I was in Tulsa recovering from my niece’s wedding when my cell photo rang at 7:10 a.m.
The call was brief and to the point: “This is the Lutheran Home. Your mother died this morning at 7 o’clock. She was fine when we checked on her throughout the night, but she was dead when we went to dress her for breakfast.”
What made the call a particular surprise was that she had rallied in the last month: her appetite had come back, she was gaining weight, her physical therapy was moving along, she was the patient the staff enjoyed hanging out with because she would joke and tease them.
When my sons and grandsons came through town, she regaled them with stories I had never heard before. (Not every mother has stolen a dump truck. Or, specified that a suitor write her letters only in a specific color of ink that wasn’t available locally.) When I spoke to her at 8 p.m. Sunday night to tell her that I was going to be stuck in Tulsa for another day because of car trouble, her voice was strong.
Maybe she had been holding on until she saw her family one last time. She didn’t make it to Tulsa for the wedding, but she DID get to have a Facetime session with the bride and groom right after the ceremony.
I spent the next hour notifying family, close friends and neighbors. I managed to get through the process with only a few tissues – the room must have been dusty – and a few fishbones stuck in my throat.
It’s going to be the little things
It’s going to be the little things that hit me.
On the way back to Cape, we passed through a bunch of towns – Mountain View, Ellsinore, Poplar Bluff – whose names I could remember because Dad had pulled our house trailer with its folding white picket fence to them so we could live near his jobs. I know there are more of them, but it hit me hard that I have nobody left who can fill in the blanks.
Dad died in 1977
I had always wanted to sit down with Dad and a map of the region to have him fill in all the roads, bridges, sewer lines, airfields and dams he had built. Who would expect a man 60 to keel over and be dead while building a sandbox for your kid? That’s another hole in my life.
This afternoon, while editing this piece, the nap magnet snatched me up. While I was setting my alarm for a 22-minute nap, I saw two alarms I can delete. One of them was for 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. That was to remind me to turn on the Wheel of Fortune. Once Mother got strong enough mentally and physically that she didn’t need me to be literally holding her hand all the time, she’d say, “Why don’t you take a nap until this is over?” She didn’t have to ask me twice.
I will never watch The Wheel again so long as I live.
The Sunday Night 7:30 call
The other alarm is going to be harder to delete. For most of my adult life, no matter where I was, I called Cape at 7:30 on Sunday evenings to check in. Steinhoffs don’t talk long. Rarely did our conversations stretch more than 10 minutes. Dad was always interested in what stories I was covering and what was going on with my job. It took a long time for me to get past wanting to share those things with him. I still wish I could give him a ring for advice from time to time.
Mother’s conversations would generally be about the weather, what her friends were doing, the price of gas, what was going on with the other family members. She also was a person who didn’t say “Good bye.” When she was done talking, she was done, and you’d be listening to dial tone. It was a trait that was passed on to me. My guys would say, “You’d better say it fast, and you’d better not sound like the call is wrapping up, or the next thing you’ll hear is a click.”
Maybe I’ll leave that one around for awhile. I won’t set it, but it’ll always be there.
Several years ago, Mother told Wife Lila what she wanted to happen when she was gone. She wanted no church service, no sad music (specifically banning Amazing Grace, one of my favorites), no big hoopla, she wanted a bunch of balloons released at the graveside, and she wanted to wear her favorite dress.
We’re going to gather at Ford and Sons Funeral Home on Mount Auburn Road from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24. Since nearly all of her peers have already moved on to gossip and quibble from perches on clouds, we don’t expect a lot of people to show up. We’re having an informal service – no ministers, no funeral director, and no set program. We may just sit around sharing memories and stories.
After I posted the news on Facebook Monday, I received an unbelievable flood of comments from many of you who recalled stories I had almost forgotten. I sense that Mary Welch Steinhoff was the mother everybody wished they had. She claimed that she didn’t like perfect strangers coming up to her in stores asking, “Aren’t you Ken’s Mom?” but she really loved the attention.
Here’s the formal information from the obit I wrote:
Mary Lee Welch Steinhoff, 93, of 1618 Kingsway Drive, died Monday, June 22, at the Lutheran Home. She was born Oct. 17, 1921, in Stoddard County, the daughter of Roy and Elsie Adkins Welch.
She and L.V. Steinhoff were married Jan. 7, 1942. He died in 1977. A brother, Kenneth Welch, died in 1935.
She is survived by three sons: Kenneth L. Steinhoff (Lila), West Palm Beach, Fla.; David L. Steinhoff (Diane), Tulsa, OK.; Mark L. Steinhoff (Robin), St. Louis. She had four grandchildren: Matthew (Sarah) and Adam (Carly), Florida; Kimberly Tisdale (Casey), Austin, TX, and Amy Hawkins (Ian), Dallas, TX.
She had four great-grandsons: Malcolm, Graham, Elliot and Finn Steinhoff of Florida, and three great-granddaughters: Brynn, Taylor and Emery Tisdale of Austin, TX.
Mary Steinhoff was a housewife, but she has become well known for the tales told about her in her son’s blog.
