We, Jeanne, Scott, Stephanie and myself, are so grateful for your love and presence today. It really means the world.
Pray with me…
Heavenly Father, You are awesome and boundless. Help me with my words as we celebrate Mary through stories and song. I had a lot of plans for Mom. The total solar eclipse was coming up and I really wanted her to see You in this most awesome of things. Well…she got to see it. You gave her much better seats. Thank you. Amen.
Mary Frances Williams died Tuesday, August 15, 2017. She was 73.
Her passing was so sudden that just hours before, she had been goofing around as she did often….you know what I’m talking about. Stephanie had called the ambulance that Monday night a couple weeks ago; Steph said Mom just didn’t look that good. They took her to the hospital; she was having another heart attack. She was in a full-on oxygen mask. And knowing she resembled a character out of one of his favorite movies, she reached out and said “Scott! I am your mother.”
This orneriness is what we will miss most I think.
The lady we knew as Mary started life as Harleen Joyce Collins on March 10, 1944 in Kansas City, Missouri; the second child of Harley James Collins and Ina Marie Bean. Soon after, she was adopted by her maternal grandparents, Ralph Merrit Bean and Grace Frances Capps. On April 5, 1949, she was adopted again by Charles Edward Clark and Mary Grace Bean of Tonganoxie; her maternal aunt and uncle and she became Mary Frances Clark. She gained four brothers, Don, Harold, Alvin and Chuck (all deceased). Mom always talked fondly of her life on a farm just off 16 Highway west of Tongie (even though at first it had no indoor plumbing) roughhousing with her brothers, playing with her dachshund, singing one of her favorite songs “You are my Sunshine” with grandpa, riding horses and walking to school through woods behind her house. She was a normal tomboy, and in her glasses, she looked studious, going to all grades in Tonganoxie. She was a member of the International Order of Job’s Daughters. At some point she started seeing a boy. They were Snow Prince and Princess at a school ball. And in all pictures, Mom looks very attractive and put together while Dad looks alternately hip and cool or asleep. Actually, most times he’s smiling his big grin. He had Mom at his side, who wouldn’t.
They would end up going to Baker University for one year before getting married September 7, 1963. Their 54th anniversary was Thursday.
Throughout her life, Mom was a Christian. She was deeply spiritual. I knew this but it really didn’t hit me until Stephanie gave me something (hold up the poem) the other day. She said Mom kept this with her always. Let me read it to you. Cross in My Pocket by Vera Mae Thomas.
I carry a cross in my pocket,
A simple reminder to me
That I am a Christian,
No matter where I may be.
This little cross isn’t magic,
Nor is it a good luck charm.
It isn’t meant to protect me
From every physical harm.
It’s not for identification
For all the world to see.
It’s simply an understanding
Between my Savior and me.
When I put my hand in my pocket
To bring out a coin or a key,
The cross is there to remind me
Of the price He paid for me.
It reminds me too, to be thankful
For my blessings every day,
And to strive to serve Him better
In all that I do or say.
It’s also a daily reminder
Of the peace and comfort I share
With all who know my Master
And give themselves to His care.
So, I carry a cross in my pocket
Reminding none but me
That Jesus Christ is Lord of my life,
If only I’ll let Him be.
She let Jesus walk with her every day.
Mary is survived by four children. John Jr. (and Dawn) of Golden, Colorado; Jeanne (and Barry) Goodrich of Alameda, Colorado; Scott (and Karen) of Olathe; and Stephanie Givens of Lawrence; 10 grandchildren, Jeremy, Steven, Matthew, Christopher, Brandon, Arielle, Katie, Ryan, Connor and Ashley; as well as 6 great-grandchildren.
She was preceded in death by her husband John; her father Charles E. Clark; her mother Mary Grace Clark and four brothers; Don Werbe, Harold Clark, Alvin Clark, and Charles Clark, Jr.
