On this date 101 years ago someone very special was born. She was a woman that adored her family. She loved to travel to new places. She cherished music, especially the piano. On August 17th, 1907 my Great Grandmother Berenice Kimm Mayhew Kanke was born. She grew up as an only child and married Rex Mayhew to which four children were born. James, Joyce, Mary, and John had great childhoods living in Blairstown, Iowa. Unfortunately, she lost her beloved husband Rex suddenly in 1952. After his death, she became a teacher in several districts. She later married Ronald Kanke, whom passed in 1981.
She love politics and was a proud Democrat. She lobbied for the creation of the community college system and constantly encouraged her grand and great grandchildren to always learn.
She passed away in the early morning of February 21, 2001. This day was one of my most memorable. I was in college in Dubuque, and our family kept my cousin (also studying at Loras) and I informed on her health, as it had been deteriorating over the previous month. When I got the call around 5:30 a.m. that morning I looked outside and a very gentle snow had started to fall. I knew she was back with her parents, great-grandpa Rex, the other relatives she had lost, and God.
Her memorial service was scheduled on March 1, 2001. I was to be on my way to Spain for a spring break trip, so I decided to not cancel the trip. She wouldn't have approved of me missing a grand trip like that, and it brilliant.
"Grandma B" has been one of the biggest influences on my life. During November of 2001 I gave a speech on Family Day at Loras College about her enormous impact on my life. She showed me how intellectual growth fueled a fulfilling life. She showed me how wrong it is to be a Republican (although I didn't learn that lesson for two more years), and how important and beautiful family is.
After her death so much changed (for the better) in my life. I learned how important family is. How my travels around the world are the best way to learn. How to appreciate the arts. And how to find my own way of creativity (this blog).
It is so hard to believe that "Grandma B" has been gone for over seven years. I remember one of my last conversations with her around Christmas of that year, while she was living in an assisted living community. She held my hand with her cold fingers and caressed my arm. She told me how much she loves her family and their visits. How "Mayhew's are always Democrats." And how proud she was of my accomplishments. I still feel her touch to this day and I know her spirit is still in my heart.
I love you "Grandma B."