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#641268 added March 19, 2009 at 8:43pm
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Mom's Eulogy
Mom passed away on March 3rd. Below is the Eulogy I delivered at her funeral.


We are here today because my Mom has touched all of our lives in some way. More than likely it was with a smile, a loving laugh, a gentle caress or a generous and helping hand. We are here to mourn our loss and to celebrate her life. That is how it should be. We will be thinking of her and the way in which she has been and is a part of our lives. We each have our favorite Mom memories or stories. With that in mind I’d like to share with you a few of mine.

In our family we celebrated Russian Christmas as well as “ordinary Christmas.” The Russian Christmas Eve dinner is prepared with thirteen separate dishes, each made without the benefit of dairy or meat products. When Mom would have us set the table, there was always one extra place setting. Tradition held that it was for the stranger who might come knocking at the door looking for something to eat.

I tell you this because throughout my life I have made many friends and quite often I would tell them that if they ever found themselves in Carbondale they should stop and visit my folks. “Just tell them you’re one of Little Joe’s friends and you’ll be invited in” This theory has been tested more than once over the years, and just as the stranger on Christmas, they were invited in and treated to one of Mom’s home cooked meals… and more than likely a cold beer from Pop. The culmination of this occurred a couple of years ago when a friend of mine that I haven’t seen since high school pulled into my folk’s driveway. He remembered my parent’s kindness and generosity and the good times he had while visiting with them. Since he was now a chef, this time he brought the meal with him. All of my friends who have spent time with my parents speak fondly and wistfully of those times. More than one has expressed the sentiment that we didn’t know how lucky we were to have a family such as ours. I can assure you that we do.

Mom enjoyed cooking and took great pride in preparing our holiday meals. At one meal the main course was a home cured ham, the kind that would melt in your mouth, straight from the farmer’s smokehouse. When the meal was served my future brother-in-law asked for ketchup. Thinking he wanted it for his potatoes, Mom gave him the bottle from the fridge. You could have heard a pin drop when he slathered his ham with the ketchup. Looking at the initial expression on Mom’s face, I felt sure he had met the end of his days, and I was going to be tasked with the disposition of the body. Instead, Mom jokingly chastised him; we all started breathing again and I stopped mulling over the location of the nearest abandoned mine shaft.

At one holiday meal Twila and I were almost booted from the family. We all sat down for a holiday meal and Mom gave the blessing. In the background the faint voicing of “do-wa-ditty, ditty-dum, ditty-do” could be heard because one of us had forgotten to turn off the stereo. (I’m pretty sure it was Twila) Upon hearing a prayer of thanks being spoken to “do-wa-ditty, ditty-dum, ditty do,” it became impossible for us to muffle our laughter. The look Mom shot us would make you think we had just put ketchup on our ham.

Mom was no shrinking violet. During a fishing trip to the Delaware River she had waded pretty far out to fish a particular spot. As luck would have it, the warden was out checking licenses and hollered for Mom to come in so he could check her’s. Without missing a beat she hollered back that if he wanted to see it he could just wade on out and get it. Not quite sure what to do he stood on the shore waiting for Mom to change her mind. Seeing that she had no intention of doing so he gave up and wandered away. If you asked Mom why she didn’t come in she’d smile and tell you, “It was a good fishing spot and it had taken quite a while to get to it.” She wasn’t about to leave just so the warden could check her license. If ypu pressed her further. she'd also tell you with a grin, "he just wanted a better look at me in my bathing suit."

In Ebensburg, where my wife and sons and I lived for a number of years, I was fond of decorating our house for Halloween. For trick-or-treat each year I would come up with a costume and entertain the neighborhood children while handing out treats. One year I was having a particular problem sewing my costume (if you are an Umholtz, you learn to sew) so I enlisted the assistance of Mom. The local newspaper interviewed me on the day of trick-or-treat. When the reporter asked where I got my costume, I opened my mouth to answer and that’s when the reality of the situation hit me. I laughed and responded, “I’m forty-four years old and my Mommy made it for me.” And that’s exactly how the front-page article read the following week.

And finally, Mom was a great source of cooking knowledge. One of the things I’m sure she would tell you is that if you are baking a mincemeat pie with a recipe that calls for one half cup of whiskey and you forget to add it before you put the top crust on, it’s not a good idea to lift the corner of the crust and pour the whiskey in. My cousin Fritz would argue that point. He got the slice with all the whiskey.

I hope these few memories of Mom bring a smile to your face and maybe even a chuckle. She would like that. She loved to laugh and smile. So wipe away your tears and smile and hold her memory close. Celebrate the time she spent with us. Take joy in knowing she was a part of all our lives.

To honor and celebrate my Mom’s life I offer you the following:

• Always love your children and your family. Know that they are the single most precious gift that you will ever receive and that you will ever give.

• If you find yourself sitting next to someone you don’t know, take the time to introduce yourself. Share a Mom story with them and enjoy a bit of humor in your stress filled life.

• Always set an extra plate for the stranger and pretty soon you’ll find out there really are no strangers after all, just people we haven’t gotten to know yet.

• At your next holiday meal, put the ketchup bottle on the table, even if you think it doesn’t go well with poached salmon.

• And last, when your family is gathered together for a holiday meal and it’s your turn to offer the blessing, do not be surprised if someone at the table is humming “do-wa-ditty, ditty-dum, ditty do.”

Remember my Mom in your hearts and she will live forever.

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