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Norma Jean

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Honoring the life of Norma Jean Reding.

St. Joseph's Catholic Church, in St. Joe, Iowa.

After a week of mourning the loss and celebrating the life of my dear mother, I’m sitting here looking at all of the photos of her, and smiling through tears at the wonderful flood of emotions I’m feeling. What a beautiful life she lived.

Mom passed away on Holy Thursday, April 18, 2019, from complications of Alzheimers, a cruel disease that slowly took her away from us. We are sad, but we know that she is now fully restored, and free of pain and confusion.

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Family was Mom’s #1 priority.

Norma Jean (Becker) Reding was born on June 15, 1937, the 9th of 14 children. She met Dad at a local dance, and the rest is history. They married in May of 1957, settled in St. Joe, Iowa, and proceeded to have six children – Lauri, Jackie, Dave, Shari, Sue (me), and Rob. Mom was a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom), and was the ultimate housewife and mother. I have vivid memories of her hanging the bedding outside on the clothesline, ironing everything we wore (even Dad’s “hankies”), cleaning our home twice weekly, making homemade casseroles to feed eight, mending our clothes, planning picnic lunches/family barbecues with relatives and friends, and making sure we were properly dressed and on-time for church.

Mom and Dad were married for almost 62 years. They were a traditional couple – Dad was self-employed and Mom took care of the house and kids. They loved each other up until the end, with Dad holding Mom’s hand as she took her final breath.

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Swaddled in Love

Over the years, Mom and Dad gained four son-in-laws and two daughter-in-laws, and then 15 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren (with one on the way). Grandchildren were so special to Mom, and even though her children moved far and wide, she and Dad were present to welcome each one of them to the world. Mom was a “baby whisperer’. She knew just how to rock them to sleep, and taught us new parents how to bathe, swaddle, and feed. I’ll never forget the trips to Dallas to meet their grandsons.

Family was everything to Mom. She gave all of herself to us, and she and Dad rushed to the side of their children whenever we needed them. There were sick babies, surgeries and illness, the death of their grandson, Ben, and other emergencies. They traveled for fun too – new houses to settle into, grandchildren’s birthdays, ballgames, and activities, and just because. Mom and Dad loved coming to visit us in Texas, and when I was still working, I’d come home to a kitchen full of homemade breads, rolls, and cookies. Let’s just say the boys were over the moon! Josh told me recently, “I’ll always remember her little quirks, like always making sure I was full.” 🙂

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Norma Jean’s Kitchen

This blog is dedicated to Mom, aka Norma Jean’s Kitchen. The kitchen was indeed her happy place, and we spent countless hours with her, scouring cookbooks for certain recipes, baking bread and cookies (along with full meals), and just having coffee at her kitchen bar. I’ve shared many of her recipes on here, most of them being her wonderful baked goods. I have so many favorites, but the collage above is pretty representative of Mom’s baking.

Mom’s love language was definitely food, and she gave away more than she kept at home to consume. When she baked bread and rolls, she made double batches so that we could deliver to the neighbors and the priests that lived across the street. Her freezer was always stocked with extras for when her grown children came home for a visit, or for the many drop-in friends and family. When people dropped in, a pot of coffee was brewed, and a few cookie balls were taken from the freezer and baked fresh. She was known for her hospitality, and she did it so well.

For the 56 years that Mom and Dad lived in St. Joe (in our childhood home), they played an active part in their parish community. Mom was often the head of her church group, parish dinner, or the monthly coffee and rolls after Sunday mass. She sang in the choir, distributed communion, and was a lector for weekend services. When volunteers were needed, Norma Jean was usually first in line.

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A “green thumb”

Norma Jean had the greenest of thumbs! She loved tending both her beautiful flower garden and vegetable gardens. Summertime was an exceptional time of year, and she shared her bounty of fresh garden produce with her friends and neighbors. Fresh lettuce, onions, radishes, beets, carrots, green beans, rhubarb, potatoes, cucumbers, and tomatoes GALORE! Dad got his fair share and then some, and Mom made sure his lettuce and cucumber salads had an excessive amount of vinegar and onions, just like he wanted. 🙂 I can picture her now, bent over in the garden getting every ripe veggie, bringing them into her kitchen, and then working her magic. Gosh, what I would give for another glimpse.

