Mary Whetzel-Wohlgemuth

Mary Esther Whetzel-Wohlgemuth

1918 - 2020

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Obituary of Mary Esther Whetzel-Wohlgemuth

Obituary of Mary Esther Whetzel Wohlgemuth who died at age 101 on July 5, 2020 in Happy Valley, Oregon. Mary was born on September 23, 1918 in Winona, Washington to Waneta Beeber (born February 13, 1880 in Avila, Indiana and died at very nearly age 90 on January 31, 1970 in Saratoga, California) and to Frank Perry Whetzel (born August 8, 1874 in Noble County, Indiana and died at age 46 in Winona, Washington on December 15, 1920). Mary is preceded in death by all six brothers: Frank Andrew Whetzel (born in Indiana January 27, 1897 and died in San Jose, California at age 82 in 1979), Herbert Simon Whetzel (born January 27, 1899 in Garret, Indiana and died in Washington state at age 96 in 1995), William Joseph Whetzel (born March 13, 1901 in Indiana and died in Washington state at age 83 in 1984), Charles Owen Whetzel (born December 20, 1903 in Garret, Indiana and died in Sunnyvale, California at age 90 in 1993), Victor Lawrence Whetzel (born December 21, 1908 in Winona, Washington and died in Boisie, Idaho at age 107 in 2016), John Bertwin Whetzel, also known as Jack Cadman (born October 18, 1912 in Winona, Washington and died in Palm Springs at age 86 in 1998 ) and by her only sister: Juanita Whetzel (born August 23, 1906 in Dekalb County, Indiana and died in Washington state at age 87 in 1994) and by her half brother Grant Williamson born January 27, 1924 (yes, the third son born on January 27, and this last son born 27 years after the first) in Winona, Washington and died in Anchorage, Alaska at age 73 in 1997). Mary is survived by her two daughters Diana Lynne (and daughters Dorothy Wynne Galvan, Rebecca Lynne Galvan, and Victoria Cherie Galvan) and Laurie Lynne (and daughters Courtney Amber Coder, Savanna Ashley Coder, Kindahl Morgan Coder, and Mickinzie Calin Coder and the daughters’ children. A son, Stephen Michael Smith, died at age 27 in 1978. Great Grandchildren include Declan Robert Pogue, Bryce Michael Pogue, Raife Sterling Torres, Tennysen Gray Galvan-Curtiss, Huxley Wolf Galvan-Curtiss, Alina Cherie Galvan Harper, Amorette Lynne Galvan Harper, Malachai Alexander Dixon, Audrina Alyse Dixon, Esther Addison Dixon, Dawson James Dwight Whitten, Chase Terrance Jeffrey Donner, Tarynn Mary Baker, and Vivienne Readen Freeman. Mary Esther Whetzel married George Calvert in 1933 at the age of 15 and divorced in 1945. Married to Warren Oscar Smith, Jr in 1947, three children were born: Diana in 1948, Steve in 1951, and Laurie in 1956. Mary then remarried George Calvert in 1970 until 1974. Alvin Wohlgemuth was her last husband from 1975 until 2001. EULOGY As difficult as this is to do, and as incomplete as it will inevitably be, I, Diana, (aka Punk) the oldest child, will hereby write about Mom’s long and interesting life. We are all different things to different people at different times. We start out as grandchildren or even great grandchildren to someone, as a child, then a parent, grandparent and often great grandparent. It is impossible to convey someone’s entire life in a few pages, especially someone who lived a life so full of varied interests, truly a life long learner. But I will give an overview of Mom’s life, and the gaps can be filled in by those who know more than I. The list of those who know more is shrinking, sad to say, since Mom outlived all eight of her siblings and nearly all of her contemporaries and friends. And so it is that memories dim, flicker, and vanish with time, to be reflected in the physical, mental, or character traits of descendants. Frank Perry Whetzel (born Frank Perry Randall but orphaned as a child and adopted by a family named Whetzel) has a burial announcement listed in the December 17, 1920 edition of the Colfax Commoner newspaper, Colfax, Washington. It reads “Winona Man to be Buried” : Frank P. Whetzel, of Winona, who died this week, will be buried this afternoon from the Methodist church in that town. The deceased was well known in that community and was liked by all who knew him. He has lived in the county for the past thirteen years and leaves a widow and eight children to mourn his loss. The children are: Frank of Steptoe, Herbert of Winona, William in the Navy, Juanita, Victor, John, Charles, and Mary, all of Winona. See “In the Beginning” reprinted from the The Weekly San Jose Mercury News, April 6, 1988 for the early beginnings of Mom’s family. Mary, the youngest, had recently turned two years old. She doesn’t remember her father at all. He was only 46 when he died and her now widowed mother was 40. (She would go on to live another half century.) The couple had come from Indiana with their first five children in 1907. In those days, there was no welfare or government aid, so Juanita (Beeber) Whetzel worked at whatever jobs