Louise Lucille Usher (née Gross) crossed the threshold of death at 2:55 pm on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 in Dripping Springs, Texas at the age of 92. Louise was the daughter of the late Bernard J. Gross and Marie Stoecklein of Boonville, Mo. Her husband, Richard E. Usher predeceased her by ten years, having crossed the threshold of death on November 11, 2003.
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Louise met Richard (Dick) in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) during the Second World War where she worked for the OSS (the precursor of the CIA). Dick, a career diplomat, had been assigned to the US Consulate in Ceylon, but was drafted and ordered to stay in Ceylon where he was seconded by the OSS. In Ceylon, Louise worked with a team that was cracking Japanese codes and also did more mundane things like decoding Allied messages. More glamorous, in Ceylon, Dick and Louise brushed shoulders with luminaries of the likes of Wild Bill Donovan, the first US spymaster. Julia Child – famous for her TV program The French Chef - was another notable acquaintance from their OSS days. (While on the topic of notable acquaintances, mention of Dick's assignment, as one of W. Averell Harriman's two assistants at the Geneva Convention on Laos in 1961 should be made.)
After the war Dick's career took the pair to many distant lands including multiple tours to Rangoon, Burma; to Brussels, Belgium; and to Manila in the Philippines. As the wife of a US diplomat, Louise hosted many parties for foreign dignitaries. For example, in the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos was a guest for breakfast shortly before he won the election and became president -- and subsequently dictator -- of the Philippines. During that breakfast armed guards in Jeeps surrounded the house!
In the course of their travels Dick and Louise had four children: Stephen and Michael were born in suburban Washington D.C. while Dick worked at the State Department. During the tour of Brussels the family was blessed with two daughters: Christine and Carol --fondly known as the Brussels sprouts!
Louise had a deeply religious nature and was a devout Catholic. She also took a serious interest in mysticism that was stimulated, in part, from watching a sacred Hindu elephant parade in Ceylon with its gongs, flutes, songs, and Hindu dances. The experience lifted her briefly into a sense of the eternal. She took courses in mysticism and meditation and read the writings of great mystics such as Walter Hilton and St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain. During her later life she arose early to meditate and then attend mass.
Her traveling days came to an end in 1968 when the family moved to the Maryland suburb of Potomac while Dick worked at the Department of State; first on the Philippine desk, and later as a State Department inspector of embassies in the Persian Gulf. After these assignments Dick retired. Louise took an interest in painting during this period of her life, taking courses, touring museums, and producing her own canvases. She was also active doing charitable work at Church soup kitchens for the poor.
Patiently and in saint like fashion, Louise suffered the last ten years of her life in assisted living institutions and in nursing homes first in suburban Maryland and, for the last several years, in Dripping Springs, Texas. She crossed the threshold of death peacefully with little suffering.
Her younger brother, Paul Gross of Boonville, her four children, and six grand children (Sarah Rolfus, née Lower, Patrick Lower, William Usher, Katherine Usher, Christopher Roman, and Nico Roman) survive her. Her sons-in-law David Lower (married to Christine) and Dragos Roman (married to Carol) and daughter-in-law Beth Usher (married to Stephen) also survive her. Anne Mason Usher, the wife of Michael and mother of William and Katherine predeceased Louise in 2012.
Services were held at St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church in Dripping Springs, Texas on Saturday, September 28, 2013.
Published in Boonville Daily News from Sept. 27 to Oct. 5, 2013