Eulogy For Mary Frances de Vries

Our mother was a beautiful and kind woman. She followed our father all over the world, with nary a complaint. She spent many months as the head of the household while he was away in such exotic places as Alaska and Eniwetok. Throughout it all, she made sure that all we kids had a good Catholic education. Many was the cold winter's morning that she warmed up the car to take us to school.

She met our father at a Masonic Temple dance in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, her home town. She was wearing a green velvet dress and he his US Air Force khakis. While he was learning how to be a pilot, they kept up their romance by mail. She was sufficiently interested in the romance to take a train from Pitttsburgh to Spence Field in Georgia for his graduation from the Aviation Cadets. They affirmed their decision to get married on the train ride back from Valdosta, Georgia to Cincinnati, Ohio.

Their formal engagment occurred on St. Valentine's day in 1945. They were married by Father Riera in Selma, Alabama on the 18th of August of the same year. In February 1946 they left for a brief assignment at Wright Field in Ohio and then spent 18 months apart when my Dad was transferred to Japan. After living for a while in a G.I. Quonset hut they were again transferred from Johnson AFB to Shiroi Air Force station. My eldest sister, Debby, was born in the 49th General Hospital in Tokyo -- after a harrowing rush in a GI weapons carrier ambulance. One of the perks of living in Japan at the time was that she had three house servants, something which really impressed her .

My parents returned to the states and spent a year in Washington State. Thence to the best time of their lives -- a four year tour in Panama City, Florida. Their second daughter, Kathy, was born in Port St. Joe, Florida and about a year later, my immediately elder sister Merrie Anne came along. She was born in the Base Hospital at Tyndall, AFB. Our mother loved Florida and the family lived in most pleasant Wherry housing.

The next move was to New Mexico and Kirtland AFB -- and its dust and wind. That's where, in 1955, I was born -- at the Sandia Base Hospital. Dad was away for more than half the time so our Mom shouldered more than her share of the responsibility for the family. She wasn't too happy about living "in the desert" and was delighted when an assignment to Alaska came along. But, unfortunately, that was a hardship tour -- another year of keeping the family going alone.

Back from Fairbanks, Dad was assigned to the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virgina. My mom, in addition to keeping the kids in school, served as a Brownie Pack leader.

She was in her element for the next move -- to Washington, DC. She loved it, Dad hated it -- because he had four long years in the endless halls of the Pentagon. My younger sister was born, in 1960, at the FT. Belvoir Army Hospital.

Off we went to Colorado Springs -- for a grand five-year tour, something rather rare in the military. We spent the first four months in a ghastly motel while our house was being built in Garden Ranch. Thus began the daily hegira to Corpus Christi grammar school and St. Mary's high school. Lord did that woman drive! She kept our home beautifully and and made our Christmases events to remember, always. The house was always filled with LOVE. She busied herself with community service. She was a librarian in the fledgling University of Colorado, Colorado Springs library as well as at Colorado College. She took a 46 hour course and graduated as a Master Gardner -- all the while keeping the family together, happy, warm and loved.

Now came our prime assignment -- Europe. We lived in Mons, Belgium in a house that was described by one of the workmen in town as the "Maison Bizzare". It was a house built around an older house with walls 18 inches thick and there wasn't a plumb wall in the whole place. We had a three-car garage but it, too, was a strange one -- it held three cars all right but in a single line. When ever Mom wanted to out in the Corvair, the kind next door lady would go out and block the street for her. We, also lived across the street from the French Consulate with its attendant traffic. We all loved Belgium and the many trips to other European countries. We vacationed at Chiemsee in Bavaria and visited Ireland which proved to be a surprise to Mom. One hundred percent Irish, didn't really have a desire to see her home land -- until she saw it!

Happily, we came back to Colorado Springs -- which was HOME. My dad retired and all the kids graduated from high school or college. We had a new house with a big swimming pool out back. Mom finally had some time to herself so she got busy with the hobby of doll collecting and joined the Doll Dreamers doll club. Her "retirement" was punctuated by a couple of visits to Europe. At home grand children arrived in droves -- since all of the kids had married. Three of the girls, Kathy, Merrie Anne and Betsy stayed in the Springs so there really was a houseful on the holidays. I took up residence in Los Alamos and big sister Debby roamed the world in the Civil Service, ending up in San Diego.

Our mother's last two years was an exceedingly trying time. She battled pancreatic cancer with the attendant radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Penrose Hospital wasalmost a second home, what with three operations and the week long chemo treatments. Although it's difficult to admit it, nearly all of her friends had MD or RN following their names.

Needless to say, we already miss our mother. Love is too tame a word for the feeling we still have for her. She was an honest, good woman who lived a good Christian life. Mother and wife -- she spent 54 years of her life making others happy and responsible human beings. It's ironic to note that she died the day after her 54th wedding anniversary -- and only three months short of her 76th birthday -- on the 19th of November, 1999.