Mom enjoyed creating things. For many years, she made crafts, candies and jams, selling them at Christmastime craft shows. She cherished the fellowship of her crafting buddies. And if you never had her raspberry/jalapeno jam…well you missed out. Creativity always seemed to have an outlet in her life. She liked learning new things. When I was in grade school, for a secretarial job, she had to learn shorthand. I thought it was some sort of secret code. Before there were cooking shows and the internet, she practiced her new skill all the time. When she worked at the Tonganoxie Mirror, she would fill steno pads with notes from city council and school board meetings. I think she really blossomed at the Mirror. Scott and I remember hanging out there after school and getting to see her work. During this time, she found photography, took journalism courses at KU and got better in the darkroom.
One of the scariest things I’ve ever seen dealt with Mom, a train and a camera. She was visiting us in Colorado and I took her to Moffat Tunnel; a 16-mile long tunnel under the Continental Divide near our house. She stood on the rail as a train eased out of the tunnel; just snapping away. Dad and I were telling her to get off the track while the train blared its horn. She brought the camera down, eyes-wide and high-tailed it off the tracks. It was close!! Good thing it was crawling.
She told me just at Christmas that one of her proudest achievements was about the history of the concrete park bench at the old high school in honor of her brother Alvin, who died in the Korean War. I sat at that table so many times not really knowing its importance to the family.
Later, she would work at Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant and then as an Administrative Assistant in many departments at KU. She retired from that position in 2009.
Back to creating things and keeping busy. Dad always seemed to have a garden. We had a big garden out at Granny and Grandpa’s. We had a big garden in town. We had a big garden when we lived west of Tongie. We had a big garden here in Lawrence. And when I say big, I mean it. This time of year, it was all about snapping green beans. Sitting around the table with a big pile of green beans. I don’t mind doing it but I imagine I groan at the mention of it now, Right Dawn? We would have fresh canned beans, pickles, carrots, corn, peas and strawberry jam all winter. It was awesome! I remember Mom working away in the kitchen, canner steaming away all day. I was probably outside weeding, picking stuff with Dad, or playing while she was complaining. I never heard it. At Ridgeway’s, she would have Scott and I go out and pick the strawberries everyone missed. I don’t know about you Scott, but are you tired of strawberries? I’m not. I don’t know how I eat those store-bought, flat, tiny-berries. I miss Mom’s canning. I think we had the best, hard, yes, but best of childhoods.
One year…they say this isn’t possible…I don’t know, but Dad planted hot peppers near the tomatoes. We were having dinner one night, spaghetti I think, with one of these tomato sauces she concocted. Supposedly, it was just the tomatoes, no extra stuff but onions. And it was hot, super hot. At our house, it was clean plate club every night. And Dad ate and got up and left to go do something, leaving us kids all at the table with full plates. My ears were burning and eyes watering. Eventually, Mom said quietly, that we didn’t have to eat the rest. That we had eaten enough. BEST MOM EVER!!
She was nurturing. She told us to go back to sleep while holding down the tent during an incredible storm at Pomona Lake. She herded and shushed us in the basement when the skies over Tongie were that weird, underwater green color and the firetrucks were blaring their sirens all around town. She was interested in Jeanne’s singing, Scott’s stories, everything Stephanie and brought more layers out to me when I was looking through my telescope when it was super cold (and wanted to steal a look). She took care of us when we had chicken pox. She stayed home with me when I had the mumps (she probably lost her job). She hovered over Jeanne when her appendix burst on New Year’s. Though I’m sure they thought you were faking it Jeanne. She fretted over Scott when he went to the hospital to have the lump in his throat removed when he was little. And she always worried about Steph.
We all have great stories about Mary. I’m glad for the ones you’ve shared. I’d like to share them and others with all of you.
Mom loved butterflies and sunflowers. Grandson Steven was sitting outside the day after Mom died. He lives in Georgia and a butterfly landed on his shoulder; just hanging out. Later, when he went outside again, it happened again. Grandma? I think so.
