Mary Susan Muelhaupt Overbey
Mom always told us, "Celebrate quick before something happens!" We celebrated a lot in our lives because she always made things happen. On Sunday afternoon, August 21, 2016, Mom showed us a whole new way to celebrate. With her huge family all around singing, praying, telling stories, laughing, crying and being together, she stepped into the arms of her Savior and into Heaven. Quite a celebration is happening there now!
On October 4, 1933, in Pittsburgh, Sue was the first of six children born to Dorothy Josephine O'Shea and Edward Charles Muelhaupt. She adored them and her brothers, Chuck and Joe (who we believe all welcomed her into heaven), along with her sisters Sarah and Juliet, and her baby brother John Paul. Growing up in her Catholic Irish German family in Des Moines was the rock from which this splendid woman launched into the world.
Graduating from the all-girls St. Joseph's Academy in 1951, she was renowned for being cast as the male lead in plays because she was so tall. She proudly attended her mother's alma mater, St. Mary of the Woods College in Terre Haute, Indiana, for two years before transferring to the University of Nebraska ('55) where she pledged Theta and majored in studio art with a teacher's certificate. Go Big Red!
Mom had a passion for reaching and moving people, which made her a fabulous teacher! She taught for a year in Des Moines before getting married to Joe Gifford. His career in the oil business took her all over the world! From Tulsa, to Wichita, to New Orleans where she taught thousands of children how to be a "Do Bee" not a "Don't Bee" as a Romper Room teacher on TV. [She landed the job by discovering that the interview included plugging a toy that was broken, which flustered all the other candidates.] Then the network made a show just for Mom -- Princess Susan's Magic Birthday Land. Her daughters, Sally and Susie, were in total awe to see their Mom in full "Grace Kelly-mode" high up on her own Mardi Gras float! "Throw me something, mama!" When Mom got pregnant, the TV station had a witch turn her into a large tree with only a hole for her face so as not to cause scandal.
When her son Daniel was six weeks old , Sinclair Oil transferred us to Algiers where dad found oil in the Sahara Dessert and Mom used her French (which she had thought a useless subject in high school) to buy milk and baby food in the market. After having shot a trespassing Algerian rebel climbing over our wall, she figured she had done her part and moved to the Latin Quarter in Paris with her three children, realizing a life long dream of a pretty girl from Iowa. Paris was dazzling and exciting, even with four littles in tow, Charles Pierre having entered the scene.
How West Texas lured us away from Paris is hard to fathom, but Mom jumped in to our move to Midland with both feet, putting on shows as a Junior League volunteer with puppets she made from paper mache, and then becoming the most beloved art teacher at Trinity. Midland surprised us with fine and beautiful friendships.
The year 1969 was one of significant upheaval with a remarriage to John Overbey, whom she loved with all her heart, and whom we called "Papa", welcoming Kirk and Kathy as new siblings, and a "great adventure" to Anchorage. At the extreme end of the world, we were stunned by the beauty of the landscape and the people. Mom tuned into the children again creating the hands-on "I See Me" exhibit at the children's museum, and she was active on the committee to move the capital from Juneau, which is virtually inaccessible, to a master-planned community designed by I. M. Pei in Willow.
In 1980, John's heart rebelled at the sight of a bear coming between him and six-year-old O'Shea as they were salmon fly fishing, so after triple bypass surgery he was ready to come back to Texas. During the Memorial Day flood of '81, they found the Austin home we all call The Big House which has now had a third generation splash in the pool and joke around the dining room table. Mom's sixth child, Dorothy, is only four years older than her first grandchild, Kate, so merriment and mischief abounded continuously! Dorothy's fervor for dance and music became Mom's, too.
You may not know it, but layers and layers of prayers are stuck to the walls in our home, as Mom would tell you. She dedicated the house to Jesus and asked that all who enter be blessed in some way. You may have fallen victim to one of Mom's childhood traditions -- the Easter Egg Cracking Contest. So your blessing may have been a live animal prize, or the runny yolk of an egg not fully cooked. Or you may have been fed in body and soul at one of the many talks given by humble and holy people. Or discussed literature and life with the Ladies of the Club that she started in 1985. Or expounded on the interconnectedness of butterflies and plants with the Sustainers Garden Workshop. Or talked politics. Or strategize on how to save the babies!
The project she threw herself most completely into was Believe in ME! A program in collaboration with the National Dance Institute for at-risk students, which not only worked, but matched her exuberance with those of the children dancing with abandon! Everywhere she went she moved people. She could do it by just walking into the room, but she never stopped there!
She was not your typical grandma! Coming over meant you risked getting caught up in her latest project, or drawn into a serious conversation about the state of your soul. She believed in people and was extremely generous in providing opportunities to expand. All of our family had to take a Dale Carnegie public speaking course, and most recently Krav Maga self defense. With 18 grandchildren the possibilities were endless - climbing, riding, scouting, traveling, dancing, college. Action was more important than things to her, so we took big family trips. Keeping us all together was of prime importance. Her greatest wish is that we all get to heaven and she could get pushy about it. And its not limited to family!
So now this dynamic, energetic, personal, generous and gorgeous woman, our mother, grandmother, sister, and friend is waiting for us. All of us! Her family understood from the beginning that we shared her with you! She is a treasure that would not be contained. A present to us all. Let's be a mirror to the celebration of her that is happening above!
Susan is survived by her sisters, Juliet Bliss and Sarah Elliott, her brother John Paul Muelhaupt, seven children all of Austin, Kirk Overbey (Lisa), Susie Locker (Karl), Sally Robb (Brad), Daniel Gifford (Debra), Charlie Gifford (Liz), O'Shea Gifford (J.R.), Dorothy Overbey (Mac); and 18 grandchildren. Her parents, Dorothy and Ed Muelhaupt, her brothers, Chuck and Joe Muelhaupt, her stepdaughter, Kathy, and her grandchildren, John and Emily Overbey, welcomed her into heaven. Her family was not limited to blood relatives - you know who you are!
Please join us for the Rosary on Friday, August 26th at 7 PM and the Funeral Mass at 9:30 AM on Saturday, August 27th both at St. Mary's Cathedral, 203 E. 10th Street. The Rite of Committal will follow at Capital Parks Cemetery, 14501 North IH-35, Pflugerville. Then the reception at The Big House, 3413 Southill Circle, Austin, 78703. The family has elected not to wear black in honor of Mom's motto to "Celebrate quick!" Follow your own heart.
Thanks to Mom's cadre of wonderful doctors, nurses, and caregivers extraordinaire. Thanks to all of you for loving our mother! She loves you, too!
In lieu of flowers, you may make a donation to Texas Alliance for Life at texasallianceforlife.org
or your favorite charity
, and accept a big spiritual hug from Mom!
Obituary and memorial guestbook available online at www.wcfish.com
Arrangements by Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home, Austin, TX - (512) 452-8811