Visitation and an informal service will be held from noon until 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 24, at Ford and Sons Funeral Home on Mount Auburn Road. She will be buried in New Lorimier Cemetery next to L.V. Steinhoff.
Holy cow! That’s a lot of posts
I can understand why my readers feel like they know Mother. Here’s a partial list of the posts I’ve done on her. They are arranged by date.
- October 16, 2008 – It’s Mother’s Birthday Season
- Mother’s Birthday Season 2009 – Renewing her license
- March 29, 2010 – Favorite story: how Mother lost her arm
- April 2, 2010 – Mother remembers the spring on Bloomfield Road
- October 18, 2010 – Mother gets an iPad for her 89th
- Nov. 26, 2010 – Family adds shoes to the Perkins Shoe Tree (Pole)
- Dec. 14, 2010 – Christmas at the Steinhoffs in 1969
- April 3, 2011 – Mother with Abe Lincoln
- April 4, 2011 – Mother hooks up with Elvis – declares him “stiff”
- April 6, 2011 – Mother survives our Florida – Missouri road trip
- July 4, 2011 – Mother shows how to handle fireworks
- August 23, 2011 – Mother collects autographs from everyone (almost) in Advance
- September 3, 2011 – Advance school photos from the ’30s
- September 4, 2011 – Mother and the Advance Glee Club
- September 8, 2011 – Mother shoots the SEMO Fair
- October 15, 2011 – Mother’s 90th Day 1
- October 16, 2011 – Mother’s 90th birthday party
- Jan. 25, 2012 – Mother and Dad in the back yard
- May 12, 2012 – What?! Mother had a life before I arrived?
- August 8, 2012 – Chairs through the years
- Nov. 16, 2012 – Mother’s gone nuts over pecans
- Nov. 20, 2011 – Pulling the plug on Mother
- May 18, 2012 – Mother and the Belly-Up Bar
- October 17, 2012 – Birthday Season at Altenburg museum
- Dec. 25, 2012 – St. Louis Christmas Y2K
- Jan. 6, 2013 – Photos of my parents on their Florida honeymoon 71 years ago
- May 12, 2013 – “Not enough words” – a collection of photos
- July 22, 2013 – Birthday Season starts early
- October 18, 2013 – Blowing out the candles
- April 18, 2014 – Mother’s Easter decorations
- April 27, 2014 – Mother gets fencing lesson
- May 9, 2014 – Mother and the hedge clipper
- July 4, 2014 – The Flag is where you have your photo taken
- July 29, 2014 – Mother and the Class of ’66
- August 3, 2014 – Cutting up with Neighbor Rhonda
- September 14, 2014 – Mother pursues the wild pine cone
- October 17, 2014 – Birthday Season Birthday Season 92-364/365ths
- February 12, 2015 – “She’s a tough bird”
- February. 27, 2015 – Circle of friends shrinks
- May 21/2015 – Thanks for all the cards.
- June 18, 2015 – Four generations of Steinhoffs visit
56 Replies to “Mary Welch Steinhoff 1921 – 2015”
Very nice. No further words needed.
This is just about as special as special can be. Multi-faceted. What a life…
Beautiful tribute, Ken. She would object, but love every word and picture!
I remember you telling me the story about your mom losing her arm. I totally fell for it. She sounds like amazing, fun lady. I’ll miss the stories about her.
Your mother left a wonderful legacy in her son’s and their families. She lived an amazing life and did it her way. I only hope to be as full of live as she was and go on to my next journey with the grace that she was able to do it! Your heart will be full of memories and we will all miss her along with you. God’s Blessings to all of you…..
So sorry for you loss! She seemed such a special Mom, thanks for sharing her/your stories! What a wonderful life !
Ken, the secret is out – you are a sweet sweet man. God Blessed your mom with an amazing son and your entire family with her. Sending you a “duty” hug.;-)
You have so many wonderful memories of your Mother. From your information about her, she had to be a very special Lady. My prayers are with you and your family.
Well done Ken. My biggest surprise was to look up and see her at the funeral home when my Mom died. She did things right. Have a good day of memories.
Ken, you simply MUST put these articles in book form and publish it. They are a joy to read…over & over. With her personality & zest for life & your gift of telling & retelling her stories, you’ll have a best seller, wonderful memories for family & a legacy for future generations of the Steinhoffs who never got to meet her. Looking forward to purchasing my copy.
Hidda, what a wonderful idea. I would also love to have a copy.
You, Ken, are a good son!!
Ken, this is just perfect. I wish I was in town so that I could drop in for your mother’s visitation. I always enjoy the stories you tell about her. Your family is in my thoughts. Don’t delete that last alarm.
Ken a very nice job on this article…your mom was special person. Thanks for sharing her with the rest of us.
Thank you for sharing! Well done. Pure love.
Here’s to a life well-lived and a wish for a bon voyage.
Ken, thanks for sharing your Mom with us all these years. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
Ken, your tribute to your Mother shows the love that you and she shared. I agree with Hilda Hobbs that you should put your thoughts and stories in book form and publish. My Mother, Gwendolyn Schild, died at the the Lutheran Home Hospice on May 14. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers as many did for me.
