After a valiant battle, my Aunt Theda, 63, died of cancer at her Crescent City, CA home October 21, 2004. She lived life with gusto and finesse!
After graduating from Natchitoches High School, Theda received both her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Education from Northwestern State University, in Natchitoches, LA. She then earned her Specialist degree at UC-Davis, and attended the College of the Redwoods, in California. After teaching a short time in Louisiana, Theda taught 30 years and retired in Northern California.
Theda was a champion of children's rights. She liked to love, sing, dance, and travel. She had an aura about her that lighted the lives she touched. She enjoyed making others feel special by making ordinary events extraordinary.
With her children, friends and a Volkswagen(R) Vanagon, Theda bicycled from Northern California to the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics Games. She was the leading lady in both "Oklahoma" and "Carousel" musicals, presented by Lighthouse Repertory Theatre in California. She participated in the College of the Redwoods' choral theme tour of Europe and lived with a family in Mexico to learn the Spanish language and culture. She hosted Yumi, a Japanese foreign exchange student, and later attended Yumi's wedding in Japan. One evening she read "Green Eggs & Ham" for her children's bedtime story. The next morning, they found it on their breakfast plates!
When my family attended the wedding of one of her nephews, Theda and I shared a suite because the other women didn't want to be delayed by her extensive primping. Theda explained to me, "You never know when your next husband might be outside that door." A veteran of four marriages, when Theda and Mom and I went to visit their father's grave, Theda prayed for her four ex-husbands individually. Theda beat Ivana Trump to the "beauty is the best revenge" card. Years earlier, during a divorce, she had her body "done." Consequently, with her shapely figure, big grin, long blonde hair, long legs, Italian sandal collection, modern dance classes, and Southern belle-California girl style, she looked at 63 like Cheryl Tiegs looked at 20! Once, while she was partying with friends, a college boy was asking her out, until a friend of hers strolled by and called out, "Hey Granny!" The poor boy left in shock, "Granny???"
Theda left some interesting requests about her memorial service. We didn't get them all done. We began at her German grandmother's church in the pineywoods of Central Louisiana. There we had the usual church service, with various family members singing, speaking, sharing about her life and what it meant to us. The minister, a retired state legislator, is a cousin who's officiated at almost every one of our family's marriages and burials. If we were Catholic, he'd have christened and confirmed us, too!
Then we proceeded out to her grandmother's grave, in a section of the cemetery thick with our family, and had a gospel singalong. Next we visited Theda's maternal grandparents at another family cemetery in the area. She always liked to go visiting in the ancient tradition of the rural South. And how Theda could talk!
We laid her ashes, along with those of her dogs and cats that went before her, to rest beside her mother and sister in a Northwest Louisiana "memorial garden." We were supposed to reserve a vial of her combined ashes and sprinkle some on the lake at her late mother's moss-draped cabin, deep in the woods of Steel Magnolia country. The rest were to visit another family cemetery of ancestors before being interred beside her grandmother's headstone at the first cemetery. It just didn't work out that way.
Yes, Theda's ash tour sounds weird, but another word for weird is unique. And Theda was the epitome of unique. That's one of the best things I learned from her life. Be your very own weird, unique self!
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