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Honoring The Deceased (Part Three)

October 7, 2020

Today I have focused my posts on the need for writing and publishing an obituary, how honoring the deceased is emotionally vital to survivors, and with the last in this series how a powerful obituary can be constructed.

My long-time friend as well as reader at Caffeinated Politics wrote the author of the book that inspired my Mom to publish was no other than the mother of Bradley Whitford! 

Genevieve Smith Whitford.

Born February 21, 1915, in St. Paul, Minnesota, to Howard and Hazel Smith. Died July 29, 2011, in Pasadena, California, Survived by Ann Paul and her husband, Ron, of Los Angeles; Robert and his wife, Alma, of Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey; Deborah Ward and her husband, David, of Philadelphia; David and his wife, Sara, of Arlington, Massachusetts; Bradley and his former wife, Jane Kaczmarek, of Pasadena; 14 grandchildren; and 10 great grandchildren.

Predeceased by her beloved husband of 61 years, George Whitford, who died in 1999. 

Genevieve attended the University of Nebraska and later Northwestern University, where she was the humor editor of the Purple Parrot. (Her future husband was the Parrot’s business manager.) She was a fulltime college student for four years but did not graduate; on principle, she insisted, after she refused to take a required geology class her senior year and took a philosophy class instead. 

Genevieve always said that the most important work she did during her long life was raising her children, which she had in two sets: three closely bunched in her late twenties and early thirties; and after a ten-year pause, two more in her forties. 

All her children have warm memories of lying in bed at night with the lights out, listening to their mother play the harp-a gift Nana shared with her grandchildren, too, whenever they would visit. And all have strived throughout their lives to be worthy of their mother’s highest praise: “sensitive and intelligent” and a “good citizen.” Genevieve was both.

Wherever she settled-and as a loyal corporate wife, she was always on the move-Genevieve made herself an indispensable member of the community: Fighting to preserve open space in Radnor Township, Pennsylvania; selling UNICEF cards every holiday season from a display she set up on the dining room table; leading Great Books discussions; and volunteering for many years with the League of Women Voters, the PTA, and at Attic Angel elder care community in Madison, Wisconsin. 

Genevieve had an inquiring and energetic mind. She read two newspapers every day-whatever the local one happened to be, plus The New York Times. She loved and admired The New Yorker, Will Durant, Greece in its Golden Age, Norman Cousins, Adlai Stevenson and liberal religion, as long as it respected her atheism. 

She began writing poetry in her sixties, and in 1982, after the last of her children had left for college, she published the first of three books of poems: Queen Anne’s Lace: A Celebration of Family. She loved making connections through her poetry with others-especially mothers of all ages-and was still giving public readings in her nineties.

She died as she hoped she would-at home, at peace, among children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Donatons in Genevieve Whitford’s memory gratefully received by VITAS Hospice Charitable Fund 1343 N. Grand Ave. Suite 100, Covina, CA. 91724; or by Attice Angel Association, 640 Junction Rd. Madison, Wi., 53717

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