So sorry to hear of our loss. You both have done so much to make me feel a part of this community. We moved here in 1986, so we are almost natives, but not quite. These are the stories that connect me to Cape and its history. Your mom was awesome! And beautiful!
Jd and I will always treasure the memory of you and your mom coming to his house for a piece of his blackberry pie–and her memories of growing up in Advance!
You have immortalized her! She will never die!
SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS
You greatly honored your Mother and proved yourself to be an honorable son.
What a fantastic tribute to your Mom. Like so many others already expressed, you allowed all of us to share her love of life. She did it right, and I think that you did also. Prayers for the family as you go through this great loss.
A great tribute to your Mother and the pictures and all were great. Thanks for sharing all that you do.
Many tears today for a wonderful lady most of us never knew except through you. Thanks for sharing her with us. I agree, write that book! Our thoughts and prayers are with the whole Steinhoff family.
Thank you so much for sharing this. I only got to meet your mother once – at Robin and Mark’s wedding – but I know she was a wonderful lady! My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family!
From the many stories and pictures you’ve shared, I’d say your mom was worthy of the rock star status she held among your friends and followers.
Rest well, Mrs. Steinhoff, you’ve earned it.
The loss of a parent makes us feel alone, no matter what our age. The sadness is usually more than we anticipate. Thanks for sharing your memories.
Beautiful pictures of a life well lived❤️
Thanks for letting me get to know your mother. She is my hero and role model. My favorite photo is one of her wading in the ocean in Florida, she was beautiful.
So glad she enjoyed my card, I think of her wearing the outfit and working in her yard.
Your tribute to you mother is lovely, my love to you and your family…everyday.
So sorry to hear of your loss….it is never easy to lose a mother. The memories she & your father left you will be a special treasure I’m sure.
I will not delete this post until I read/reread all the stories about your mom. Ken, you were a great son.
Ken, the realization that you are now the oldest generation of your family is something that I remember being a shock to me after my mother passed away. You have been so blessed to have your mother in your life for so many years, and to have so many amazing memories and stories about her. However, I know that you will have many times when you wish you had her here to get unknown information about something, or just to have another dull phone conversation about nothing in particular. May your memories of your mother bring you much comfort, and may you always remember her with a smile on your face.
Dear Ken, I am sorry for your loss. My dad died in 1975 and mother in 1998 and I still haven’t gotten over it. I never will. I have come to accept that I am the old person at the family reunions who, as a kid, used to say at the family reunion, who are those old people? Seems like it didn’t take long to get here either.
I’m so sorry to hear of your mother’s death. I felt a kinship to her because of her Advance connection. The stories she told were fabulous and my favorite is of the Old Bloomfield Road Spring.
Our family did the same thing – I think we stopped both ways. I’ll need to revisit the stories now that there is no one else to remember the old days.
My best to you and your family.
I’d like to think that she is reading this now and enjoying herself.
so sorry for your loss prayers for your family
So sorry to hear about your mother’s death. I know you will miss her. It’s a part of our journey, losing our parents, and one that takes some time to get through. My thoughts are with you and your family.
Such a beautiful lady both inside and out.
Sorry for your loss Ken
Thank you for sharing your Mother with us. She gave us many smiles. She will not be forgotten. You family is in my thoughts and prayers.
I’ll miss reading what’s going on with your mom in your daily blog postings. Thanks for sharing her with your readers. We already miss her! I’m so sorry for your family’s great loss. Prayers for your entire family.
It is hard to feel sorrow when she has joined her beloved L.V.
Thinking of you all.
A prayer for you and family.
We will miss your Visits With Mother….a wonderful lady who became an example to so many. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
Ken, I remember your parents very well. In fact I think my husband Joe was a scout leader at Trinity when you were very young. I might have had your brothers in my Cub Scout Den. Many years ago in the early 60’s. My sympathy goes out to your family.
Thank you for sharing your beautiful Mother with us through these years. Like many, feel as though I knew her through your written words. No doubt she was very special. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, Ken.
According to your many accounts, she was quite a character and has a whole family with her spirited genes to carry on her legacy. you and yours will be in my thoughts and prayers. Mary
Ken many of us have been without our mothers for many years and in some way, sharing your wonderful mother with us, has helped fill our void. We will all miss her. My God’s blessings be with you and your family.
Ken, so very sorry for the loss of your Mother. Joe and I send you our sincere sympathy. We both read your posts daily and appreciate all the work that you on this blog. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and the entire Steinhoff family.
Ken, so sorry for your loss.
Stay strong my friend..
So sorry for your loss.
So sad. Our most sincere condolences…
The Pemberton Family
It is a deep sorrow to lose a parent at any age, and so difficult to find any words of comfort..We pray that you can find comfort, that you will keep the treasure of good memories of your mother. Those of us who follow you here know you are a good, decent, loving person and our hearts are with you.
Thanks for sharing your mom with rest of us!
So sorry to see you lost your mother. She was obviously a very special fun lady. This made me miss my mom all over again. It does leave a hole, but you have to learn to fill it with the happy memories you had with her. You will. Thanks for sharing her with us all.