Gwen died last night, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2007.
A strong personality, Gwen seemed set in her ways. But, having sat at her kitchen table many, many days and nights, I knew her to be a woman of dignity and great compassion. She was a strong believer in self-development as well. One of the many changes she wanted to make was to stop disliking and being afraid of black people :) In her late 60's, she realized that she was missing out on a lot of relationships and experiences because of her bigotry. She made a conscious decision to learn more about the black people in her town. Despite her fear, she attended functions where many black people were present...she stuck out her hand and introduced herself to black people she came in contact with. By the end of a year she called a few black people, men and women, her friend. Trust me, being able to watch this transformation was quite an eye opener for me.
Gwen welcomed many into her home, but had little tolerance for the beggar and loafer. If you were wanting to help yourself, she went out of her way to assist you. If all you wanted to do was whine, she'd offer you some cheese as she showed you the front door.
Coffee was always brewing. One time when Rick and I were visiting she started complaining about how expensive coffee was getting. On and on she went about the price of coffee. Rick and I were puzzled, mainly because coffee prices had remained constant for quite a while. We soon realized, though, that it wasn't the price of coffee that was getting to her, it was the fact that she had been having so many visitors that she was buying three times more than usual. On her fixed income, this made a large dent. And, she wasn't going to stop offering coffee, or complain about the number of visitors. That day Rick and I went to Kroger and purchased 5 cans of coffee, dropped it off at her house and put a stop to the worry :) Because really, what's the price of coffee compared to keeping Gwen's kitchen table available for the next person needing her guidance?
Milk and Pepsi, her favorite drinks during the summer. She would sometimes have a fresh 2 liter of Pepsi and a gallon of milk in her fridge, then wonder why she didn't have enough bread to make a full sandwich! She and I would just laugh, and I'd make a quick trip for some staples. Who am I to ask her to not treat herself to milk and Pepsi?
Gwen considered me one of the smartest people she knew. I would often get a phone call from her asking for the definition of a word or phrase, and then asked to put it into context for her. Sometimes it was a word from the Bible, a novel, or a word search puzzle. Didn't matter. I happily assisted in her endeavor to learn.
She was always concerned about losing her brain power. So, to keep the brain active she enrolled in a correspondence accounting course. She got through the first lesson with little difficulty, but approached me on the second lesson. She just didn't understand the terminology being used and was frustrated because she had been a bookkeeper for so many years, she thought she was losing her mind. I looked over the lesson and exclaimed "goodness Gwen, are you studying to be a CPA?" Of course she was startled and said absolutely not, she just wanted to work a bit with numbers - you know, keep the brain active. The course she had signed up for, accidentally, was the final course in a CPA study program. Yeah, she got a refund for that one :)
Gwen loved the big rigs and had a trucker friend that occasionally came through town and would pick her up and take her down the road for a few hours. Rick had a full sized pick up that she loved, but couldn't get into. So, being the carpenter he is, he made her some steps and away they would go! She also loved motorcyles and three wheeled bikes. Definitely a woman on the go.
Just a few thoughts that came out of the well of emotion I'm experiencing. Her loss will be felt throughout the cities of Louisville, KY and in Indiana throughout New Albany, Jeffersonville, and Clarksville. May she rest in peace.