In the early years at the nursing home, Mom tended to the flowers on the deck, deadheading to the nth degree (and occasionally removing flowers instead of brown leaves). Eventually, that faded along with so many other things.

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Homemade Quilts and Potholders

Mom was lucky to be near to so many of her siblings. She loved her “sister time” (and sister-in-law time) – playing cards, sewing quilts, and cooking and baking together. All of us kids have a couple of her homemade quilts, and she made each of her grandchildren a special baby quilt at birth and a larger one for their high school graduation. Potholders were her specialty, and she gave many of those to her kids, grandkids, and other friends and family who happened to stop by.

When Mom started needing care her family showed up often, and we are beyond grateful for them.

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Home Sweet Home

Mom and Dad took pristine care of their home and yard, and it was evident each time we visited. We made so many great memories there, and while the house was small, we continued to congregate there as our family grew in size. “I’ll be home for Christmas” took on new meaning each year, and I’m so happy that my boys experienced this joy along with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Moving Mom and Dad out of their forever home started a difficult journey. Dad was failing physically, while Mom was becoming more and more confused. They eventually needed full-time care, and we reluctantly moved them into Good Sam’s Nursing Home, where our older sister works. Lauri has been our saving grace, being there for Mom and Dad whenever needed and then some. Our family is so spread out, and navigating the waters of time and distance has been tricky, and far from perfect. During Mom’s final moments and over the past week, Lauri’s diligent attention to the details of the Visitation and Funeral services, and her compassionate consideration of our dad and all of us, have left us extremely thankful.

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Deeply loved. May she rest in peace.

Our childhood home stands across from the beautiful St. Joe church; the place we were baptized, where we attended weekly (and sometimes daily) mass, where some of us were married, and the building that grounds us still today. Mom’s funeral took place here, and she was laid to rest in the cemetery behind the church (where my sister recently took this photo). It’s the same place we played as kids – flashlight tag and sledding down the hill – and also, the same place our family circled on countless walks for exercise or just to stroll and view our small village from the hillside.

I feel peace when I look at this beautiful sunrise, with that church steeple that we know and love. Our mother is finally at peace, and so deeply loved.

 

40 Comments

  1. Luke Kollasch says:

    As I read your account of your mother ….I seen a picture of a Life = in nature to my own mother . For the reader’s that do not know the Becker Family ….Norma & Lorene were sister’s , part of a family of (14) ! Wonderful memories , we are have so much to be Proud off …These Women set a Standard for Family Happiness .

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Hi Luke! The Becker family is a lot alike, and I know that Mom and Lorene had servant’s hearts. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Judy Buerkle says:

    What a legacy your mother has left you and your family! I love that you are carrying on in her footsteps as you share your recipes (and Norma Jean’s) along with your blog.

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Thank you so much, Judy. She was amazing!

  3. Liz Buscher says:

    That was simply beautiful! What amazing lady she was. I have special memories of her too. Thanks for sharing. Liz Buscher

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Thank you so much, Liz.

  4. Rita Frette says:

    Sue,
    What an awesome tribute to your Mom (my beloved Godmother Aunt Norma). We all were blessed to have had her in our lives. I know you will continue to honor her each time you make or share one of her recipes. I also have a set of her potholders and will celebrate Norma’s life each time I use them. We are strong women thanks to the influence of all 9 of the Becker sisters and of course Grandma Becker too. Wishing all of you peace and happiness. Rita

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Those Becker women (and men, of course) are the best! I was amazed at how many relatives came to her services, and many had to introduce themselves. Big families are pretty neat. Thanks Rita, for your kind words about Mom.

  5. Janet Buckendorf says:

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this hard part of your life..your mom sounded like a wonderful blessed woman!!!

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Thank you Janet. She was a pretty amazing lady, and will be greatly missed.

