Betty Jane (Morse) Houk. If you were a friend of hers, you knew the true meaning of friendship. If you were family, you knew that friendship - and unconditional love. Regardless, you were blessed to have her in your life.
Mom was known by the usual names: Honey, Mom, Sis, Betty, Aunt, Neighbor, Grandma, Great-grandma or Great Mom, and Miss Betty. Then there were the little known names: As a teenager she worked at the Woolworth's Five and Dime in Marion, Ohio, and was called The Million Dollar Baby after a popular Broadway musical song "I Found a Million Dollar Baby (in a Five and Ten Cent Store); having the gift of gab, her next job as Telephone Operator was a perfect match; and Library Lady from her days at Norwood Elementary School in West Jeff was the one she cherished for years.
Sister Erma and husband Robert Haverback, brother Ed and wife Marolyn Morse have so much history of Mom's earlier life that we started getting together quarterly for family gatherings in hopes of preserving our family history. Although the story-telling would start out with someone recalling an event, frequently others would chime in with good-natured ribbing, as close families do. With much humor and laughter, time together always passed quickly and left us looking forward to the next family gathering.
For 62 years as of last Sunday, Dad (Richard) and Mom continued their honeymoon. We should all be so lucky in love! Dad, you got it right when you fell in love with Mom.
One of Mom's often repeated sayings was "remember, you're making memories."
Thankfully, just by virtue of being who she was, Mom lived that motto. Daughter Janet and husband Paul Papin, daughter Brenda and husband Steve Swingle, son Bill and wife Krista Houk, and daughter-in-law Lynn Houk have found comfort amid a fair amount of laughter in sharing those family memories. And what delight Mom took in having grandchildren and then great-grandchildren as she continued her legacy of those wonderful memories.
There's a plaque on the wall above Mom's container of books, crayons, and paper she kept for the kids and it appropriately explains "there would be less spoiled grandkids if we could spank Grandma." Hmmm, we can't remember which one of us parents gave her that. Those grandkids Mom spoiled are Eric and Sarah Papin, Tim Papin, Jared and Alison Swingle, Alysann and Ryan Foster, Jessica and Caleb Coffman, Adam and Virginia Jones, Nick Houk, Greg Houk, and Grandbabies A and B Houk whose real identities will be known as they join us any day now.
The lucky great-grandkids who have been recipients of finely-honed spoiling are Drew, Maggie, Jake, and new baby Foster; Owen and Natalie Coffman; Quentin and new baby Swingle; and new baby Jones.
Friendships were life-long with Mom and Dad. When they married, Dad was stationed at McChord Air Force Base in Washington, and to this day, they have a group of military friends called the McChordites. The couples have all been married over 50 years, and every year a different couple hosts a yearly reunion. Mom and Dad looked forward to traveling around the states to these reunions and always brought back many new stories and keepsakes to share with us.
And who can beat having your neighbors as friends, or is that having your friends as neighbors? It really doesn't matter because they have the best of both.
In the years that have passed since Mom retired from the Norwood Elementary School library in West Jeff she continued to enjoy the friendships she made there and we often heard about lunches with these friends when Mom was able to join them. She was also pleased when kids she knew from school would call out greetings to her as they went by the front porch where a favorite past time of hers was sitting in the swing. And she was especially happy when some of those same kids, now grown with kids of their own, would introduce Mom when they stopped by for Trick-or-Treat on Halloween.
Being a people-person, Mom easily made friends. In January of 2000, she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and started treatments under the care of Dr. Mark Segal. In the last 13 years Dr. Segal and staff at Zangmeister Center evolved from just medical caregivers into a special family. Mom's visits felt more like family reunions with exchanges of family news and catching up since the last visit. Their care and concern for all of Mom's family made it easy to forget we were at a medical appointment. We're certain that our Zangmeister family gave Mom a better quality of life. We will be forever grateful.
Mom's last few months found her in the care of several different specialized units at Mount Carmel Medical Center. There are too many staff to thank individually for their extraordinary care, concern, guidance, and support which made our uncertainties less worrisome and the successes more joyful. Our Mount Carmel family grew every time Mom moved to another unit. It was amazing to learn that she had staff who followed her progress no matter where they were still actively involved in her care. She had her own cheerleaders sharing news when she improved, and showing all of us such compassion when she wasn't.
It was very important to Mom that we thanked everyone when she received gifts. So to everyone who touched Mom's life and made it richer and better during her 83 years, we lovingly thank you. And Mom, we'll continue making those treasured memories.
In lieu of flowers, we think Mom would be pleased to have donations given either to the Jefferson Township Fire Department, 745 W. Main St., West Jefferson, OH 43162, or Mount Carmel Foundation, 6150 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43123 for the outstanding care she received in times of need.
A Celebration of Mom's Life will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 6, 2013, at the RADER McDONALD FUNERAL HOME, 1355 W. Main St., West Jefferson, Ohio 43162. The family will have a private graveside service.