I want to share a memory which is so important to me. When you graduated from the University of Tennessee, we had lunch together. You told me that some of your peers were going to Irak to fight in that war to ensure freedom for future generations. You stated that you could not kill anyone, so you decided to give back and serve in another way. We were enjoying our lunch at a cafe on Parkwest Boulevard, a few blocks away from my work. This was most unusual for me to leave the office for lunch. I will never forget what you told me there. You said you had joined the Peace Corps to give back to the world for all of the opportunities for success that were given to you. I was quite taken back, but most certainly understood your motivation. Your spirit is so peaceful. Your kindness resonates with your decisions and actions. I am using the present tense for those two sentences because the statements were true then and are certainly true and authentic now. I was speechless for a bit. I said I understood.

After a few months, while you worked with your brother, Erich, you prepared to depart for Uganda. The day arrived for your departure to go across the world with only a huge back pack and new comfortable clothing that you Dad bought for you to travel in. I stood there at the Magee Tyson airport walkway to hug you and kiss you goodbye. This image is etched in my mind forever. Once again the present tense, as I am seeing you now in my mind’s eye with tears again. I was so proud of you, Michael.

I spent the next two years in quiet Monday mornings at 5:00 a.m. on my knees praying at the Adoration Chapel at our church, St. John Neumann in Farragut Tennessee. I trusted that you would be safe. I whispered a prayer every day, that made me realize that other parents were dealing with their adult children in the military life facing death and injury, while my Son was also in danger of another sort. But I believed that you were safer where you were stationed in Uganda. I know there were dangers and rebels hiding there. You used your intelligence and good choices to remain safe.

You painted murals to help the people there to learn about AIDS disease. I would love to see those murals. How amazing it was to have had influenced so many people with positive direction. You managed to provide computers and the wiring to help the children learn in their schools even when time and time again, the copper wiring was taken down.

Fortunately, you found a way to call me from Uganda to let me hear your voice and talk about what you were doing each week. I was able to send packages of food to you. The delicacies of Spam and Tuna were your staples. The simple life. The amazing life. The perpetual impact of your service was remarkable and outstanding.

You found a treasure there. In your exercise of giving back, your altruistic spirit led you to another. In this far away place filled with adventure and hard work, you found your soul mate. The gift of yourself brought

the gift of love to you. Congratulations, Michael. You are my gift also. Happy Birthday, Son!

i remember when i was ta little girl and awoke at night feeling afraid. I would go to my parents ‘ bedroom and slip into their bed, at the bottom of the bed to fall asleep again. My Dad did not like that i did that. My Mom said it was fine. I am so very grateful that Mom understood my fears. I mention this because i believe that children need to be near their parents. It is the reason that when a parent passes on to the next life, that I believe that the emptiness is never filled. Those of us that have lost our parents, continue on and remember everything from our young years. The older we become, the more memories return.That is what fills the void. It is a unique process that repeats itself for generations. The Family unit is the most important Human treasure. As i become the next generation of my family to depart the earth, I am acutely aware of how short life is. I am emboldened by the fortitude and strength of my children and their families. I see ahead of time, what is transpiring before my eyes. Each person is becoming their own person. Each individual is a shining example of what a person can become if only they try to do their best and put others first. Altruistic is the quality to strive for. I see them doing this and becoming quite skilled at putting others first. It is exhausting. I know that. It is rewarding and empowering. Part of myself is within their hearts. Their hearts are inside my own heart. That is the reason I wake up each morning for a few more mornings with a Grateful Heart. I choose to leave my heart with my family. I love you all so much.

As you well know, I named you after your Uncle Jack, who was in the Army in Vietnam during the time of your birth. Little did I know then, of how your courage matched his own courage. I know it now. I am so touched by your strength and will power to get things done.

Jackie, you have raised three wonderful sons who exemplify your moral code. It does not go unnoticed that you were instrumental in the seamless moving about that our family accomplished through the years. You had attended four different high schools as we moved from state to state for employment purposes. You never complained. You just did what it took to get it done.

I am remembering, as I most often due these days, that your were born on Memorial Day almost 50 years ago. As a little girl, you marched in parades to celebrate the 4th of July, Memorial Day Parade etc. Your smile was so infectious and beautiful.

I am thinking of how you had the courage to return to college and study, and study very hard to achieve your goal of becoming a surgical tech, and at the same time raising the boys alone. You raised the bar for all of us.

