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Eulogy for my Mother, Alice

9/17/1921 - 11/6/2005

I have a wonderful story to tell today of a life focused on family, unconditional love and giving.

Alice Lorraine Adams was born the 4th of seven children to Walter Leroy and Alice Edna Adams in her grandparent’s farmhouse in Rosalia Washington on September 17th 192….   That’s kind of a funny story.  Mom grew up believing she was born in 1922.  It wasn’t until she stopped driving, let her license expire and had to obtain a copy of her birth certificate – to get a California ID – that she found out she was actually born in 1921. As you can image, we teased her a bit about that.  But, what a devastating blow to find out you’re a year old than you thought you were! 

Her family soon moved from Rosalia Washington to Portland Oregon, where her father worked for the railroad.  Mom was not a healthy child.  She suffered from convulsions.  The doctors assured her parents that if she lived to be 5 years old, she would be okay.

Her mother suffered from a heart condition and the family left the rainy cold northwest in 1925 for the warmth and promise of a better life in Los Angeles.  They traveled in the family’s Model A with the mattress and all their possessions piled on top. Mom said this was one of her earliest memories.   There were no motels or restaurants to stop in along the way.  Mom told me it took nearly two weeks to get to there and they camped along side the road with other families. She remembers it was a scary journey traveling through the Grapevine, a single lane dirt road with the occasional cut out for passing oncoming cars.

And so as we know she lived past the age of 5 but she was kind of a scrawny kid. The family called her little Alice, not only because she was named after her mother, but also because she was so little.   She told me of her aunts coming for a visit and taking her out for ice cream and other goodies to try to fatten her up.  It didn’t work but she loved the attention. My Uncle George, her older brother, told me she was a very energetic child, always busy and full of life and loved to dance.  She taught herself to tap dance and during the depression theaters would have different promotions to get people to come to the movies.  I think I remember mom telling me she could see a double feature for 10 cents and that included a treat.  Anyway, one of the promotions was, if you performed on stage you’d get in free.  So my mom went up and with the assistance of the house pianist and tap-danced her way into the movies. 

When I think of the era my mom grew up in, I think of Spanky and Our Gang, lots of kids in the neighborhood spending their days making up games and entertaining themselves with what little they had.  Especially when she told me the story of her bothers and sisters playing one of their favorite games.  They would take turns tying each other to a chair and see how long it would take them to get free.  I think it was some kind of cowboy and Indian game.  Well, it was mom’s turn to get tied up.  When she was secured in the chair and they were dancing around her, the 1933 Long Beach Earthquake struck.  After everyone ran out of the house, her mom took inventory and noticed mom was missing.  She yelled, where’s little Alice? Well, my mom rode out the earthquake tied to the chair bouncing across the living room floor.  The earthquake was over by the time they came back in for her, she was okay but a bit shaken.

My mom was very creative and loved to draw as a child. When she went to school she used her left hand, but at that time it was thought that everyone should write with their right hand, so she had to retrain herself to use her right hand. They taught her by slapping her left hand with a ruler every time she tried to use it. Mom was a very industrious child.  With her love of the movies and glamour, she taught herself to fix hair.  She would soon be cutting and styling her brothers and sisters, mom’s and neighbor’s hair.  She even made a little change along the way.

My mom had many memories of growing up in the depression.  Her mother was a fabulous cook.  Mom said she could make something out of nothing.  She would make egg less, milk less, butter less cakes.  They often had unexpected company on Sunday night, friends and family that would just happen to stop by at dinnertime.  Still to this day mom wondered how her mother ever got them through those times.

One way they survived was by working at the dry yard here in Modesto.  Since her father worked for the railroad during the depression, he was only allowed to work part time.  In return they were able to get a reduced fair on the train to Modesto.  Her family lived in a tent along the Tuolumne River during the hot summer months.  She remembers her mom sweeping the dirt floor until it didn’t seem like dirt anymore.  The entire family worked in the canneries and dry yard.  They saved their money and returned home in September for school.

