Everyone should have a 97 year old Grammie (Part 2)

Continued from yesterday….. a tribute to Grammie

By how she has lived her own life, she has become a living example of how I wish to live mine.

First let me share her rich history.


97 years ago in 1913, she was born in South Bend, Indiana. Woodrow Wilson was president.

In her lifetime she has seen WWI, Albert Einstein propose the General Theory of Relativity, the 18th Amendment for prohibition of alcohol (such a bummer), the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote (hooray to the end of suffrage), Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, WWII, African Americans boycott buses in Montgomery Alabama, the end of the radio star when television thrived and radio switched to music, the Civil Rights movement with Martin Luther King, both Kennedy’s assassinated, Apollo landing on the Moon, the beginning of the Beatles, Vietnam, the Regan years, punk rock, CD, VCR, & cable become common, 9/11, and the internet and cell phones revolutionize communication.

What a list, what a life time.

Her autobiography begins like this:

Her parents separated when she was a toddler, and her mom, to support her only daughter, sold her knitting and rented out rooms in her home to provide income.

Grammie grew up as a pair of hands to help her Mom run the boarding home.

Her jobs included, but were not limited to, daily changing and laundering of linens as well as cooking two meals a day for 1920’s boarders.


They both worked hard, to support on another. They were close.


After graduating High School (the day captured above) even though she had the smarts to graduate Harvard, Magnum Cum Laude style, there was no money.

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So instead she went to work as a Sales Clerk in a large Department Store to help support her and her Mom.

Management realized within days she was talented with numbers

and quickly moved her to a main office accounting position at the tender age of 18.

The photos above, from the left, were her annual ‘department store’ work photos at 18, 19, and 20.

As a working gal, she joined a non-academic sorority, Beta Sigma Phi, for professional women.

This organization brought women together providing exposure to social, cultural and civic events.

She made countless friends in this special group and savored the wonderful friendships and support the group provided.

Today, she is the last one remaining from her original South Bend chapter;

this happens when you out live all your friends.

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In 1934, at 21, she married Grampa in South Bend, at the Westminster Presbyterian Church.

They had met on a blind date, she trusted her instincts.

She wore a black velvet dress since it was the best dress she had.

It would be the best dress she had for next 10 years.

It was the Great Depression.


Grampa was a charismatic man and had a way with people, they were good together.

She had chosen an ideal companion and husband.

They showed their family that they respected one another and stuck together through the good times and bad.

Her advice on my wedding was, “never go to bed angry”.

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When she was 23 and then 26 years old, baby girls joined their family.

In the summers they would drive to Lake Michigan and play in the sand or slide down the sand dunes.

Wasn’t she pretty.


She also loved dogs, especially Duchess.

House on Covington

In 1950 Grampa had this home built for them.

As I mentioned yesterday, it had a basement that extended the length of its foundation.

This place holds such special memories.

Here are a few:

Fireflies, family dinners on fine linens, a galley kitchen, a tractor style lawn mower, soft wool carpet, an indoor green house, a bar where Grampa hid those candy sticks , a video security camera at the front door with special viewing monitors (it was the 70’s that was uber cool high tech stuff), a laundry shoot that delivered your dirty clothes directly to the washing machine in the basement, and a table that transformed in to a roulette wheel (made for great parties).

And above all, very simply, it was a well kept, clean home


They loved to play and have fun.

They would golf at the country club during the day then enter bowling competitions at night.

They even won a few.

With her sense of style she even had a groovy custom ball with matching carrying case.


Here, Grammie just had a tonsillectomy two weeks prior to this graduation photo.

She was weak but still threw on her fur and a smile to see her oldest daughter’s graduation ceremony from University of Michigan in 1959. She was a dedicated Mother.

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She also knew how to throw splendid parties.

My mom and dad are in the middle photo. {Lovely hair Mom, you have to dig 1966}.

kathleen 1 yr with koppers

They anticipated visits from their family and they would indulge their grand children with every whim,

spoiling them rotten. (That’s me tender age of one.)

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It was in this kitchen I was encouraged to create culinary delights.

This tradition was also passed down with my Mom doing this with my children.


She took us to fancy parties and taught us to curtsey. We were trusted with glasses filled with Tonic Water to sip.

That is me next to Grammie’s fuchsia dress with the white barrette , my brother in the navy suit looking a little scared.