What most people comment about you is your wonderful attitude and your chuckles and laughter because you have a great sense of humor. You seem to look beyond the difficulties and find fun wherever life takes you. You have the unique talent of letting things go where they will, pick it up and go on.

I am remembering how close you were to your Grandfather, Pappa and to your Grandmother, Mamma. I remember a particular event when someone in your high school tried to hurt you and Susan came to your rescue, and then Mamma and Pappa drove down from Cincinnati to make sure you were alright. You have been through some things. You always rose above it. How many other Mothers could have handled the deployment of their Son to Irac and carry on with so many responsibilities?

I look to you so often for help with decision making and advice. How is that, that a young woman can be so far ahead of her Mom in those respects? I think it is your birth right. Being first-born, you had to learn the lessons of life early on. Thank you for taking me along with you on the journey.

You have some more adventures awaiting you. I will have much joy watching all of your achievements and the empathy you extend to your family and medical associates. You are amazing!

Love, Mom

I am remembering the day that Susan entered into the world. After laboring for many hours, I awakened to hear that our beautiful baby girl was just born. I named this little one, Susan after my Great Grandmother, Suzanne Baumgartner, the mother of my Grandmother, Katy Murphy. Grandma Baumgartner was a remarkable woman as were so many of the women in our family. Unfortunately, she had maccular degeneration and became blind. She would move from home to home for her adult children to take turns watching over her. When I was lucky enough to visit her at my Grandmother’s house, I would sit at her feet and look up into her face. She loved children and welcomed any little people to come sit with her. She was able to do her own hand laundry and would wash her handkerchief and place it on her head to dry. Pretty amazing. She had unique qualities of resilience, fortitude and kindness.

When Susan was very young, she also visited her Great Grandmother’s house. Great-great Grandmother had already passed. Susan seemed to float around the house as if she belonged there; she spent lots of time in the yard and gave nuts to the squirrels. She seemed to know that part of her heritage lived there in that place on earth. There is a feeling that I was aware that Susan was a reflection of her Great Great Grandmother, Suzanne. Of note, little Susan was also in her Great Grandmother’s house when Mom Murphy (as we called her) passed away at 93 years of age.

I have a story that I would like to tell. When Susan was 2 years old, we lived in an apartment in Cincinnati. We loved to go to the outdoor pool. Susan was very curious and had been walking since she was 10 months old. She was very tiny and everyone could not take their eyes off this beautiful toddler. Without notice, she jumped into the pool at the deep end which was six feet deep. She could not swim. I could not swim either. I jumped into the water and grabbed Susan and held her above my head. My height is only 5 feet, so you can imagine where my head was. A young man saw us struggling and he jumped in and helped us to get to the side of the pool and lifted us up and out to safety. My only thought was to save Susan. I saw the water all around us. But I stood still under the water to hold Susan above the water. I am so grateful that someone was there to lift us up and out.

As I mentioned, the women in our family have some very unique qualities of resilience, fortitude and kindness coupled with an exquisite cognitive brilliance, hidden but always available. It seems that I captured some of the crystal ball intuition and named this precious child perfectly.

Susan, I am speaking to you now, through my writings, to praise your own resilience and your unstoppable drive to change the world and always do the right thing, even when no one is watching. You have gently continued the generations that your Great Grandmothers began for you. It is not unnoticed, that you appeared on this earth at a momentous time, well-equipped for success and fulfillment and a luminous directive for all of us. Thank you, Suz.

Love, Mom

I am thinking of two years ago when five beautiful people, five loving children, took the time out of their busy schedules to celebrate my 70th birthday. If you are wondering why it took me almost two years to write, you should know that I always meant to write about my gratitude and heart felt thanks. Considering the events of this past year, I believe it is time to write before time is up. That sounds so dramatic. Time is only a subjective measurement. There will always be “time” to do things, but since I am watching the terrible events in Washington D. C. with the failed attempt at insurrection and simultaneously watching the terrible and fatal corona virus infections spreading across the nation and the world, I realize that my small voice can whisper.

