She Never Met a Stranger

My mother Jessie died on January 3rd, thankfully in peace with my sister by her side. Lea and I had been with her most of the last few days, myself seeing her just a few hours before she left. Mom was admitted into the hospital on the 30th for breathing issues (non-Covid related) and never fully recovered. She was 80 years old.

Born in Oklahoma, and other than a short time in Los Angeles and Phoenix as a young parent, she lived most of her adult life in Wichita. A nurse for decades at Wesley and the Sedgwick County Health Department, she was a life-long student getting her Bachelors in Nursing and later a Bachelors in History and Masters in Library Science (this will make sense in the next paragraph). Health challenges nudged her into retirement in her late 50s and about four years ago she moved to Topeka to be closer to my sister and our families.

Her passion was genealogy - a hobby she pursued for 50+ years, long before the internet, DNA testing, and computer searches. Yes she would drag Lea and I around for hours to libraries then to spool through endless reels of microfilm looking at census records and land deeds. It was this hobby that always made a new introduction more of an interrogation: “Oh you’re from x, do you happen to know the y family?” Or, “your last name is x, do you have any family from y?” She was always looking for a connection or a new genealogy lead.

On her last day with us, my sister and I joked that if you really do meet your ancestors when you pass, certainly mom will be by far the best prepared for the trip. Her research traced our families far and wide back to the Old World, our Choctaw heritage, and even as some of the first settlers of New Amsterdam (NYC), Kansas, and Florida before statehood.

My nuclear family dealt with a great deal of challenges when I was a kid. Widowed at 33 my mom was the ROCK. We weren’t rich, our house never spotless, but she made sure both my sister and I not only had everything we needed, but that we also graduated from college to pursue our own passions.

She would tell me, “never judge yourself by where you are, judge yourself by how far you’ve come.” And yes we have come a long, long way. Thanks mom. There is quite a reception waiting for you … and not a single one of them will be a stranger to you.

No services are planned at this time. Full obituary