by Jill Williams Bishop
delivered for memorial service
Memory Gardens, Arlington Heights, Illinois
August 13, 2011


Hello Everyone.  Thank you all so much for being here today to honor our mother and grandmother. 

          These past weeks I’ve been very immersed in all things Mother and it’s been just wonderful.  Of course all the pictures, the autobiography she wrote in 1988 at age 70, the interview done three years ago for her 90th birthday, and then many of her own many writings she’d done for writing classes and other things over the years.

          It’s really been a trip.

In all these writings, and of course my own memories, there are certain constants that are apparent: her Regard for Education, her Love of Music, and that she Loved a Good Time.

Eventually I’ll get past the sense of wanting to pick up the phone and call my mother, but I’m not there yet.  I still miss her a lot.

          But there’s such a sense of privilege and gratitude for having had her as my mother.  She taught me so very much, somewhat with words, but more by actions. 

          With her words I heard a lifetime of admonitions to use good grammar, write thank you notes, and …just….relax.   Through her actions she modeled all of that, also that doing service is important [she volunteered at every stage of her life], to be nice and get along with people, and most of all – be happy and enjoy life.  Good lessons, all.


Our mother’s legacy was not in “things.”  There are very few family heirlooms handed down, partly because most were destroyed in a house fire when she was about 12, but largely because “things” just weren’t that important to her.  She was anything but materialistic, in fact that value is one she has handed down some directions.  Yet she wasn’t judgmental of those who did value clothes or jewelry or even books that she loved so much.  Those “things” just weren’t important to her.

Her real legacy was her values, particularly her regard for education, her love of music, and her lifestyle of happiness and fun. 


Education was very important to our mother, a value handed down from her parents.  Her father, Christian Diehl, a doctor, was the only one of 5 siblings to have a college education, and her mother, Jennie, who lived with us growing up, also graduated from college in 1904, something very unusual for women at that time. 

     She was Valedictorian in high school, and her own college degree was from the University of Illinois with a major in sociology with a minor in psychology. 

          Two of her paying jobs were teaching English and Geography and then working in a bookstore. 

          She and Ed attended over 20 Elderhostels, and she and I attended one together in Utah.  Although I did enjoy the classes and the people and the scenery, most of all I enjoyed the full week of uninterrupted time with my mother.  That week together is a special memory. 

      Looking around this room at Mother’s decendants, there are already many degrees, and I can only assume that Mother’s great-grandchildren here today, including the three in diapers and the one on the way, will also have education as a strong value as it has been for at least 4 generations.


Related to but not the same as Mother’s regard for formal education is her love of reading.  She was a voracious reader of books, mostly fiction, but many biographies too.  It was a huge part of who she was.  All three of her children, Jack, Jean and I, are big readers too.  When it became difficult for her to read in her last years she and I read books together on the phone, my reading to her while she followed along in the same book.  We both enjoyed it a lot and read three books that way.  Interestingly the first one was “The Reader” about someone reading books to another person. 


That formal obituary just read by Jack was mostly written by me while in the car with Hannah the day after Mother died.  It says that she was “happy, fun-loving, socially active and an avid bridge player.”  We tried to work in her being a grammar snob because it was such a big part of who she was, but we couldn’t quite find the right words.  “Grammar Nazi” seemed a bit strong.  Hannah gave her a t-shirt once that said “I’m the grammarian about whom your mother warned you.”  It fit. Easy going as she was, make no mistake, good grammar was a serious matter!


Education – reading – grammar.  So it follows: she also loved to write.  In all the years we were growing up she wrote extensive messages on each Christmas card sent out.  By hand, not a mass-produced one like I do these days.  When I was in college we sent many letters back and forth.  Over the years there were many occasions for her to write, and when she was at a loss of what or how to write she sometimes would write in verse as she did here in this piece about a assignment for her writing class when she lived in Nashville.

 [verses read by Jean]

There are will be a number of her writings on display at the luncheon after the service.

