In our family, Patricia Gordon was exactly that, throughmore than nine decades until her passing last month.
Memorial services for my wife's mother were held on April 19 at St. James Presbyterian Church in Littleton, Colorado. Rev. Wayne Darbonne officiated. Here are my eulogy and several tributes by other family members. Scroll down to read the contributions of Christina Andrews, Jennifer Andrews, Melanie D'Evelyn, and Tom D'Evelyn, or enter their names in the search block, above right.
PATRICIA JOHNSON D’EVELYN GORDON December 24, 1916 – March 31, 2007
Eulogy by John K. Andrews, Jr. Memorial Service, April 19, 2007
“Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies. Her children arise up and call her blessed.” Those verses from the Book of Proverbs comforted me years ago at the end of my mother’s life. They should be a comfort to all of us today as we celebrate and honor the life of Donna’s beloved mother, someone who was an inspiration and a blessing to so many for so long, Patricia Johnson D’Evelyn Gordon.
Truly Patty was like a second mother to me. She took into her heart with impartial and unhesitating love not only her own two daughters and two sons, but four more of us who were her sons and daughters by marriage, as well as the two men who became stepsons through her second marriage.
Impartial and unhesitating love is a good description for this remarkable woman’s whole attitude toward life, every day for more than 90 years. Patty radiated warmth and joy to everyone around her. God’s children and God’s world were a constant source of delight to her, because God himself was a constant presence with her. She had an unusual gift for expressing her delight to others, making it contagious. Every room was enlivened when she came in. Every day was brighter if you happened to share it with her.
Patricia Johnson was born on Christmas Eve 1916 in San Francisco, the daughter of Thomas Johnson, a jeweler, and Mabelle Jeans Johnson, who was later a Christian Science practitioner. She along with her brother Tom and sister Betty lost their dad before Patty could start college – but with the support of a courageous and resourceful mother, the vivacious young beauty was still able to attend Stanford, where she not only excelled but met the Eagle Scout and park ranger who became the love of her life, Morton D’Evelyn.
Mort and Patty were married in wartime on April 19, 1942, 65 years ago today. As an Army engineer in the South Pacific, he led his unit onto hostile beaches ahead of the main landing force – never taking a life but never losing a man. Patty brought baby Donna into the world in 1944 with no certainty that Mort would ever come home to meet their little daughter. Sons Tom and David were born at Bakersfield, California, in the postwar years, where Mort was an independent oilman and Patty was a pillar of the church. Daughter Sarah came along in 1959 when Patty was 42.
Patricia Johnson D’Evelyn was widowed far too young when my father-in-law passed away in 1974. Her spiritual toughness and grace at that time were something to behold, let me tell you. A widower from Detroit who happened to visit the church in Palos Verdes, California, was so impressed with those qualities, along with the Patty sparkle that you could still see even a month ago, that he made a return trip with courtship on his mind – and in 1980 my mom became Mrs. Hugh Sheriffs Gordon of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. They had much happiness together in the six years before death also took Hugh Gordon.
By that time Patty had nursed her own mother, Nana to all of us, through a final illness, and was herself being called Nana by three grandchildren here in Colorado. Her grandchildren finally numbered eight – Christina, Jennifer, and Daniel Andrews – Steve D’Evelyn – Melanie and Kenny D’Evelyn – and Skyler and David Grossman. After moving to Colorado in 2001, Mom became a great-grandmother the following year when Ian Michael Andrews joined our family. She and Ian had a special affection and a shared love of music, right to the very end.
Ian had a way of inventing double names for all of us, and his name for Patty was Great Great. Let me close by reflecting on three ways in which this son believes Patricia Gordon was great indeed. She was a great woman for her family and home, a great woman of faith, and great woman for this country of ours.
If she wanted to, Patty could have run a corporation or commanded a battalion or succeeded in Hollywood. She had what it took for any of those. But she believed her true calling from the Father in heaven was to be a wife and homemaker, mother and grandmother. What a blessing for Mort and later for Hugh – what a blessing for Donna and her siblings and us who married them – that Patty poured out her devotion, loyalty, encouragement, high standards, high spirits, enthusiasm, idealism, and prayers into this noble calling.
