Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Grandma Petty's funeral in Vallejo, California - March 2013

Grandma Petty was wonderful in every way. From what I heard, she was teaching piano lessons on Wednesday and then passed away on Monday. She was sweet to everyone every where. I'm going to include Dad's life sketch he put together for Gma Petty's funeral because I thought dad just did an amazing job.  Here is the life sketch put together by my Dad, Scott Wood.

Atha Bowen Petty
1917 – 2013
Life Sketch & Thoughts From her son, Scott Wood

Before I begin, I express gratitude to the MANY MANY people who contributed to Mom’s life.
  • Corina Barlow, Mike & Lori Tanner, Toni Fish, Tela Ratu (such patience!)  The richest man in the world COULD NOT buy better care
  • Linda Maher, a friend of many years
  • Mia Davalos, friend and household help
  • Then there’s the “List” – people who mom would call such as Harold Brondum.
  • Dr. Ashley Christiani
  • Sutter Hospice Care
Atha Bowen Petty, age 95, passed peacefully in her sleep on March 18, 2013 of causes incident to age (some of us are not sure, but it may also have had something to do with her son Jon getting her taxes done early this year).
Mom was born on November 25, 1917 in Arimo, Idaho.  She is survived by her sister, Afton Hyde of Washington Terrace, Utah, two sons, Jon Curtis Wood (Cheryl) of Benicia, California and Scott Riley Wood (K’Lynn) of Alpine, Utah, 12 grandchildren, and 13 great grand children and one great grand child due in April.  We are pretty sure that she is talking to her soon-to-be arriving great grand daughter right now, providing thoughtful advice and instruction, including her opinion on what her name should be.  (that’s a bit of an inside comment).  She was preceded in death by her sister Fern Hodson, her brother Jean Donald Bowen, and her three (yes, three) loving husbands Frank (Woody) Adrian Wood, Charles (Chic) Watland Cornell, and Carmine Nicholas Petty. All three brought her great joy and happiness.  For those of you who are married, you may recognize the interesting proposition of making a marriage work with 3 very different spouses.  At the time of her death, Mom was still actively teaching piano students.  I like numbers, so I did a bit of calculating.  Between school teaching, glee clubs, piano student, cherubs, I figure Mom DIRECTLY touched the lives of around 5,000 people.
Mom grew up in Malad, Idaho.  Every morning, my Father cooked a big kettle of mush, usually cream of wheat.  Early in the morning he served himself and left the rest for the family.  By the time I was up and ready for breakfast, the cereal was cold crusty, and unappetizing.  I develop a dislike for cooked cereal.  Regardless my mother served me the bowl of what I refused to eat.  At lunch, the bowl appeared again, by this time, I was getting pretty hungry.  This went on for 3 days, a battle of my Danish stubbornness against my thrifty Danish Mother. She told me no food until the mush was gone.  By the 3rd day, layers of mold had formed.  My sensitivities would not allow me to eat it.  I paid my little brother Don 25 cents to finish for me.
“I found myself ready to graduate from Malad High School at the age of Sixteen.  This proved to be a problem.  My parents didn’t object to my being with students two years older than I in school, but they did object to allowing me the same privileges, hours, and freedom that my friends enjoyed.  It was the bane of life that I had to go to primary when I was in High School.
Mom graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Utah State University at age 20.  Of her school years, she said:
“I lived with my Grandmother part of the year while I was attending Utah State as a sophomore.  This was the middle of the depression.  My father paid Grandma $15 a month for my room and board.  Grandma would buy a soup bone and make a big pot of soup.  It was really very tasty for the first three or four days.  I was always glad when we finished it.  The very next day she would get a little piece of meat, and immediately start the next pot of soup.  I guess I should have been glad there was food on the table.”  When I read about Mom’s humble upbringing, with no complaints, with making due, with independence, her fierce determination, and I think of our easy life, indeed our sense of entitlement, I can only shake my head.  
Another story we fondly remember is Mom’s one experience with bringing a young man home.  She writes:
“A high school boyfriend was a student at Utah State, so I was happy to transfer.  We continued to date for a while.  While I was commuting I invited him to my home in Brigham for Sunday Dinner.  My mother was unable to be there, but told me what to prepare.  She said there was a roast in the icebox I could cook.  She neglected to tell me there was also a pigs head.  She was going to make headcheese with it.  When I cooked my roast, there were pig’s teeth floating around in the pot.  And it tasted awful.  I decided to make mashed potatoes.  I failed to drain them properly.  The mashed potatoes needed to be eaten with a spoon.  Mother used a salt pack to preserve her corn.  I opened a bottle of corn but didn’t know it had to be parboiled three time to remove the salt.  I just heated it.  The corn was so salty, we had to spit it our.  I guess my Mother’s bottled peaches were the only redeeming feature of the dinner.  Mother told me if he ever came back she would know that he was a serious boyfriend.”
Following college, she started teaching at Boothe Valley School, a one-room school with all eight grades in the farming and ranching community of Promontory, Utah.  Mom completely won over the community by introducing these children to music and creating a Christmas program unlike any the community had seen.  A young widower, Frank Adrian Wood, returned at Christmas time to visit his family, and the two of them were taken with each other.  They parted reluctantly and each week following brought at least 3 letters and eventually a proposal.  They married in 1939 and Woody took her to California to seek their fortune.  They were both part of the war effort (WWII), Mom as a payroll clerk and Woody as a welder and ship fitter, both at Mare Island Naval Shipyard.  Mom then took a teaching position in Vallejo, beginning a teaching career that spanned four decades.  
“When I first married and moved away from home, I had no idea how much I would miss the piano.  I say an ad in the local newspaper for a piano for $15 at a furniture store in Martinez.  I still had $25 from my last teaching check.  When I saw it, I knew I had to have it.  It was ugly, rickety, and when I pressed one key down, three different pitches would sound  The sales man assured me it could be repaired an recommended a piano tuner who would be able to put it in playing condition  To close the deal, the sales man thre in free delivery.