After graduating from Jefferson high school in Los Angeles, she continued to work the summer months in Modesto.  With the money earned at the dry yard and her growing hair business she was able to save enough money to put her through Cosmetology school.

It was during this time she met and married her first husband Andy Ray.  They had one thing in common, the love of dance.  They enjoyed going to clubs in LA and dancing the night away.  They married and soon my mom was pregnant with my sister Andrea.  World War II broke out and Andy left to serve in the Navy. My mom was left with a baby to raise alone.  Being the industrious person she was, she opened her own beauty shop. Wartime was hard; there were shortages of many needed items.  Coupons were issued for gas, shoes and other necessities.  But my mom was in the right business.  Because of the shortage of men in the factories, women went to work for the first time.  And what do you think they did with the money they made?  Yep, they went to get their hair done.  She kept her shop open until late at night.  Ladies would work the swing shift; get there hair done then go out to the clubs in LA to party all night.  She lived in a little house behind her shop.  He mother moved in with her to care for Andrea while she was working.

She also met another important person in her life at this time.  Helen Charters.  Helen was a friend of her fathers who needed to find a beautician.  He told her of his daughter Alice.  When Helen and my mom met they became fast friends.

Andy returned home from the war and decided he too wanted to be in the hair business.  My mom supported him through school and shared her shop with him.  After he finished school he decided he didn�������������t want to be married anymore.  Alice was again a single mom.

By this time her mother was ailing.  She had to be hospitalized and of course there was no insurance and the bills needed to be paid for her continued care.  My mom worked all day and each night would go visit her mom in the hospital and pay the bill. Her mom passed away at the age of 51.

During this time, men were returning home from the War. Women left their factory jobs, moved to the suburbs and started families.  The lease was up on her shop and the owner of the building decided a bar would be more profitable than  rent from the beauty shop.  My mom lost not only her shop but her home as well. 

Mom’s accountant knew a friend who needed a house sitter, she took the job.  Andrea moved in with Helen, or Aunt Helen as us kids called her, and Helen’s mother.  My mom didn’t drive; there was no need to drive if you lived in LA.  She took the bus or red car each day then the streetcar to get Andrea in the morning and take her to school.

Mom decided she needed to finalize her divorce. She moved to Las Vegas where you could get a divorce after 6 weeks of residency.  She took a job as a chip girl and I think had a great time.  While she was there she worked some of the hair shows, which she loved.  She also met a man named Kelly.  He was the pit boss at the casino.  He wined and dined her, taking her to fancy restaurants and out on his boss’s boat.  He was struck by her beauty and sense of fun.  He wanted her go to back east and meet his family. She had a great time with him but was unsure of their relationship.  One morning she read in the paper where Kelly and some of his friends were part of the Bugsy Siegel gang.  She immediately broke of the friendship and headed home.

Upon arriving home, she was able to find a beautician job in a Salon in Los Angeles, where it took time to build up her clientele.  She found a friend to live with but it was hard to be away from Andrea, who, because of work, still lived with Aunt Helen and her mother.  She was at a point of frustration with her roommate, who brought a lot of men home at night.  She needed to get out, so Aunt Helen took my mom out one night to meet some friends.  There at the restaurant she met my father, Steve.  He was the bartender and also a friend of Aunt Helen’s.  My dad said it was love at first sight.  Mom had red hair, green eyes and wore a green jacket.  He couldn’t keep his eyes off of her.  Shortly after they started dating, my mom was very sick and in the hospital, dad went to see her every day.  He even picked her up from the hospital to take her home.  It was there they hugged for the first time and he said, “She was the perfect fit”.  My mom did say that she had only one problem with him.  He’d come to pick her up for a date in his cuffed Levi’s and tee shirt and she had to send him home to change before she’d go out with him.  But it was his kindness and help during this time that she too fell in love with him.