As for faith, you didn’t need to be of the same church as Patty, the Christian Science church she loved so well and so long, to be struck with this woman’s unshakable trust in God and her deep commitment to biblical truth. Prayer was her first resort when faced with any problem, including health. As a Sunday School superintendent she gave national workshops on how to connect young people with the Scriptures. The congregation in Palos Verdes elected her to co-lead the Sunday services. Her Christly heart was evident to those of us at the bedside even when she could no longer speak.
In reading the story of Good Friday and Easter during the week after Patty left us on March 31, it occurred to me that my mother-in-law was exactly the kind of godly woman who would have been last at the cross and first at the tomb – fearless and faithful no matter what. A great woman of faith.
And finally, Patricia Gordon was a great woman for the community and the nation, a proud and active American patriot. She chaired the local Girl Scout council and took food baskets to the poor on Christmas. Donna’s and Sarah’s amazing gift of generosity and caring was learned at their mother’s knee. Patty helped organize Central California for Goldwater in 1964, and with Mort’s help she hosted events for Reagan before he was even a Republican. Who knows, maybe she helped convert him. Who could resist that dazzling smile and that authoritative voice?
March ’64 was the spring when I fell in love with the D’Evelyns’ oldest daughter, a slender blonde from Bakersfield who was by the far the finest thing in my fine arts class. Meanwhile in government class my conservative upbringing was in the process of being erased by a series of liberal professors. It was Patty and Mort who helped me get my political bearings again, and I’ve had them ever since. A few months earlier, December ’63, Donna’s mother had received this gold medallion from Donna’s father as a combination Christmas and birthday gift. On one side, some words from Irving Berlin – “Stand beside her and guide her.” On the other side, a map of the 48 states and precious stones in red, white, and blue.
That’s the kind of patriotic family I was being welcomed into. That’s the kind of woman Patty was – a woman for whom “God Bless America” was almost as a theme song as that hymn we sang earlier, “Tender, Loving Shepherd.” Solomon says in Proverbs that the price of a virtuous woman is far above rubies, and for Patricia Johnson D’Evelyn Gordon that was true. Here is the proof in gold, set with a diamond and a sapphire as well as a ruby. She was indeed a gold medal mother, a gold medal Christian, and a gold medal American.
Little Ian Michael, four years old, gets the last word. Just a few weeks ago, Stephanie and Daniel told us that Ian’s bedtime prayer for Great Nana was this: “Dear God, we know she is a good friend. Please make her new again. Amen.”
A good friend Patty was and will always be. And now she is new again, at home in her Father’s house. How grateful we all can be for that! ------------------------------------------------------------------------- REMEMBRANCES OF NANA By Christina H. Andrews
My Nana had her priorities in order. She loved her God, her family and her country. God honored her lifetime reliance on him with a rich, full 90 years of life. She knew that where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And she exemplified the fruits of the spirit such as love, gentleness, peace and kindness so beautifully. She had such a wonderful way of making you feel special and important.
She was my very special friend and taught me some very valuable lessons, even after she began to fail. Never lose your sense of humor and always go with the flow. One day she told me that she had been learning some new things, such as she had an apartment here in Denver. Having been a California girl all her life, she never could quite get her mind around that. When I asked her what she thought of these new developments she said: “I think it’s a scream!”
But she was so glad for the chance to be near most of her grandchildren and Ian, her only great grandchild. Those two had a great bond. Ian called her his “Great Great,” and when she was asked what was so great about her, she replied, “Everything!”
The night before she passed I sat with her for three hours while I waited for the night nurse to come. I held her hand, told her how much I loved her and read her hymns and scripture. I also reminded her of a favorite saying of both of ours, “There’s not a spot where God is not.” Most of those three hours she was squeezing my hand and her facial expressions showed recognition of what I was reading to her. Her faith was so deeply embedded in her. I will cherish that time with her forever.
My Nana loved life and lived it to the fullest. She was an especially big fan of dessert. So she would agree with an email I got recently which says that you should always keep your fork as your main dish plate is being cleared away. When the main dish is cleared, it means that something better is coming, like chocolate cake or deep dish apple pie- something wonderful and something with substance.
Thanks, my sweet Nana, for your amazing legacy of love. Though your passing leaves a big hole in my heart and in my life, I will always remember our times together with a smile in my heart. And I will always remember to keep my fork, for the best is yet to come. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ A TRIBUTE TO MY NANA By Jennifer Andrews
I have the great honor of being the second oldest of my Nana’s eight grandchildren. I have struggled to find words to capture the essence of my Nana. The best I can say is that she left a Legacy of Love.
