My mom passed away around 6:30 Sunday morning November 22,
2009. This came several months after she happily said her good byes and
expected and hoped to leave us after what she called a wonderful life. It
deserves to be called a wonderful life, but it was not always an easy one.
Her father, William Penn (the great, great grandson of the
founder of Pennsylvania), died when she was two. Her mother remarried an older
man when she was three and half year old and within the year he had a stroke
after which they all moved to Bakersfield (where I was born) for his health. He
was unable to work and was abusive and my grandmother divorced him. The Great
Depression struck soon after they moved to Bakersfield, and my grandmother fed
the household of my mother, two older sisters, a brother, and my grand mother’s
mother, by sewing cloths and eventually teaching sewing for the Singer Company.
At 14 my mother managed the household’s meager budget, cleaned, and cooked for
the household (her two older sisters were in a government sanitarium for the
undernourished—not because of my mother’s cooking I hope—her mother was working
full time to pay for the food, her grandmother didn’t do anything useful, and
brothers didn’t cook in those days).
My mom grew up tough in many ways and vulnerable in others.
She had strong opinions about what was good and right but she was never
dogmatic. She was always open to new ideas and loved learning as much as she
loved teaching. If she encountered facts that challenged her opinions, she
reconsidered her views. After my brother, sister and I had left home for
college my mom finished her high school equivalency exam and started classes at
the local Jr. College (which I also had attended for two years before going to
U.C. Berkeley). She loved it so much that she kept going and graduated with a
Teaching became mom’s passion. She loved helping people and
especially kids and especially those who struggled. She could and would squash
anyone who hurt a kid (or anyone else) in any way and for any reason. Though
she hated what modern reading and teaching methods were doing to move
California from #1 in the nation (in reading scores) to #50, she recoiled from
hate mongering and those who spread hate. She gladly took the worse discipline
problems in school because she never tolerated or had discipline problems in
her classes. She believed that kids wanted to succeed and responded to
realistic hope that they could. Within days she had the worst of them working
with her to make the class room a fun and exciting learning experience.
From her teaching experiences with remedial readers, she
developed a reading technique that produced dramatic results with even the most
deficient readers. “Bungy Jumping Into Reading” LLC offers her technique, which
uses word games as the core of the approach that disarms non readers from their
fears of failure and draws them into a competitive challenge that is fun (and
has been VERY SUCCESSFUL).
Yes, she did have a wonderful life. She and her husband of
68 years, my father, had many friends, enjoyed life, and spread goodness and
light wherever they went. Mom was a fighter; she fought with love. I, and many
others, will miss her.