Now I know how important that special day really is. Jackie, first born, organized the surprise for all of her siblings to meet at our house on the Sunday after my birthday . She selected the date, a week after my birth date, to create a surprise for me. She also learned that Mary Jane would be in Knoxville at that time to attend a friend’s wedding. I understand that Michael purchased airline tickets to fly into Knoxville for the celebration. So two children flew in from Seattle. Jackie drove 10 hours from Pennsylvania and surprised me on Sunday morning. Susan organized her schedule to arrive at the house at the same time. I am not sure how she did that! Erich was overseas in Greece for business and changed his return to trip to add to the surprise. And Fred, unbeknownst to me, kept the secret. Every once in a while he would ask about Mary Jane’s arrival time in Knoxville. He would ask me if i had talked to Mike. I had told everyone that i didn’t require anything special on this year’s birthday. Isn’t that funny!

The following is a description of how it all happened on that day. Jackie drove to Knoxville with birthday surprises. Mary Jane was there with Susan; we were laughing and talking. After taking some photos, I turned around and couldn’t believe my eyes! Michael was standing in the family room smiling. I realized then, why Jackie wanted to wait a while to take some photos, She was waiting for Michael to get here. Truly magical!

I was so happy, I cried tears of joy, and felt like I was in a wonderful dream world. Michael spent the night at the house. We spent time talking and laughing and then driving to the breakfast party they had planned. When I walked into the First Watch Restaurant, I could hardly believe what I was seeing: All five children, Will and Susan, Erich and Shannon, Michael, Jackie, Mary Jane. We stayed a long while. It was so fun for all of us.

My most precious people. Part of me. Part of all of us. The bond that is everlasting. As Michael so poetically tells me: “We are all one, like waves in the ocean.” My interpretation is like the waves coming and going, splashing and lifting up, gently rolling in and out with the tide of life.

Grateful heart, indeed. Thank you, each of you for giving me purpose, giving me worth. For so long I’ve been chasing that dream. The dream is coming true.

Love you all,


Mary Jane came into the world on June 18, 1986. Three days before this day, I went to the Shrine of the Blessed Mother in Baltimore, Maryland. I am not sure what the name of the shrine is, but I do know that the Catholic Nuns were there greeting us. Mary Jane’s Dad and Mamma were with me. The plan was to walk as much as I could so that this little baby would come early. I am recalling that all of her siblings were there with us. The plan worked. Mary Jane came into the world two weeks earlier than expected. Joyfully! The hospital’s name was GBMC for Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

Now for the memories of the early days…Mary Jane was born in Baltimore, Maryland. She spent the first three months of her brand new life in Baltimore. She shared a room with her oldest sister, Jackie. The crib was in Jackie’s room. The bassinet was in her parents’ bedroom. There were some busy things going on at this time. It was Susan’s 13th birthday, Mary Jane’s sister. Susan was so accommodating about this. We were all so happy that Mary Jane arrived. Erich held her quite a lot in those early months. Michael amused little Mary with toys. Jackie and Susan took turns holding her so that I could get things done around the house. The house went up for sale; Mary Jane’s Dad accepted a job in Bowdon, Georgia.

Mary Jane spent her first year in a small rural town of Bowdon, Georgia. She took daily stroller rides and spent a lot of time outdoors. Every day she had a pretty dress and bonnet on. As her Mom, I had so much fun changing her clothes and going for walks for exercise and a little change of pace. Her siblings were in school during the daytime hours. Mary Jane’s bedroom was a little room at the front of an old kind of vintage house that the owner of the Bowdon Manufacturing Co. owned. I spent many hours at night in there with her, rocking and singing lullabies to her. Singing all of the songs that I had sung to her siblings for so many years. Mary Jane was such a sweet baby girl. She had riding toys and push toys and learned to walk there.

When Mary Jane was 1 1/2 years old, we moved to Knoxville, Tennessee. We lived in a big house in the suburbs and she had her own bedroom there. We spent lots of time outdoors. Mary loved playing in the sand box that was attached to the tree house that her Dad had built.

Mary Jane’s Mamma and Pappa would drive from Cincinnati to visit almost every month. We would all go to the Smoky Mountains and have picnics at the Chimney Tops camp grounds. Mamma would sit with Mary Jane in her little bedroom and sing nursery rhyme songs to her. One of her favorite other songs was “Take me out to the Ball Game, take me out to the crowd….”I have a tape recording of Mamma and Mary’s voices doing just that.

Kindergarten was a real experience for Mary Jane. One day when I went into the cafeteria to have lunch with her, the lunch lady said, are you Mary Jane’s Mom? I smiled and said Yes. She said she was glad to meet me because Mary Jane was such a sweet girl. At times, I sneaked into the hallway to look into the window of Mary Jane’s classroom. To my surprise, she was always sitting on the teacher’s lap at the front of the room. This was Mary’s first time away from me. Mary Jane’s Mamma had just moved back to Cincinnati and there was some sadness that her kindergarten teacher tried to help her with. I am so grateful for that act of kindness beyond the call of duty for that sweet kindergarten teacher. Her name escapes me, but with a little research, I am confident I can locate her name.