“When I got the piano home, it sounded so terrible; I immediately called the piano tuner.  He was a blind man and needed help with transportation.  He declared the piano a disaster, only fit for piano heaven.  Since the piano salesman had used his name, the tuner went back with me to see that I got my money back.  The pathetic instrument went back.  Since the blind man tuned and dealt with many pianos, he told me had had an old player piano on hand.  It was a huge ugly black upright, a former player piano.  I’m sure it weighed over 400 pounds.  He would sell and tune it for $25.  It took four strong men to maneuver that monster up the steep stairs to our apartment.”  And now, my favorite part of the story, “I think Woody paid them off with a six pack.”
When I was born, Woody already had a shock of white hair.  Apparently, when we came to visit Mom and I, the nurses told him that only husbands and fathers could visit.  He promptly informed the nurse that he in fact was NOT the grandfather, but the proud father of his new son.
Within a year of the birth of her second son in December 1953, Woody suffered a massive heart attack and was hospitalized for many weeks.  After two years of illness, Woody passed away.  
Through a school teacher friend, Afton Harvey, Mom met Chic.  He was a fun-loving man who not only fell in love with Mom, he loved her two sons.  The deal was sealed when Jon told them, “Why don’t you marry Mom?  We need a Daddy”.  They married in 1958 and sealed their marriage in the Oakland temple in 1965.  Tragically, Chic suffered a fatal heart attack in September 1966.  Mom, irrepressible as ever, pressed on, raising her 2 boys, teaching school, organizing glee clubs, continuing her music studies, adding additional certifications to her teaching credentials, serving in church, and teaching private piano.  Mom was greatly comforted by her family and friends, especially Marjorie Parks and Margie Shallenberger Rose, who became fast friends.  
In 1969, Mom met Carmine Petty, who loved to dance, as did Mom.  They danced together for a couple of years, their relationship developed seriously, and they married in 1971.  She wrapped up her school teaching career in 1979.  However, Mom lived by the motto, “Retire early and often”.  In 1983, she and Carmine organized “Cherubs”, where she introduced preschoolers to music using the Orff and Kodaly method (the kids just thought they were having fun).  They danced, sang, had finger plays, recited nursery rhymes, played rhythm instruments, played games, and  enjoyed stories together.   Carmine and Mom enjoyed 25 years together before his death in 1996.  
In 1975, she wrote an original musical extravaganza for the ward, a “Hootenanny” as she called it, involving over 70 ward members, modeled after L’il Abner.   Mom involved anyone and everyone – she was not to be denied.  Orchestra, chorus, soloes, duets, jokes, quips, square dancing, and audience participation.  Vallejo’s Mayor Florence Douglas as a special guest.  When the company sang, “the Old Gray Mare”, she thought it was directed at her, but with a little skillful commentary, she understood they were singing about a horse, not a local political figure.  Mercifully, I was serving a mission at the time and avoided the draft.  
Bishop Carl Stine gave Mom and little seed money and in May 1983, Carmine and Mom initiated “Cherubs“ which become one of the truly great joys of her life.  “At one of the early sessions, I received encouragement from one little four-year-old with her limited vocabulary when she said to her mom, “This is my best day!”  Her mother told Mom that each morning her daughter would ask her mother if this were Cherub Day.  At first, each Wednesday morning when we returned home, Carmine would say, “How much longer are we going to do this?”  (Clearly he was still getting to know Mom)As he became more involved, he changed to “What are we going to do next week?”  Mom hosted over 500 Cherub Days (that’s right, 500)
Mom took music lessons from many people, working on developing her talents until her blindness forced here retirement from organ, including Dave Froehlich, Richard Purvis, George Herbert.  She was exacting in her demands of her students.  Without question, she started in me as in hundreds, if not thousands of others a love of music and an appreciation of its power.  At an early age, we decided it was time for me to start my music training with “Madame Kowalski”.  I would take my books, go out the back door, run around the house to the front door, ring the doorbell, and behold, Madame Kowalski would invite me in for a lesson.  While we made some progress, eventually, my stubbornness overcame and she sent me for some more traditional lessons.
Mom loved to see people happy, loved music, and took great pride in her sons and grandchildren.  She taught us the value of dedication, hard work, independence, and a love of God.  She was a “party animal”, always putting together gatherings for friends and family.  We’re pretty sure that in the next life, her new career will be as a Cruise Director.  She made sure no one was left out and knew how to draw out the best in people.   I remember the many thanksgivings where we hosted lots and lots of family.  One year, with another overflow crowd, we literally set up a boys dorm in the garage, complete with cots and sleeping bags.  Jon and I remember watching all hundred or so pounds of Mom, with Jon as the ringmaster, calling the match, as she wrestled a 30 pound turkey, dressed it, trussed it, and pinned it.  Then there was the time she made like 20 dozen chocolate chip cookies and unfortunaley, somehow replaced “teaspoons” with cups or something like that for the salt.  It was HORRIBLE, but waste not, want note, and we stored them, thinking that at some point they would magically become edible.  Mercifully, she finally relented and tossed them out.  Then there was Bishop “” who wanted us to use the parable of the talents, gave us each $XXX, and mom made so much tuna casserole, which, shall we say, was not a big hit.  This should explain to my wife why to this day, I find tuna casserole a ghastly experience.
I would like to speak a few minutes directly to Mom’s grandchildren, my sons and daughters and Jon’s sons and daughters.  All that we have today is a direct result of the sacrifices of our ancestors.  Her legacy is a legacy of love, trust, devotion, loyalty; of grit, determination, and sacrifice, fierce independence, and an unrelenting need to make the world a better place.  We can honor her no better than to incorporate her spirit into our lives.  Mom was truly part of the greatest generation, which is fast leaving us, and if we neglect their legacy we do it are our own peril. Shoulders of Giants.
From Mom’s life story: “My life began at the end of World War I.  I lived through World War II, the great depression.  These events greatly influenced my way of thinking and decisions.  This left me ill prepared for the changes that followed.  My contemporaries and progeny consider me out of step with the times.  I hope they will love and remember me in spite of my warts.  
“Our family is like the branches of a tree.  We may grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.  Each of us will always be a part of the other.”
Mom, from all your family and friends, We Love You.

