There was a show many years ago on TV, back in the late 40’s and early 50’s called: ‘I Remember Mama” It was a show about a Scandinavian Family, hard working people with Dick Van Patten as Nels, the oldest son. Based on Kathyrn Forbes's book "Mama's Bank Account", It started every show with:
"I remember the big white house on Steiner Street, and my little sister Dagmar, and my big brother Nels, and Papa. But most of all, I remember Mama." Included in the original cast was:
Peggy Wood as Marta Hansen
Judson Laire as Papa Lars Hansen
Rosemary Rice as Katrin Hanson
Ruth Gates as Aunt Jenny
Carl Frank as Uncle Gunnar Gunnerson
Alice Frost as Aunt Trina Gunnerson
Iris Mann as Dagmar Hansen (1949)
Robin Morgan as Dagmar Hansen (1950-1956)
Toni Campbell as Dagmar Hansen (1956 to 1957)
Kevin Coughlin as T.R. Ryan (1952-1956)
Malcolm Keen as Uncles Chris (1949-1951)
Patricia McCormack as Ingeborg (1953-1956)
Dick Van Patten as Nels Hansen (1949-57)
Roland Winters as Uncle Chris (1951-1952)
It was a great show that features true American values.
But today is not Peggy Wood I write about, but Helen Gurry. Helen was Mama, a loving mother, with old fashion values and a heart bigger than any wide opened space. She was a teacher, a parent, a mother-in-law, sage. When you saw Helen, you saw all there was, never trying to impress. Impress was not in her vocabulary.
Helen loved her grandchildren. When they showed up at her little bit of heaven, they took over the house. Her local grandchildren loved her like a mother: those from out of town did the same. She loved them all alike, without prejudice, without qualification.
She had 4 wonderful children, but you would think her in-law children were hers too.
TLW (The Little Woman) has told me stories how she would give her pots and pans to her children, and let them play in the mud. If you went into the family library, it was not uncommon to find pictures cut from books so her children could do a school report! Mary Margaret McBride’s cookbook was nothing but words, no longer pictures!
Often when I would show up, and there were grandchildren present, the living was converted into a camp ground, with make shift tents erected with the help of furniture and blankets! The kids, all interacting with each other, would enjoy the time, and would squeal with delight when Grandma Manning or Helen came by.
She wasn’t a great cook, but she wasn’t bad, just didn’t get into it like some women do. But she cooked from her heart: every spoonful was a ladle of love. She loved her Jim, a shoe salesman that built a wonderful family, a sense of respect for the world, and never allowed his kids to fight. On that shoe salesman’s salary, he sent four children to parochial high school! He loved his TV, especially the news programs and so enjoyed the Watergate hearings.
But Helen enjoyed all of life. You could find her singing out loud, or telling stories about her childhood, Picture a tree if you will. The trunk is a person(Helen), the branches: times of that her life, and the leaves, stories, many stories that sometimes never always got fully told because Helen went off on another story. Sometimes she would get back to the original story and everything was back in a neat bow!
There was the little known fact that she loved Superman comics, her father had a Pontiac (She pronounced it “PONT ti ac” and he would never allow someone to pass him on the road. She once got an obscene call, and before the caller could get started, she befriended him! Once she made a small infraction on the road, not fully stopping for a stop sign. She pulled into her driveway, as a policeman pulled up behind her. Her opening remark to him was: “And how are you, officer?”
Her kindness was quickly forcing me out of my home. It seemed every time my kids saw her, she took them to a store and bought them a toy! It got so bad: I had to ask TLW to ask her mother to stop.
When the family got together, she would listen, often adding to the conversation, and laughing, while everyone would get the giggles from it.
When her sister Mary visited with her husband Uncle Eddy, Helen would keep the wine line flowing, and Uncle Eddy would get redder than a beet, but was always fun and a gentleman.
Today is Helen’s birthday. She is missed everyday of the year. To this day, TLW would want to call her because of some thing that happened, and then sadly would realize, she is no longer aa part of us on earth.
I think Helen lives on strongly, without a doubt, and will continue to.
God bless you Helen.