Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Requiem for a Worthy Woman

Aunt Vivian at her 100th birthday party
High-spirited socialite, community activist, inveterate gardener; she stood ram-rod straight, walked at least 80 mph, and had a smile for everybody. She didn’t give up mowing her lawn until she was in her hundreds, and even then still worked at her flower beds.

Aunt Vivian, elder sister of my husband’s mother, died Monday morning, October 24, at the age of 103.
She was raised in Galveston, Texas, during the glory days; the days of live bands on the beach, lavish parties in wealthy homes, and a social circuit that rivaled anything on the East Coast. Even though Aunt Vivian lived in modest circumstances with her little sister and single mom – working hard to support both - she kept in the thick of things. Her gregarious nature relished the social whirl.

During WWII she met and married a Navy man, John Smith, a quiet mechanic/gunsmith. After the war, they settled in Mathis, a depressed resort community 50 miles from Corpus Christi. Even after her teenaged son, her only child, was killed in a car crash, Aunt Vivian remained involved in youth work, her church, and the community. Her tireless efforts and dogged determination to inject pride into shabby little Mathis, TX, led to an oleander-lined highway known as the Vivian Smith Parkway.
Two years ago she returned Galveston where she could go into care near kinfolk. To the end, she was a cheerful and gracious woman, aware of her dementia but pushing ahead anyway. I last saw her on Thursday, our day to go out and eat shrimp. There was no sign that she was nearing the end. She was alert, chatty, and eating well. She simply went to sleep Sunday night, and failed to wake Monday morning.

Way to go, Aunt Vivian. Seriously.

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