Jeanne’s daughter Katie, tells a story of the day they went to the animal shelter and the tornado sirens went off. Grandma said she needed a cigarette first before they went to shelter. You know a Kansan by how they respond to tornado sirens. They all go to the front porch! She was definitely a Kansan.
Scott remembers also how much she loved all of our babies. Scott and Karen used to live across the street from Mom and Dad. Mom came over super early one Christmas morning because she could not wait to be a part of Matthew’s first Christmas.
Arielle loved spending some afternoons with grandma learning how to make raspberry/jalapeno jam. Both Arielle and Connor loved swimming in Grandma’s pool. Dawn enjoyed stopping in and saying hello and chatting between classes at KU. I did too. And Mom reminded both of us often after we took him to our house that she missed King jumping up on the window sill every morning to talk to her in his husky singsong.
I think back at the chocolate pie she made that I craved so much while I was at Philmont. I loved Mom’s peanut butter balls at Christmas time. We all miss the Christmas candy. Matthew and Steven both mentioned they loved watching her bake and make fudge at Christmas. Steven also mentioned her Spanish Rice (good stuff that nothing really lives up to) and her great big smile that fills his heart with warmth and he also enjoyed hanging out smoking on the back porch.
She loved reading historical fiction. She was a blazing fast reader (as well as a typist) putting us to shame. Her guilty pleasure was watching food shows. She should have been a chef. And she loved to watch the movie Somewhere in Time; the movie with Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour where Reeves hypnotizes himself to travel back in time to be with a woman whose portrait hangs in the Grand Hotel in Mackinac Island. She really enjoyed listening to a piece of music from that movie; Rachmaninoff’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini; the soundtrack for her love for Dad.
[[SONG: Variations on a theme of Paganini]]
I know mom seemed a bit of a recluse since Dad died 9 years ago. It wasn’t until I got to talking Scott and Steph after she passed that I came to a realization. She had a Do Not Resuscitate order, a DNR. What I never could reconcile was that she was OK with a blood transfusion and a stent. In the end, she didn’t want to be a burden; she didn’t want to be a bother. If she could feel better, that was OK with her because she would be able to take care of herself and not have to lean on others much. She didn’t want to be on a machine. She didn’t want to be reanimated if she slipped naturally. And in the end, she did just that. One minute she was with us and the next she was with Dad.
She would have been both angry and thrilled that we all here today…just for her. So…if you didn’t see her much over the past few years, it wasn’t personal. Know that she didn’t want you to worry about her. She didn’t want you going out of your way. She didn’t want to feel guilty. She just wanted to sit in the rest of her days and enjoy being.
A couple of months ago, I had a dream. Stephanie and I were checking in on Dad. He lived in a huge, KU blue tent on a white-sand tropical beach. I know you were expecting a bowling alley. The tent was half complete. I saw Dad but there was no sign of Mom. And as I wondered this, Stephanie said, “that makes sense, she’s not dead yet.” I nodded, but Dad said that it would be soon. I woke up not believing this. I told Stephanie later I saw Mom as a frail, white-haired lady. Meaning many more years left. She said, laughing…” have you seen Mom lately??”
Mom’s favorite poem is written in the program; Footprints in the Sand. Mom leaned on God many times in life. This poem sang to her. Near the end, I’m sure God was carrying Mom…right into the arms of Dad. Right where she wanted to be.
With tears and laughter we’ve barely dipped into the rich life of Mary. I hope over the coming days or months, you find fond memories of her drifting into your thoughts.
Creator God, you are amazing. You had such wondrous things in mind for Mary. She touched our lives in ten thousand ways; some seen, most not. And she so enriched us. Thank you, for making her perfect, in your image, and gracing us with her beauty. You bless us so, Provide comfort to her family and our friends. Amen.
If you would like to share more memories of Mary or just sit and enjoy some company, we would love for you to join us for a picnic across the street in Clinton Park.