Thursday, September 9, 2010

Happy 90th to the Dudette!

Today is my mother-in-law's 90th birthday.  She has lived an amazing life - and continues to.  Here's a sampling -

Age 2
She was born in Frederick, Maryland when it was still a small, agricultural community.  Her father, a local doctor and instructor at Hood College's Nursing School, made his rounds by horse and buggy.  As they grew up the children learned to ask exactly what their father was teaching each day. When he covered the brain or digestive system they scrambled to find dinner invitations because his anatomical specimens, obtained from a local butcher, usually ended up on the dinner table.

Some summers she was sent to help her maternal uncle's family. No big thing, except they lived in Lander, Wyoming, quite a journey from her bucolic eastern home. She traveled alone by train and remembers magical visits and dramatic vistas. One morning shortly after her first arrival they were going riding. She donned her jodphurs, riding jacket and English helmet and walked out expecting to find the English saddle she rode at home. Instead she was greeted by uproarious laughter and immediately named the Dudette. At the week-end barn dances ranchers would swing her round and pass her on, her feet never touching the ground. She was welcomed by her uncle's in-laws each time she visited and adopted into their large, boisterous family. Years later she cemented the relationships by marrying into the family herself.

Lt. Dudette
When World War II broke out she enlisted as a Navy nurse and was stationed in the Pacific.  A petite woman, she didn't always have control of the recovering marines. They delighted in tucking her in a laundry hamper and racing around the halls. Her commanding officers were not amused, but I believe her laughter healed wounds.

After the war Lt. Dudette headed back to Wyoming where she worked for her uncle until slipping off to marry her aunt's very handsome nephew, also a Navy veteran back from the war. She outranked him, but he was determined to finish college and get a job far from the ranches where he'd toiled. They moved to Laramie, where she worked, while he went to school. They shared an uninsulated garage with their landlord's car. During the winter a wood stove kept them from freezing - barely.

Eventually her husband graduated and achieved his dream of a far away job - mapping the Persian Gulf, to be exact. The Dudette moved back to Maryland and went back to school to get her bachelor's degree. But that proved difficult. When her husband returned from the Gulf his government job demanded frequent moves - Georgia, Panama City, Maryland, Dallas, Chicago, Butte, St. Louis, Long Island. With each move she lost credits. But she persevered and graduated one semester before her son. She went on to do post-graduate work.

The Dudette was the only member of her family to move from Maryland and after decades of traveling the country she and her husband retired to Frederick. She and her five brothers and sisters have since lost their spouses, but they are a sturdy bunch and will gather this weekend to celebrate. And the day will be full of teasing, laughter and great love.

Happy, happy birthday.


  1. Happy Birthday Dudette.

    Wonderful story and bio.

  2. What a wonderful tribute to this lovely lady. Hope she has a beautiful 90th.

  3. She sounds like a wonderful lady. Happy Birthday, Dudette. And thanks for introducing her to us!


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