photos for TGW, but I’m having technical difficulties getting them up on the site this morning, so I’m just going to post a couple excerpts from the life sketch my father gave at the funeral:

Our mom was a little city girl with a big country heart. We are here today to celebrate the life of Marion Juanita Moore who was born on September 8,1923, in Indianapolis, Indiana.  She was the twelfth of thirteen children born to John Edgar Littleton Moore and Bessie Bevins Moore. Her father was a Christian minister, educator, fundraiser and President of four Christian colleges who traveled sometimes with and sometimes without the family from Massachusetts to New Mexico.

When she was very young her father got very sick and the doctors operated for a brain tumor and the operation caused him to be bedridden for the last two years of his life. Mom only remembered him being in his bedroom and only Grandma Moore went in to care for him. After her father’s death the children and their mother were totally dependent on her older brothers for their support. At this time there was no state welfare or Social Security and her father did not leave a pension. Mom was born in the roaring 20s and raised in the depression. One of the first arguments I saw from Mom and Dad was one about who had it worse during the depression, Mom in the city or Dad on the farm.

It was at this time that her brother Tom got mixed up with the public enemy number one, John Dillinger. He hid slot machines up in the attic and one day John Dillinger himself came to get Tom and some slot machines. Grandma Moore ran him off with a kitchen pan, called him a pipsqueak and told him to leave Tom alone. Mom learned well from Grandma Moore and she would grab a pot or whatever was handy to chase off dogs or cats or any other unwanted animals. …

Her father was the minister of the First Nazarene Church and her mother cared for the church nursery. The Waterman family were regular attenders of that church. This is where she first met Paul Waterman. They loved to dance together. With World War II on, Mom and her boyfriend and her brother and his girlfriend decided to elope to Kentucky and get married.

Tom Brokaw in his book The Greatest Generation said: “I think no one will ever really know how much they suffered through the depression and the war.” I agree.  Her husband was in the North Atlantic in the Navy when I was born and did not make it home for two years. When he did come home in 1946 they quickly decided to get a divorce. Divorce wasn’t as common back then as it is now and she took it very hard.

My first memories of mom are extreme loneliness, her being a single parent, working long hours at RCA, welding radio tubes while looking through magnifying glasses. If you’d ask, she’d tell you she worked 7 days a week, 10 hours a day during the war. We were lucky too because one of Mom’s older brothers had a TV shop. He gave us a television long before most people had one.

When Mom wasn’t working at RCA she was working at her sister’s tavern. There were only two times I remember Mom not working. One was when we went to Albuquerque to visit family and got caught in a snowstorm. The other was in 1949 when Mom and I got to go to Nashville to the Ryman auditorium to see the Grand Old Opry in person. On the way home we stopped at the family farm in Lewisport, KY where her mother grew up. Mama really loved it and never forgot that trip. I have no idea how we got there, as she did not drive for a couple of more decades. …

Mom met our dad John Grider at my aunt’s tavern, which was called The Harvestor.  Handsome John was struggling with a divorce and trying to raise 4 children. It was a match made in heaven. I had prayed for years for a dad and brothers and sisters, but I was such a spoiled child it was very hard for me to share my mom with so many others. Mom played no favorites among the boys, but Eva was her favorite from the beginning. All us boys agreed Eva was our favorite sister too. We moved from a 9-room house to an 8 X 36 mobile house trailer. Mom was such a cheerful soul I don’t remember her griping much about anything. And if anyone did do any griping she knew dad would take care of it. He would flex one arm and say, “This is 6 months in the hospital,” and flex the other and say, “This is sudden death.” So we didn’t give her much trouble. Dad decided to leave the cold Indiana shop floors to go west to AZ. This was the first of many trips where mom packed up the dishes and off we went, pulling our home behind us.  …

[There’s a lot more moving back and forth between IN and AZ; in 1975 or 76, they settled permanently in AZ.]

Mom worked at the Highland Primary cafeteria and was able to slip all kinds of extra goodies to her grandkids. Which was like mom who always tried to get you something to drink and be hospitable. …

On one of their trips across the country dad got very sick and mom was very scared. After he was able to drive them home, Mom never wanted to travel again. Around 1994 dad found out he had cancer and mom became his nurse. The chemo treatments and radiation treatments and the medicine were especially very hard on them, but many people in the church and in the family helped them drive back and forth to Flagstaff. Dad did everything he could to teach mom what he thought she’d need to know or do after he was gone. But she never wanted to look forward to a time without dad.

We thought mom would spend a couple months with each of the kids after he passed away, but she became the guard dog for her little house. She was fearless in running off any animals. But she was also very scared. For 46 years they’d been Tonto and the Lone Ranger. Inseparable. When you’d ask for dad’s opinion he’d give it to you. When you’d ask for Mom’s opinion she’d look at dad. She did not want to be embarrassed in public. If she thought she was going to be embarrassed she would turn her face or hide behind her hand. She was quite a little actress hiding her feelings, but her eyes danced and face smiled when she was happy. You could also tell when she wasn’t. Like those of her generation, she wanted to be seen and not heard. Mom’s whole life was waiting on dad. They’d work hard or play hard all day long. When the supper dishes were done, it was time to listen to music or watch TV.  Without dad, mom’s nights were very lonely and frightening. She begged and begged people to visit and spend the night. …

Routines and the clock became very important to her. We’d buy her new clothes that she’d save for special occasions that never came around. We bought her a new hose to water her plants and she hid it under a washtub so it wouldn’t get stolen. Then she continued to hobble out on her bum knee to water the plants by hand. The foot doctor told her to get some shoes with arch and ankle support so we took her to buy a pair, but they were too new to wear for everyday, so she just continued to wear her same pairs of tennis shoes and penny loafers. …

Tom Brokaw in his book The Greatest Generation said that after going two times to Normandy beach and listening to the stories of mom’s generation, he came to understand that her generation was the greatest generation any society has ever produced.  He said, “They had a common purpose, common values: duty, honor, economy, courage, service, love of family, and community. And above all, responsibility for one’s self.” That was our mom. …

There’s not a happier angel in heaven than mom now that she’s back with dad. I think they’re fishing or farming some place, cutting wood and listening to or singing country music.

3 responses to “Funeral”

  1. Eric Jones says:

    Hey Bryan, condolences. Thanks for posting this. It’s good to be reminded–esp. today–of the amazingly selfless work done by many of our grandparents’ generation, work that had one end–better lives for their kids, and their kids’ kids, than they themselves would ever experience.

  2. Eric Jones says:

    Also–looking forward to seeing the freaky hometown, smalltown photos!

  3. G-Lock says:

    So sorry for your loss, Bryan. What a bittersweet resolution to a deceptively complex life.