Alice and Steve married on December 5, 1952 and moved in together in the small house my father was raised in, in LA.  The house was owned by Newtie, an older neighbor woman who raised my dad. When dad returned home from the War he moved in with Newtie to care for her. Before they married, Newtie tried to tell my mom that Stevie was a confirmed bachelor, but mom won her heart.  So there were the newlyweds, with Newtie and Andrea all living together. 

After they were married mom continued to work at the shop and my dad worked nights at the restaurant.  He told my mom it was okay if she wanted to go out with friends at night.  Well one night she went out with a friend, this friend ended up going home with someone else and left her.  Mom hitched a ride home with a guy friend who had a beautiful new car.  Well, dad was already home from work. Mom quietly came in the door and slipped into bed.  Nothing was said about the incident, mom decided not to let that happen again and shortly after that dad found a day job so they could be together at night.

In 1953 Mom found out she was pregnant with twins.  Unfortunately, she delivered at 6 months and back then there was not the technology to help the two boys, who did not survive.  She and my dad were heartbroken.  They tried again but she only miscarried.  The doctor told her to give her body a rest and wait awhile before they tried again.

Mom and dad were both working and saving their money.  Newtie passed away, and the old neighborhood was changing.  They no longer felt welcome in the place where my father had grown up.  After mom was mugged and had her purse snatched twice, they decided it was time to move.

When they first got married, my parents laid some ground rules.  They would never fight and scream, especially in front of their children.  They would live off of Dad’s income and all of mom’s income would be saved to buy a house. They realized that dream when mom, dad with Andrea bought their first tract home on Spinning Ave. in Gardena California.

Their home was filled with fun and laughter.  My parent threw many family functions there, Halloween parties, showers, and birthday parties.  Mom was thrilled; she had a new home and continued to use her income to decorate.  She told me she loved that house and all her new furnishings. I think my brother Mike still has some of that furniture. 

Well, time was getting on and they decided they better get back to adding to the family. Andrea was already in high school when Michael Phillip came along in 1957.  Mom continued to work, but by the time I came around in 1959 it got to be too hard to work all day, come home, fix dinner, have time for the kids, clean house and prepare diapers and bottles each day for the nanny.  Her and my dad decided it was time she quit her job.  But as you know that was not the end of my mom figuring out how to make an extra buck.  Her clients missed her so much she set up shop in the house, doing hair 2-3 times a week.  I think we all ended up with curly hair because of the smell of the permanent wave solution.  Our family was completed when my sister Candace Dee was born in 1962.

We grew up in a home with lots of laughter and kidding around.  My mom was the caretaker of the family, with my dad being the fun guy.  They centered their life on us kids.  Having a babysitter come into our home was a rare occasion.  Everything our parents did was for us kid.  My mom continued to express her creative side and was always taking classes.  My favorite was cake decorating, we always had cake in the house.

It was about this time she decided to learn to drive.  She took driving lessons and didn’t tell dad.  She wanted to surprise him.  He was surprised alright when one day he came home for lunch and saw mom driving down the road with some guy in the car.

 One day  mom decided we should go camping as a family.  My dad was opposed to this idea, spending his time in the Army as an Alamo Ranger in the Philippine jungles.  He said he had enough of that tent stuff.  But my mom persuaded him to borrow the equipment needed and off to Yosemite we went.  We had such a great time it became our family’s favorite pastime.

As we were growing up mom decided we should go to church.  She wasn’t sure what church to take us to. Dad agreed but didn’t want to take us to the Catholic Church he attended as a child.  So mom searched around.  We went to the Methodist church for a while, but it didn’t seem right to her.  She remembered her family attending the Mormon Church, but they stopped going when she was young.  She decided to investigate the church.  She looked in the phone book and called to have the missionaries come to teach her.  She said that the fist time she came into a ward building she knew she was home and was baptized shortly after.