she could find and, I’m guessing because there was not much to choose from in a town that tiny, married a man a couple years later named Grant Williamson and had her last child, a son Grant Junior in 1924 at the age of 43 - exactly 27 years to the day from the birth of Frank Andrew Whetzel in 1897 when she was not quite seventeen years old. Mom was six years old when Grant was born and in September 2004 wrote about the sad time of her life moving from Winona to Michigan and life with her “mean stepdad” - see the “Williamson Saga”. Combined with the Great Depression, life in the country outside of Tustin, Michigan was hard, VERY hard, and Mom went to live and work helping relatives of her stepdad in Flint, Michigan. It was there, while skating on a nearby lake, she met and soon married George “Cal” Calvert. She was fifteen in 1932 and he was nineteen years old. There began a period of new accomplishments - construction, motorcycle riding, skiing, field archery and competition, winning title of state champion, (Mom was a friend of Fred Bear, father of American bow hunting) and traveling. Her Boston terrier Packy went with them everywhere. I have her 1941 edition of the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook with lots of comments on recipes in her flowing, distinctive handwriting. In the 30s and 40s and all the way to the mid 90s, there was no internet to provide a quick recipe selection, with video. Her recipe boxes have dozens of recipes clipped out the newspaper and taped on index cards. For a time, they lived on a small farm in Cottage Grove, Oregon and Mom had horses and chickens and other animals. When World War II happened, Cal joined the Naval Construction Battalion, better known as the Seabees, and was sent to Papua, New Guinea. There he fell victim to tropical ulcers, also known as jungle rot, and was sent back before the war ended to recuperate. Mom’s mother Juanita had a stroke in 1945 at age 65, leaving her paralyzed on her right side for the rest of her life, and when Mom went to Portland to help, her marriage to Cal ended. When Cal was away in the navy, Mom had worked as a foreman on a construction crew outside Portland building dozens of new homes, keeping track of inventory, materials, costs and progress. But now she began selling insurance and met my father Warren when she brought up the topic to his brother, who suggested they meet. Another chapter in the life story: Several moves, three children, good friends with every move in Helena, Montana, building our new house in Yakima, Washington, living in the Olympic rain forest in Montesano, Washington, and finally Santa Clara, California. Focus was on ceramics and clay sculpting, teaching archery in Parks and Rec, gardening and poodles and pugs and a herd of desert tortoises, getting a private pilots license and being chief cook at Santa Clara First Baptist Church. Through the church, we went on missions two consecutive summers (sleeping in a “pup” tent on the ground) to a little town in the high mountains of Chihuahua, Mexico called Creel. The little church we built is still there and being used. One time Mom flew with some friends Glen and Zell Miller in their private plane to the sister city of San Jose, Costa Rica, and then on to Panama. This may not sound like much of an adventure until you consider the small size of the plane (three people plus minimum luggage) and how tall some of the mountains were, not to mention jungle below. New chapter: Mom remarried Cal in 1970 and moved to the Portland area, renovating an old, very old (and haunted we found out later) farm house. She attended Milwaukie Baptist Church, took up oil painting, and was active in the local 99s, the women’s flying group started by Amelia Earhart in 1929. Next new chapter: Mom married Alvin Wohlgemuth in 1975 and stayed in the Portland area. They attended Hinson Memorial Baptist Church, enjoying fellowship in their Sunday school class, sharing outings and potlucks at each other’s homes. One of her favorite things was costume parties and she had a big selection of wigs and props and costumes in her attic. Al and Mom regularly went square dancing (lots of puffy skirts) and bought a 1929 Model A Ford and joined the local Beaver Chapter of the Model A Ford club, where she was soon the editor of the Ahooga News. She and her good friend Pegge Blinco were also editors of the local 99 newsletter. Peg and her very talented artistic husband Stan also had Model A Fords and they had a Cesna airplane. Peg and Mom flew blood for the Red Cross, flew in a women’s air race, and flew to several conventions for the International 99s. Several years in a row, Mom and Al and their Boston terriers drove their motorhome to Sky Valley near Palm Springs for the winter (where they got to dress up and participate in melodrama plays), drove across the USA caravanning with my sister Laurie and her family, and twice