In her own quiet way our mother was literacy personified.


Music was a big part of our mother’s life.  She could play any piece on the piano by ear, tho only in the key of C, and all three of us were very very active in the music scene in high school.  Jack, of course, took his music the farthest becoming a professional musician in Nashville, but I am still playing my clarinet in the local Community Band, something I know gave our mother satisfaction.

          She came by her love of music honestly.  Her father would sneak out of the house during the night to play his violin at barn dances, and her mother worked her way through college teaching piano lessons.  In Florida she lived in a very cultural community and attended many concerts, and in her Nashville years she and Jack attended many concerts. 

          When we proceed from here to the gravesite we are going to leave her there with some music by singing Taps.  There will be some cards with the words if you would like one.


Besides our mother’s legacy to all of us of her regard for education and love of music, perhaps her greatest legacy is her love of a good time. 

     Her advice to “keep it light” applied to most situations, and she made friends easily.  She loved games.  Word games, of course, scrabble, crossword puzzles.  And card games, particularly bridge.  She was an ace bridge-player. 


When Jefferson was around 10 years old, an age when most kids love games, he told a friend, “My grandma loves to play games even more than I do!”  Jefferson still loves to play games, by the way, perhaps evidence of the trait passed down.

     Another of her favorite games was Charades.  There were many charades parties in Des Plaines, and it was also a favorite family game.  We are all quite good, to put modesty aside for a moment, but Mother was the best.  There was one family Christmas in Florida about 15 years ago when Hannah’s then boyfriend was with us [sorry Justin] for a family game of Charades.  I remember how amazed he was at our prowess, saying “I’ve never seen anything like this.”  But Mother was the best.  …Jack was second best, in case you’re interested.


One source of enjoyment not mentioned in the published obituary was just how much she loved gambling. On her own games, that is.  And not for high stakes, by any means, but just to enhance any competition, “to make it interesting.” In fact, any card game; bridge, cribbage, gin rummy, whatever; without “a little something on the side” was hardly worth her time. Jack can attest to that as her frequently opponent in cribbage and gin rummy during these last years in Nashville, and chess games by mail during the Florida years.

          In re-reading her autobiography I was reminded of the story that the day she and my father bought her wedding ring, when it turned out to cost less than they had expected, they bet the remaining amount on a horse with a romantic sounding name. 

          When we were growing up our parents used to play cribbage for chores.  I have such a clear picture of them playing at the dining room table.  Apparently, however, they mostly played for her chores, to hear our dad tell it. 


Our mother was very interested in politics and current affairs.  Back in 8th grade she won an award for current events and was quite proud of it.  She always watched every minute of both political conventions, and although she was a sincere, responsible citizen who tried to be current on the issues and always voted, I really think her interest in politics was yet another interesting competition with winners and losers, and certainly considerable stakes.


In the five different locations our mother lived in her 93 years, essentially representing five different stages of her life, the same constants of her life are apparent: Education, Music, Fun.

-The early years in southern Illinois where she was raised and attended college.

-Then the 9 years in Chicago when she met and fell in love with our dad and they started their family.

-Then 27 years in Des Plaines raising the family,

-Followed by another 27 years in Longboat Key, Florida,

-And nearly 10 years in Nashville after that. 

          While she had a wonderful time in Chicago in the early years and loved her time in Florida, she said she always still considered Des Plaines to be her home.  So her wishes for the three locations of her ashes are here at the cemetery, next to our dad; at the site of our home on Woodbridge Road in Des Plaines; and in the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. 

These are some of my memories and comments of my mother, and you will be able to see and read more at the luncheon where books and photos will be displayed, including some of her writings. 


At Gravesite:

-prayer by Jefferson
-put flowers on grave
-everyone sing Taps (played on harmonica by Justin Page)

(Day is Done)

Day is Done.
Gone the Sun.

From the lake,
From the hills,
From the sky.

All is well.
Safely rest.
God is nigh.