She had a deep love for God, for her family, and for our great country. For those of you lucky enough to be loved by her, you will know what I mean when I say that the love she poured out was thick & rich - - it was the kind you can take hold of and carry with you.
During the last week of my Nana’s life, I had the precious opportunity to spend time with her every day. It was an amazing journey - - what a privilege to walk down the home stretch to heaven with a woman I loved so much.
Just two days before my Nana passed on she poured her love out on me one last time. The experience was truly one of the most remarkable in my life, and I will do my best to put it in words…
I was sitting in the chair in front of my Nana and I leaned in close to tell her I loved her. In response she leaned her head forward and rested her forehead on mine. I knew that this was her way of saying “I love you too.” She then leaned back a little so she could look at me and she reached her hand up to my face. With her stunning clear blue eyes locked on mine, she gently held my face in her hand. Unable to contain my emotion, tears started rolling down my cheeks … she gently wiped them away.
One of my great struggles with my Nana’s illness was the not knowing – her name, the details of her life, our names, etc. In those minutes that Thursday all that washed away … I knew without a doubt that she knew exactly what was. I was her granddaughter and she was my Nana. We were family. Through her sweet blue eyes and her tender touch, but without any words at all, she said she loved me and that I was precious and adored.
It was truly breathtaking … five of the most impactful minutes of my 36 years of life. My Nana gave me a gift that day and I will be forever grateful. Years from now, I know that in an instant I will be able to go back to that time with my Nana. I will see her eyes & feel her hand holding my face and that in that memory, I will feel her strength and her love and her encouragement. She will always be with me.
Now to one of my other great loves in life, basketball. More so than anyone else in the family, my Nana shared my passion for the game of basketball. I can’t be sure, but it I think it all started when she was a co-ed at Stanford University. Her boyfriend was a young man by the name of Hank Luisetti. He was a three-time All American on the basketball team and one of the finest players in the country. He even went down in history, as the inventor of the running one handed shot. History books say he forever changed the way the game was played. For those of you who know me, you will know what I mean when I say that I can’t help but wish I had left such a mark on the game of basketball.
My Nana was a Los Angeles girl and the Lakers were her team. She got me completely hooked on the Lakers during the Showtime Era back in the mid 80’s when Magic, Kareem & Worthy were taking the NBA by storm. She kept me outfitted in Laker gear, so that I could be sure to represent ‘our team’ here in Denver. On a Sunday afternoon if I was glued to a great basketball game on TV, I knew exactly who I could call to share the excitement with me. Without fail, she was tuned in and incredibly enthusiastic.
My Nana and I did our best bonding during my junior high and high school years when I went to Palos Verdes to visit her every year for Spring Break. I was intensely shy around my peers, but in the presence of my Nana I was completely at ease and felt like I could take on the world. I had few friends, but my Nana was one of them for sure.
Redondo Beach was my favorite hangout, and my Nana would go with me. I would sit in the sun, and she would find some shade nearby. (For those of you who saw her beautiful fair skin, you know why the shade was important! Palos Verdes CA will forever be one of my favorite places on earth … we shared so many good times there and it was truly a refuge from the stresses of adolescence.
My Nana left us with so much. Personally, one thing I am infinitely grateful for is Donna D’Evelyn, my Mom. I can tell you she is the most amazing mom a girl could ever ask for. When my Nana became ill six years ago, my parents moved her to Colorado so she would be close. My Mom became her advocate, her guardian, her everything. My Mom poured love out on my Nana …the love was thick & rich and penetrated the horrible pain and confusion of Alzheimer’s to bring my Nana some measure of comfort and peace. If my Nana was here today, I have no doubt she would say, Thank you my Donna, you were all I could ever ask for.
My Sweet Nana, we will miss you incredibly, but we will remain steadfast in our commitment to carry on your legacy of love.
As I mentioned at the beginning I am one of eight grandchildren. My Mom is the oldest of four. She & my Dad have three kids. You heard from my older sister Tina a few minutes ago, I am the middle child and my little brother Daniel is here today too.
