Eulogy, Hazel Virginia Albanese
Today these Ohio hills become Mom’s final resting place – as it is the final resting place of her mother and her father, three of her sisters, and of our Lynnie and our Dad. Here today, with this ceremony, Mom is officially home, home where she was born, home where she grew up, home where she lived most of her life -– home where on a summer evening on the back porch, with a cup of coffee in her hand and with a dear neighbor by her side, Mom found true contentment. Mom is home, home to the place she loved best.
Of all those here today I, her son, knew her the longest, while Cyndy, her youngest daughter, knew her the best. Along with prayer from good friend Rev. Oakey, it falls to us, her alpha and her omega, to lead today’s remembrances, today’s final tribute. Cyndy will read a poem which eloquently captures the enduring mother daughter bond, and I will deliver this eulogy, a eulogy co-authored with Cyndy, edited and listened to many times by Mary Ann and influenced by all those Mom loved, many of whom already lie in repose in Union Cemetery.
Hazel Virginia Johnson Albanese
May 24, 1917 - Nov. 24, 2017
Aged 100 years, 6 months, 1 day
She was - a coal miner’s daughter
She was - the daughter of a Nineteenth Century English mother
She was a high school graduate, with a PHD mind
She was a student of life, her entire life
She was a finder of beauty, in people as well as in antiques stores
She was as the youngest Johnson child, the “apple of her Dad’s eye”
She was a loving wife for over 70 years
She was a Grandmother and a Great Grandmother . . .
And, for Lynn, Cyndy and I, she was, and will always be - our Mother
Mom’s generation was born when America was at war, the First World War. Her early life can now be found in dusty history books, e.g. she was an infant when "The Red Baron", in a wood & canvas airplane died, not in a video game, but in real combat - - and when Nicholas II, the last Czar of Russia, and not a Game of Thrones character, was executed by the Bolsheviks.
Her generation was a tough generation, tempered by growing up during the Great Depression, by the Second World War and by the Cold War. No “snowflakes” in that group. They were a group that led a real life “Grapes of Wrath” existence, that played such a crucial role in defeating the Axis menace of the 1940’s, and that saw their children hide under school desks during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In short Mom was a First Class passenger, a Blue Ribbon winner, a Gold Card holder – any way you want to define it - a founding member of the GREATEST GENERATION.
Along with having a loving and caring nature, Mom was TOUGH, RESOURCEFUL and CAPABLE. Examples abound. She, like “Rosie the Riveter” and so many other American women working in factories and shipyards, helped supply the war effort - while worrying 24/7 about her husband and her beloved brother Milton, both serving and fighting in the South Pacific. She led a “hardscrabble” early life in coal towns like Lafferty, Ohio – in a family home riddled with bullet holes from a coal strike gone bad. She experienced the murder of a child and, after over 70 years of marriage, the death of her husband, and yet she SURVIVED IT ALL, ENDURED & GREW STRONGER.
Mom, like so many women of her generation, was by choice and tradition, a homemaker. Here again examples abound, both big and small. She assured her children were always neat, clean, well-mannered and respectful. When there was no cereal she instead made saltines with milk and sugar or made dessert with blackberries I had freshly picked in the nearby woods. She washed our clothes in a washing machine with a hand crank and dried those clothes on outdoor clothes lines. In the winter she loaded coal into an asbestos covered basement furnace and shook out the ash from that furnace when the fire was turned down for the night. She always kept our old house immaculate and she could put a single flower in a simple vase to make that home look more beautiful.
Throughout her life Mom was there for support, guidance and help in dealing with life’s challenges. She fiercely loved Dad and her children, e.g. I remember her attempting to “brain” with a cast iron skillet a neighbor who had entered our home and insulted the family. Luckily for the culprit, Dad used his superior natural athletic skills to grab Mom’s skillet swinging arm before it made contact with the targeted head.
Her love of family knew no limits. Mom was a huge success at the most important and difficult job in the world – WIFE, MOTHER and HOMEMAKER. She was the heart of our family unit, its center, the “sun” of our family “solar system” – providing not only warmth and strength, but life itself.
Mom’s impact on us and on the people around her exceeded even the lofty ideals of motherhood and homemaker. She would have been successful at almost anything she chose. She didn’t need to go off to the “big city” and have her worth measured in dollars and material things or go to an Ivy League University and publish a thesis. Instead Mom was a home grown female combination of Henry David Thoreau and Mark Twain, with a little bit of Golda Meir thrown in for good measure. She was a country spring - with knowledge, judgment and wisdom flowing forth –a modern day “fountain of youth”, where her energy and vigor belied her age.
Mom remained relatively healthy, active, current and mentally “with it” right up through her final days. She continued to display her unique ATTITUDE, CHARM, STRENGTH & STYLE.
Mom was always positive. She never, ever gave in. She was always steadfast. While she reminisced from time to time, Mom was always engaged in the present day, loved to talk about current events and worried about the future of today’s children. Even at 100 years of age Mom exuded such exceptional personality and charm that everyone who met her loved her. She loved to shop and always dressed fashionably right up to the very end of her life. Mom was truly one-of-a-kind.
Mom loved to read and learn. When she found a beautiful thought or quote in a book, she would share it with others, often writing it down on a piece of paper so she could repeat it again and again. She wrote special "words" for the holidays that she would read in lieu of saying a regular blessing. I share with you now a few of Mom’s words of wisdom, spoken years ago and written on scraps of paper I saved; saved for moments in time such as this. Through me she now speaks to you – powerful words in Mom’s “signature style.” From Easter 2009:
“This is the day we call Easter. The Lord arose from his tomb. We remember all who have joined him in his Kingdom. We humbly ask thy blessing upon this family. May we each grow stronger in body and in spirit. We lovingly remember each link in our family chain that now resides in peace with You, Lord. Merge our hearts.”
Today Mom is truly home, home to stay. Home - surrounded by so many of those she loved so dearly. Home - where her heart was forever linked to Ohio’s rolling hills, its changing seasons and its birdsong. It’s a good place, these rolling Ohio hills. It’s a good place for life to come full circle. In that regard I think of a song “The Three Bells”, written in 1959 – and that song’s portrayal of the circle of life. I finish this eulogy with some of the lyrics from that song:
There's a village hidden deep in the valley
Among the pine trees half forlorn
And there on a sunny morning
Little Jimmy Brown was born
All the chapel bells were ringing
In that little valley town
And the songs that they were singing
Were for baby Jimmy Brown
There's a village hidden deep in the valley
Beneath the mountains high above
And there, twenty years thereafter
Jimmy was to meet his love
And the song continues on, describing the key events of one lifetime.
It ends with this:
From the village hidden deep in the valley
One rainy morning, dark and gray
A soul, winged its way to heaven
Old Jimmy Brown had passed away
And the little congregation
Prayed for guidance from above
"Lead us not into temptation,
May HER SOUL find the salvation,
Of thy great, eternal love"
Rest in peace Mom, and with our eternal love.
Ernest L Albanese Jr
June 23, 2018