Mary Jane rode the school bus every morning with her brother, Michael whom was in Middle School. Erich, Susan and Jackie rode a later bus. The school system was Knox County Schools, Farragut, Tennessee. Mary Jane’s primary school experience was a normal one of learning to read and write and enjoy recess with her friends. There was a Fall Festival that we enjoyed going to with games and treats. Valentine’s Day was always a super fun day with cards and candies.

Mary’s home after school time was usually spent playing with kitties that we kept in our garage with newborn baby kitties coming every season. Her pet cat’s name was Cotton. She was white and so fluffy.

Some of Mary Jane’s favorite toys were her kitchen set and pots and pans and a table of Play Dough and cookie cutters. She would make pretend cookies and dinners. She had an Easy Bake Oven. Mary had many dolls and stuffed animals. Her favorite doll was the American Girl doll. She also had a Raggedy Ann doll that her great Aunt Evelyn had made for her. It was beautifully made by hand.

Easter time was always a fun time for Mary. She would carry her Easter Basket all around her Aunt Janie’s yard and pick up all of the plastic eggs that she could collect. Her brothers and sisters helped her get the most prizes.

At Christmas time, Santa would always arrive at Mamma and Pappa’s house in Cincinnati. Mary was the youngest of all of the kids, so she got to sit on Santa’s lap. It was quite a show! For many years we traveled to Cincinnati for Christmas so that we could celebrate with our families. Even so long ago, Mary Jane was the one child that knitted our family so close to each other. She has always been about family and to this day, tries to make sure we stay close.

Mary Jane made her First Holy Communion when she was in the second grade. She wore a white lace dress and veil. Truly angelic to my eyes. She studied and learned the prayers for this momentous event while attending Religious Education classes at St. John Neumann church in Farragut, Tennessee. It was a beautiful day! The Tiny Dancer song comes to mind.

Mary Jane was the Flower Girl in Susan and Will’s wedding that took place in Cades Cove. She dropped rose petals along the aisle walking ahead of her sister, Susan. She wore a pink lace dress that her Aunt Janie made for her. I still have the pretty dress. Susan and Mary Jane played school together in her youngest years. That was so fun to watch.

Mary Jane was a traveling child, riding with me to Cincinnati to visit her grandparents and helping me to take care of her Mamma and Pappa when they became ill. Mary Jane sat at the kitchen table with Pappa and ate Cherrios with him and hummed little tunes when she ate. We thought that was so cute. She rode around in Mamma’s wheelchair and had fun doing that. For a year after Pappa passed away, Mamma came to live with us and Mary Jane helped to get things for Mamma because Mamma could not walk. When Mamma moved back to her home in Cincinnati, Mary Jane started Kindergarten.

Mary Jane’s Middle School years were very active times. She traveled to Nashville with a group of Talented and Gifted students, of which she belonged to that group. I traveled there with her and was amazed at the projects and themes that her group participated in. The one proposal that is most remarkable to me was the theory presented that paper money would be an outdated mode of buying and paying for things. And as we see now, they were exactly correct with this theory.

Mary Jane’s High School years were exciting ones. She ran on the track team and I watched her run on sunny and rainy days. As I recall, her strength was in the relay races. Mary Jane had flat feet, but ran skillfully anyway. Her height is 5’2″ and she ran like a deer! Pretty awesome! Mary Jane had some very amazing friends in High School and they all held the academic part of their education as a priority. There were proms and dances and Mary Jane was escorted to all of those happy events. Mary Jane learned to drive. I taught that lesson to her. I was able to purchase an older car. Honda Accord. But it was a stick shift and her toes could not reach the pedals. So I gave my Kia to her to use and I drove the Honda. That worked just fine. Mary Jane’s graduation was so fabulous. She earned the Hope Scholarship for merit and academic grade point average. So proud of her accomplishment!. I must include that during her Junior and Senior years, she also worked almost 30 hours a week at Manjia’s pizza, a family owed restaurant in Farragut. Her grades remained high and she was able to achieve both the goals of earning money and studying. During the summer after her graduation, Mary Jane worked as an Intern for the GE company. This seems to be her first stepping stone towards the wonderful career path that she has built for herself and is now enjoying rich experiences in Environmental preservation in an effort to save the earth.