  6. A beautiful tribute Sue! Your words bring back so many of my own memories of a “simple” Iowa childhood. Like you, I feel so blessed! It is clear her influences and your memories have significantly impacted and will continue to guide your life journey. I’m sure the fact that you began this blog and website over a year ago has been a wonderful way for you to work through the ups, downs and emotions of the journey. Keeping you all in our hearts!

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Danalea. I know you get it. Small towns but everyone supports one another, so they feel BIG. Missing my mom so much, and yes, I’ll keep blogging about her. 🙂 Hugs!

  7. Kelly Tigges says:

    This tribute is so beautiful. I think most women could only hope to be as amazing as your mom was. Thank you for sharing. Blessings and prayers to you all.

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Thank you Kelly! ?

  8. Such a beautifully written tribute to your mom, so glad I got to meet both your parents when Ron and Janene hosted family events. Prayers and condolences to all your family. Thank you for sharing. Sherene

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Thank you Sherene! ♥️

  9. Sue, this is a beautifully written tribute to your mother. We lost our grandfather to alzheimer’s, and I know how difficult that battle is for the indivudual and family. I wish you peace and happiness.

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Thank you so much, Brandi! ?

  10. A beautifully written tribute to your mother and family.

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Thank you so much, Debbie. ??

  11. STAHR FREEDLE says:

    Sue, what a beautiful tribute to your much loved mother. Thank you for sharing a personal and phenomenal history of the mom that made you! Much love,
    Stahr*

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Thank you, Stahr! She was a phenomenal lady!

  12. Nancy Carlson says:

    Sue – I was very fortunate to meet your mom at Stephanie’s grad party. She had made these pinwheels of rice krispies and chocolate. These are usually made in a bar form. We call them scotcharoos. She took the time to explain to me the simple process on how to make them rolled. I did try and they turned out so so. Your moms were better.
    I love this blog and your sweet memories of your mom.

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Thank you so much, Nancy. Mom could do it all. ?

  13. Betty Koontz says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your Mom. Thanks for sharing the photos and wonderful memories you have of her. She was so loved ❤️

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Thank you so much, Betty! ?

  14. Sue Kollasch Jenkins says:

    Wonderful tribute! ❤️

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Thanks so much, Sue!

  15. Sue lallier says:

    Beautifully written Sue. I feel so lucky that ai knew her well also. I spent a lit of time i her kitcjen too.talking with her and chopping veggies or peeling potatoes while Shari may have been getting ready or if a Saturday doing the mandatory cleaning of her room. I remember her as a wonderful listener as well.i have a mutitude of hapoy memories in your St Joe home. I understand well the happy sad you are feeling right now as my my story of my mom is quite simikar to yours. Gods greatest blessings to you as yiur continue to remember ans celebrate her life. Susie

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Thanks Susie! I remember you being at our home too…eating Velveeta cheese and pickles with Shari. ?

  16. Really there are no words. A life well lived for the glory of God. Such a beautiful legacy. Thank you for sharing it with us ?

    1. Mary Jane says:

      Sue, my heart aches for you but what a touching testimony of your love for your mother and the life she lived. We are so blessed we have our memories of our loved ones. Praying for you and your family.

      1. Suebee Homemaker says:

        Thank you, Mary Jane!! ♥️

    2. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Thank you my friend! ?

  17. Jennifer Bauer says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Sue. Our Heavenly Father now enjoys the love, grace, green thumb, and culinary magic of His wonderful child and your mom will continue to watch over her loved ones until you meet again. My blessings, love, and support to you all. Thank you so much for sharing. Jennifer

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Thank you, Jennifer! ?

  18. Sue, what a beautiful tribute to your sweet mom. You have honored her well! You are blessed to have such a meaningful heritage in your mom and great legacy you get to carry out with your children! I know how greatly she will be missed! I am thankful for the memories and photographs you can treasure for ever!
    Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
    Love,
    Laura

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Thank you, Laura! I greatly appreciate your kind words.

  19. Beautiful, Sue. Miss my Mom and her busy little kitchen so much.

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Me too, Dave! ?

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