Great work dad!

And here is an email from Dad to melissa and me and melissa's respone:

from dad:

I expect today to be a very tender day.  please know that we love you (like that was a secret).  our family wouldn't be what it is without you, and those beautiful children.  I want you to give them a hug from K' and I this morning - and not just any hug, but a hug that lets them know how precious they and you are to us. 
dad wood

Melissa's response:

I will definitely squeeze these kiddos tight on yours and K's behalf. It's been such a sweet experience doing the program for your darling mother. I've loved, especially, reading different memories from all those cousins about what she meant to them, and of course, I've loved the chance to sit down and reflect on what she meant to me. 

Having Grandma Petty in my life was like a breath of fresh air. I remember telling my mom after I'd first met her, that I wanted to be JUST like Grandma Petty when I was a grandma. She cared about me and what I was doing with my life---and I truly felt like she loved ME deeply, and not just bc I was Aaron's wife. You know? 

She was SO thoughtful too. I mean, hello, she'd send a baby gift for the new baby AND a new shirt for me. I'd never heard of someone doing something like that for the mom. 

I LOVED her stories too! I am fascinated at the life she lived and truly loved listening to her memories of being a new bride, being a school teacher, her days of dancing---she really LIVED, didn't she?!

Oh, there's so much I could say, but please know how grateful I am that you have included me in your life. It was a true gift to know your sweet mother and love her. 

I hope that all the details can come together seamlessly today so you can all be relaxed and truly bask in the celebration of that amazing woman. 

Lots of love to you all,

Hanging with the California Wood cousins at gma Petty's house

gma petty would always remember your birthday. every year you'd get a card with money equal to how old you were turning that year.

gma petty kept a collection of music boxes

her backyard at 125 los santos court, vallejo, california. the lemon tree always smelled real yummy.

always like the pictures of dad and his brother.

dad and jon as babies.

It was fun to see all the people from all walks of life coming to gma's funeral. Tons of piano students. Lots of her "cherubs".

Here's the church across the street from gma's house. Weird floorplan. Cool.

view from gma petty's front porch

 aunt cheryl, davisson, kelsey

I cried when these little "cherubs" sang
I hope to conduct myself like me dad when I'm grown up. Way to go Dad!

Pall Bearers, looks like ryan and kevin and todd and jeff and tyler and davyson and me

I always like this picture of gma petty

1 comment:

Rebecca Woolston said...

Great post Aaron! Such a sweet tribute to your awesome Grandma Petty!


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