I still enjoy a glass of Tonic water and lime at festive occasions.


After their girls had grown,

they traveled the world, from Paris to Israel to Egypt to China.

Packages would arrive year round and Christmas would include wonderful gifts from all over the world.

My jewelry box still holds a gold cartouche with my name in Hieroglyphics.

When I have asked her what is her most favorite place in the world,

she smiles and says they were all wonderful and could never choose just one.


Then Grampa got sick and died in the Summer of 1983.

They had been married just shy of 50 years. She was alone now, I cried for and with her.

It was a difficult time.


She mourned gracefully and then chose to keep on living.

She knew love never died.


Two years later, she made met a caring man and remarried.

New House

They live here now.


She still has that soft patience with her great grand children.

Tina's Wedding

and comes to California to visit her family and grand babies.


Here she is with my new born son. I am so thankful this moment was captured by DH.

lulu and Gigi

She reads the newspapers and watches the news along with Leno.

She is on top of current events and has an intelligent point of view about what’s going on in the world.

She is still smart as a whip, daily consuming word searches and crossword puzzles.

Here she is teaching my oldest how to figure out a word combination.

Tom and Grammie laughing

Her sense of humor and laughter are kept close to the surface.

She is always cracking subtle jokes with a cute smile on her face and twinkle in her eye.

cman and grammie Jan 2010

We all love her so.

me and grammie Jan 2010

when so goes, I want to go with her.

This is what she has taught me…..

  1. If you want something, get to work and make it happen
  2. Trust your instincts with people
  3. Life is about the ride and not just the destination
  4. Dogs are people too
  5. Cocktail hour with your husband
  6. A love of entertaining and throwing splendid parties
  7. Always dress classy
  8. A passions for gift giving and consistent generosity
  9. Love doesn’t end because the person passes away
  10. Never stop learning and being involved with what’s going on around you
  11. The importance of laughter, enjoying yourself can go a long way to help live a fulfilling and happy life

Grammie july 2008

Happy Birthday Grammie



Those oversized hair bows, I proudly copied them.


UPDATE 9.14.11



  1. What a wonderful post!!!!! Your Grammie sounds like an amazing woman! I too have a special Granny whom I absolutely adore!!!! Ahhh, the love between grandparents and grandchildren is a precious precious love!!!!

  2. Hi Kathleen, I really loved your post. What made me click it was my mum is a new grandma (I just had twin girls) and after lots of thought she chose “grammie” as her new name. I had never heard of it so I was curious to meet your grammie. She sounds like a wonderful lady. Thank you for sharing the photos and memories. L

  3. Susan Lindley says

    Loved reading about your Grammie. Touched my heart and inspires me to be that person for the people I love. I was so happy to see all of you tonight. I’m off to bed and feeling content.

  4. Thank you for sharing these two posts with us at BlogHer. I totally want to meet your Grandma now. She sounds like a wonderful, amazing lady!

  5. Elaine Kuli says

    So beautiful Kathleen! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Michellle Nicoloff says

    Oh Kathleen…I loved reading this…brought tears to my eyes:) YOu have been so blessed with such a beautiful Grandma…SO blessed!!!

  7. Rachael Campbell says

    Kathleen thank you so much for telling me about this what a wonderful story and wonderful life she has lived so far.

    Rachael Campbell

  8. Nancy Fisher says

    As I sit by the bedside of your Grammie, praying she stays with us until you and your mom get here, I have read your story of her life. Thank you for writing it and honoring her this way. Although I have only known her for the later part of her life, I am already mourning my loss of her in my life. I will miss how her face just lights up in delight when I come to the house, her wonderful recipes, her strong political views, her wonderful laughter and especially the joy that comes to her face when she speaks of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

    Meredith often spoke of living long enough to complete her “purpose” in life. This week we have talked about how our chief purpose is to love people and love God, both things she did abundantly in her lifetime. As much as I don’t want to lose her or for my dad to lose her, I also want her to be free of pain and in her eternal home. So, as I sit with her these last moments, I want to say thank you for sharing your Grammie with me and my sisters. Our lives are richer and fuller because of her.


  1. […] {you can read all about Gigi here:  My children call her Gigi (aka my Grammie) and Everyone should have a 97 year old Grammie (Part 2)} […]

  2. […] You can read more about this amazing lady here  and here. […]

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