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6/21/2000: 'Don't forget me'; Memories tie generations together

Marty Robinson Vandiver and Mary Lou Montgomery, October 1994

Hannibal Courier-Post (MO) - Wednesday, June 21, 2000

Author: MARY LOU MONTGOMERY At the start of 1992, my brother and I decided to compile a little book about our grandparents. The initial agreement was that I'd write the copy on my new word processor, and he'd print the book on his table-top press. By the end of 1992, we had two 300+ page manuscripts, filled with hundreds of pictures and volumes of words. The entire family was called into action to help collate and assemble the books. My brother and I consider these compilations of family data a major milestone in our personal accomplishments. The whole process started with a phone call to my dear aunt ­ my mother's only surviving sister. She laid the groundwork for us to contact cousins who would in turn help us paint the picture of who we are, and where we came from. She guided us every step of the way, from finding long-lost cousins in California, to telling the story of our own grandparents, who died long before my brother and I were born. It is through her that we learned that our grandmother painted her wicker furniture purple. And that she was an accomplished seamstress. And that our grandfather was a quiet gentleman who cherished his role in the family. During the process of our investigation into our family's past, I established a bond with my aunt. We talked frequently on the telephone, and exchanged chatty letters. Once a year, my youngest daughter and I would venture down to the hills of the Ozarks for a visit. Aunt Marty and Uncle Dale would treat us like royalty, taking us for boat rides and out for breakfast at restaurants on the lake, cooking steaks on the grill and for car rides to see the scenery. I called her Dear Marty , and meant it. My last visit with Marty was exactly one year ago, when my husband and I attended a dedication ceremony for a stained glass window in my uncle's memory. Martymade the gift to their church in honor of her husband ­ a physician ­ who gave so much of himself to their adopted hometown in the Ozarks. My husband took photographs during the event, and the one that shines out in my mind is the one of my cousin Susie, Marty and I in front of the colorful window. We're all smiling, arms wrapped around one another. Over the course of the year just passed, Marty 's letters became less frequent. At Christmas, her annual letter ­ now written in third person ­ spoke of determination and contentment. In most recent months, news of my dear aunt has been via email from her daughter. Susie wrote this week to tell me that Marty is a victim of Alzheimer's disease. We knew that before, but her symptoms have now worsened, Susie said. Still aware, and fighting this dread disease, my aunt is venturing forwarding, undergoing tests and taking medication that can help slow the advancement of the disease. And her children are there to help with that battle. It's hard to think of my dear aunt in this frail condition. I want to remember her for who she was. Marty was strong-willed and intelligent. During our visits we'd talk of national politics and accompanying scandal. The well-read Kansas City Star always had a prominent place on her coffee table, and her close proximity to Jefferson City made state politics a natural interest. She was raised in a era when women took pride in keeping their home and raising their families, and she was a natural at both. A trained school teacher, she never lost sight of keeping standards high. After my own mother died, she opened her arms and her heart to me. The cruel disease that steals the mind before the body may have invaded her during the golden years of her life, but it can't take away the memories I have of the dear woman that she was. Lucky for me, my brother and I had the foresight to capture her story in print back in 1992. In the years to come, the stories she told us will live on, and that introspect into life in Hannibal during her childhood ­ that only she could tell ­ is forever preserved. Among the last words she said to me during our last visit were: "Don't forget me." I won't. God bless you, Dear Marty . And the best to you in the days to come.

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