drove to Alaska to see brother Grant’s son “Thumper” and other relatives there. Travel was was one of Mom’s favorite things always. Too many trips to count, but memorable ones are touring South East Asia including Hong Kong and Thailand, an African tour from Cape Town, South Africa where she stayed at a game preserve and flew over Victoria Falls in a small plane, and winding up in Egypt (I have a photo of her on a camel with the pyramids behind), many trips to Hawaii, cruising the Mediterranean and Panama canal, and tours of Europe with me and also with my sister. She always kept a detailed journal of every trip and usually had the trip planned out in minute detail ahead of time, researching important physical, cultural, and historical features. Later she could remember her trips with amazing clarity - far better than I ever could. Her attention to detail is reflected in her careful embroidery as a child, the perfectly precise seams in her sewing, and balancing her checkbook down to the penny every month. When Al died suddenly a couple days after our family reunion in August of 2001, her church and clubs kept her busy, including membership in three different Red Hat groups where the ladies wear purple and red hats and go on picnics and to lunch. Mom got out her glue gun and feathers and bangles and made dozens of red hats. About then she bought a new car, a purple 2005 PT Cruiser with woody side and back trim. It is a very user friendly car, up high so you can sit down easily and is presently in my garage with 50,000 original miles. She continued to attend the Model A club meetings, took and passed a one day training on how to drive an 18 wheeler, and even taught a women’s Model A driving course several times. Most of the time the men drove and the women just rode along, sometimes in period costume. That was NOT Mom’s style - she wanted to be an active participant on the Tours - scavenger hunts mainly, where long caravans of antique cars searched for clues and eventually wound up at a member’s home or a restaurant to eat. A friend in the club, Jim Van Lente, became her closest friend all the way to the end of her life. Never was there a more faithful, wonderful friend. He worked many hours on restoration details on her Model A, went on tours with her, and later would pick her up and take her to the meetings. Mostly, his gift of friendship was time. Mom loved to read and had hundreds of books. Books about flying and early women aviators, books about animals, (mostly African animals), travel, every single Western book written by Louis L’Amour, mysteries, and historical fiction. Jim came, driving over an hour round trip, every day to read and discuss books about the settling of the West and events around the hundreds of Native American tribes who lived here in this country before white people came. One time a few months ago I asked her on the phone if Jim had come that day and she replied, “Does water run downhill?”. When I would visit, I used to love to listen to Jim read and then discuss what he had just read. He even brought a map to put on the wall to pinpoint where events in the book were taking place, and bought Mom a lap stand to hold the big heavy book while he showed her the pictures. My mother Mary was a person who had a zest for life and fearlessly believed there was almost nothing she couldn’t accomplish. When I was four years old and my brother Steve just barely two years old, she loaded us into the station wagon along with my grandmother and her wheelchair and drove from Washington state to New York City. My grandmother’s wheelchair was the old fashioned heavy kind and she had to hoist it off and onto the roof of the car at each stop. She said men would stand by in amazement but hardly ever offered to help. She was undaunted. I remember walking steep narrow steps up inside the Statue of Liberty and we must have been quite a sight driving through New York City amidst all the taxi cabs. Thank you, Mom, for a wealth of experiences. Your motto was “Never give up!” and to always be curious and never stop learning. You were brave until the end and I miss you and will continue to miss you . I have not written much about how others have added to her life, especially the last decade or so, because I leave it for their personal reflections to be added. Mom was so proud of her extended, growing family and an unwavering faith in a glorious afterlife. One of her last wishes was to hear the gospel song “I’ll Fly Away”: Some glad mornin’ when this life is over I’ll fly away To a home on God’s celestial shore I’ll fly away I’ll fly away, oh, glory I’ll fly away When I die, Hallelujah, by and by I’ll fly away Just a few more weary days and then I’ll fly away To a land where joy shall never end I’ll fly away I’ll fly away, oh, glory I’ll fly away When I die, Hallelujah, by and by I’ll fly away When I die, Hallelujah, by and by I’ll fly away