Mary Jane continued her educational process by obtaining her Masters Degree. Learning is her way of life. Sharing the learning is a gift that anyone who knows Mary Jane receives without reservation. Thank you for being the person that you continue to create each and every day.

So, Mike, that’s how this generation begins conversation. I think it is very thought provoking to say “so”…The year 2020 has been such an interesting one for you. I have watched you and Jaime buy your first home in Seattle. I have watched you continue your Marathon training, even doing your own personal marathons as the scheduled ones are on pause, because of COVID-19 restrictions that canceled various planned runs. You have taken all of this in your stride.

I have watched you spend extra time with your boys, teaching them skills that only Life Experience can give. I have been the recipient of countless acts of your kindness, always putting my best interest at heart. As the singer, Elton John says it best, in the Circle of Life, “Never take more than you give.” In that statement, I see you, Michael.

We will walk, jog, run, hike together as a family not separated by miles and time. In our existence, and on our level of humanity, we know what is really important in life. We are all part of each other.

Thank you, Son, for giving me wonderful memories to cherish. I usually go on and on about your childhood and my dreams for you. I spared you this time in 2020, chuckling that you already know my dreams for you. You see, so you see, my dreams are coming true. I love you, Michael. Happy 39th Birthday!

When you tell a friend that you do care and the “friend” answers “Doubtful” I can only say that if a friendship can end, there never ever was a true friendship.

Feeling weak is the same as feeling strong.  Just never give up.  That is the Strength and the Legacy that Cecil and Minnie gave to the world. They gave this freely, as an exemplary action and indeed a legacy to all of us lucky enough to have walked along side of them.

During the years that they walked on this earth, each one of them reflected the listening of our  Creator.One sparkling talent and gift to us was and still is their willingness to listen…with eyes wide open, facial expressions glowing, and countenance smiling.

Hand in hand they walk another path that all of us will also tread.  Pausing to reflect the moments we shared with them will help us to navigate to home.  Our hearts and minds are half-way there. Embrace this thought.

On August 3, 1981, the world as we knew it, changed. A little baby boy was born at Bethesda Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. His entrance swept up 18 hours of earthly time, taking his own time coming into the world. Well worth the wait! When my eyes saw the little one, I smiled and smiled again. He had a small dunsel cap on his head, Some people call it a tobagan. Some kind person crocheted the cap. He looked so cozy and warm. The nurses only allowed me to hold Michael for a few minutes in those first moments of bonding. I was told that his blood sugar level was low, and that he would need some glucose water. I gave him to the nurse, and waited. In an hour or so, to the best of my recollection, I held Michael in my arms once again. I fed him and cuddled him close to me. The short stay at Bethesda Hospital was without problems. He just had a small case of higher than acceptable bilirubin. He presented with some yellow jaundice, but we were able to take him home. With some exposure to sunlight, he recovered from the jaundice quite nicely. Michael had dark beautiful hair. He had chubby cheeks and a ruddy complexion. He was so beautiful.

His first week at home was uneventful and filled with calmness and sleeping a lot. His brother and sisters took turns holding him and rocking him and just in general having fun with a new baby in the house. We all held Michael a lot in those days. He was so easy to handle and was so animated when he saw our faces.

A funny turn of events brought the calm to a halt, when our former neighbors from Knoxville, Tennessee surprised us with a visit when Michael was only 5 days old. They arrived unannounced and asked if they could spend the night at our house. We said okay, but we were not ready for company. Little did we know that they had a billy goat in their truck and it spent the night in our garage. There was a sizeable amount of discord that evening. Or should I say arguing? Finally, Michael’s Dad told them they would have to leave, as we were all exhausted. Needless to say, we never saw them again. The unexpected can be over the top, so to speak.

On a much lighter note, our lives did change. Michael brought laughter and joy to all of us every day. I cannot remember a time that we ever had to say no to Michael. I do recall that his first kindergarten teacher in Bowden Georgia told me on Parent Conference, that Michael was always pleasant and cheerful, and that she knew that his needs were always met at home. That was a huge compliment and never forgotten. Michael went to kindergarten again in Knoxville, Tennessee when we returned to live there. He continued to change lives wherever he went. And yes, the beat goes on.

Happy Birthday, Michael Karl Maelzer, on your 37th fabulous birthday! Love, Mom

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