Feisty grandmother was ‘honest and upright’
By Denise Baran-Unland Correspondent December 30, 2012 8:26PM
Updated: February 1, 2013 6:12AM
Many 90-year-old women are content to put up their feet and embrace retirement. Not Joliet resident Marie Richards. On her 90th birthday, Marie went to Florida to swim with the dolphins.
Feisty and outspoken, but never rude (“You stinker” was the harshest expression Marie ever used), Marie had no qualms about pouring her husband’s whiskey down the sink (“It’s good for the plumbing, Gerald”), defending her tidy house (“A place for everything and everything in its place”) and bemoaning the lack of sense in modern youth (“Kids today have more opportunities to do great things than when I was a child but they choose to do less with these advantages”).
So, it should be no surprise that, at 91, the 5-foot, 1-inch Marie, a regular bowler with a 204 high game, required no cane, only a little pillow while driving so she could see over the steering wheel and reach the pedals. Her great-granddaughter Joanne Knowles of Texas marveled at Marie’s “all encompassing wisdom, years of experience and Aphrodite-like beauty.”
“The best piece of advice she gave was to be true, honest and upright, to do unto others as I would have them do unto me,” Joanne said. “She was the essence of perfection.”
Born on May 8, 1914 in South Wilmington, Marie fondly remembered the Depression Era because those were the years she bore and raised her family. Unlike many women of that time Marie, a 1934 graduate of St. Joseph School of Nursing in Joliet, worked a day shift as an industrial nurse at U.S. Steel in Joliet while simultaneously caring for her family.
In retirement, Marie bestowed that same empathy on her community. During the 15 years she lived in Colorado, Marie volunteered for at Friends of St. Andrew’s Outreach Commission; when she returned to Joliet she delivered Meals on Wheels. A hard worker always, when Marie died on Nov. 29 at the age of 98, she left behind a legacy of faithful love to family, friends and God.
Joanne remembers the summer she helped Marie, then 89, volunteer at a nursing home. Although other volunteers occasionally became frustrated with some of the residents, Marie consistently demonstrated respect and patient listening toward them, especially one particular black woman who “threw a fit” over everything.
One particular day when this resident was fussing over the meal selection, Marie gently took her by the arm and led her into the hall. They soon returned to the cafeteria, walking hand in hand. After the resident finished her dinner, she told Marie, “You my milk chocolate sister.”
“I’m not exactly sure what a milk chocolate sister is,” Joanne said, “but from that day forward, the woman had a friend in my grandmother and was happier because of it. I’ll never know what my grandma said to her that day in the hallway, but it had to be deep to turn a sinister old lady into her ‘milk chocolate sister.’”
Contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at
815-467-5249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.