My Mom’s brother Tom has a son Stephen, who is heading to the University of Bristol in England this August where he will be a research fellow in the Institute of Greece, Rome & the Classical Traditions.
My Mom’s brother David is deceased. He and his wife Kay, who is with us here today, had two kids – Melanie & Kenny. Melanie works in the political arena in Washington DC, as a Project Director at the Center for the Study of the Presidency. Although Melanie couldn’t be here today, she sent something for me to read…
BY MELANIE D’EVELYN…Our Nana was a woman of dignity. In her more advanced years it was no different; she maintained a beautiful sense of poise and warmth which everyone around her appreciated. One may never know, but I believe Nana was this way because of her absolute confidence in her inseparability from God. A well-loved passage from Romans reads, "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (8:38-39). And this is my comfort now, knowing that Nana always was—and continues to be— at one with her Father.
Melanie’s younger brother Kenny is a freshman at Principia College in Illinois.
Last but not least, my Mom’s baby sister Sarah lives in Portland with her husband Carl. They have two boys, Skyler & David. They are the youngest of the troop – David in junior high school and Skyler in high school.
Although my cousins were not able to join us today, I want to be sure to represent them too. My Nana adored us, each and every one, like we were the only one. I know I can speak for all of the grandchildren when I say, Nana, we loved and adored you too.
------------------------------------------------------------- JOHN ANDREWS ONCE AGAIN:
On behalf of Donna, I want to recognize her sister and brothers, who could not be here today. Sarah D’Evelyn Grossman of Portland, Oregon, is known to many of you from her faithful visits to Patty at Sunrise and her countless hours of Bible reading on the phone with her mom. Sarah is working on another memorial service for our mother up in the mountains at a later date.
David S. D’Evelyn of Evergreen, Colorado, passed away 14 years ago. He was an outstanding educator and public servant here in Colorado. The school named in his memory frequently takes statewide academic and athletic honors. He had a boundless zest for life, obviously inherited from his mother.
Dave’s wife Kay, now Kay D’Evelyn Lamontagne, helped establish the school and saw both their children graduate from it. Kay, you and Patty had a beautiful bond like that of Ruth and Naomi. It's wonderful to have you with us this afternoon.
Patty’s older son, Thomas M. D’Evelyn, is a writer and scholar in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Tom asked me to extend his thanks to all of you, and to read these words of remembrance for his dad and mom.
------------------------------------------------------ TOM D’EVELYN ON PATTY GORDON
Mother lived long enough for me to discover who she really was. Or put it this way, I came to see that who she was is what she was. This is true for all of us: our identities really don't depend on who we think we are but on what we are. I speak now with as much truth as I can, though I know it will seem awkward. Mother was a beautiful woman. That's not only what she was, that¹s who she was. I think that's how she saw herself at least when she was happy.
Like many families that matured in the 50s and 60s, we had our own culture wars. At 14 years old David wore his hair long and asked me to drive him to see Janis Joplin at Fillmore West; I took a paperback copy of Ezra Pound and spent the second set outside under the street lights. In the 50s, Dad had showed good humor when we brought home the first Elvis 45; he liked to say, "All shook up!" But the 60s were different.
Dad made it possible for Donna and me to spend time in the Sierra mountains during the summer. We were changed by that.
Mom didn't figure in these scenarios, really. In a way, she kept her counsel, I suppose. I remember being torn between my sense of responsibility to both of them. Dad was outside; Mom was inside. I remember being told by both to go inside or outside to be with the other.
During the 60s, Dad and David faced off, and I was on planet poetry most of the time. Mom was on her own planet. I think that was the first time I began to really know who she was.
I do remember her glowing when she and Dad announced, in the dining room in Bakersfield with the crack in the ceiling from the earthquake, that there would be an addition to the family. Sally showed once again how beautiful Mom was.
As decades passed and I communicated less and less with her, I knew that my love of beauty was a gift from her in some immeasurable way. Beauty can be terribly isolating; it can take its revenge. Mom had Christian Science to keep her mind above it all. After I talked to her on the Saturday she died, I was working in my office in Portsmouth, a new office dedicated to poetry. She would have approved. She would have instinctively understood. After John called to say she had passed on, a little poem offered itself to me. I wrote it down. Here it is:
How high the clouds
This perfect spring day
Mother's last dream.