In the 1960’s my parents decided they didn’t want us kids to be bused into the LA inter city schools so we moved to Torrance CA.  We continued to go camping, fishing, motorcycling riding, hiking, rock collecting, fossil collecting and even rattlesnake hunting, always heading out to some never-heard-of spot.  We were the envy of every kid in the neighborhood.  My mom was known as the cook, and we never went anywhere without our cook.  She may have stayed in the camper reading as we were tracking rattlesnakes, but she was always their taking care of everything.

As usual kids grow up and have many activities.  Mom was active at church, serving on the Relief Society Board for as long as I can remember.  Andrea married and had 3 children of her own.  Richard, Mea and Tesa.  She adored her grand children.  Andrea’s life changed when her husband up and left her with the three kids and no support.  Mom and dad tried to help her the best they could.  In 1974 after being sick for several months, Andrea was finally diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  She was in and out of the hospital for several months.  Mom never missed a day of visiting her while she was in the hospital.  This was not a short trip; she’d have to drive to the UCLA medical center 25 miles away in Westwood.  Andrea’s illness lingered for far too long and she passed away on the same day as mom 31 yrs ago.  Now mom, at the age of 53, will be the mother to 6 kids ranging in ages of 9-18.  She said the hardest thing for a mother to do is bury her child.

This didn’t stop our family from doing all the things we loved, there was just more of us.

When my dad decided to retire, the family moved to Modesto, where already half of my mom’s family had relocated.  There was just one decision to make.  Aunt Helen, who was older, had fallen and broken her hip.  She had been living in a nursing home for a few years.  As you can guess, my mom went to visit her every Sunday after church.  I liked to go with her to have some mommy alone time.  And I felt, like probably all the kids in the family, I was Aunt Helen’s favorite.  Mom couldn’t leave Aunt Helen in the home and move away.  So when my parents moved to Modesto, Aunt Helen came with them.  She was wheelchair bound and she and my dad didn’t see eye to eye.  I guess Aunt Helen got a bit jealous after my parents were married.

Mom was down to 4 kids in the house and Aunt Helen.  She had moved away from her clients and decided she wanted to go to work.  She got a job at the New Almond Growers Plant in Escalon.  She loved her job.  She said it was the easiest money she ever made and continued to work there for 5 years.  She did make friends in the ward and was soon doing hair again too.

In the mean time, Mike stayed in Los Angeles; Candy got married, as did I.  Richard was on his own. Mea and Tesa were still in school.  Aunt Helen’s heath was deteriorating.  She would not let anyone but my mom care for her.  After living with my parents for 5 years Aunt Helen had to go to a nursing home, and that broke my mom’s heart.  It wasn’t long after that, she passed away.

Mom loved Modesto.  She spent the warm summers canning and drying fruit.  She loved being close to her family.  She had lost one sister, Edna.  Sam lived in LA.  Buddy lived in Truckee, but George, Arlene and Evie along with most of their children and grandchildren lived in Modesto. Once again our home was used for family gatherings, wedding and baby showers and birthday parties.   We had a family reunions every summer at Turlock Lake.

She and dad also came to visit me in Oregon and Mike in Corona.  I loved having them come to visit.  I’d set up a camping trip and my husband would set up a fishing trip for dad.  On one of their last visits, mom called to ask if we’d not go camping. I guess by the time I’m 70; I won’t want to go camping any more either.  Mom told me that when her and dad were finally without kids, they decided to go camping.  They loaded up the camper and headed to the mountains.  When they got to camp they unpacked, had dinner and were sitting around the fire.  They looked at each other and decided going camping without all the kids wasn’t as much fun.  So they packed up and went home the next day.

The family was growing, more grandchildren came.  My daughter Denay.  Candy’s kids, Beau and Jessica.  Then there was the great grandchildren.  Richard’s daughter Andrea . Mea’s sons David and Christopher, her daughter Britney.  Tesa was next with her daughter Reanna. And now Denay’s son Thayne.

These last years in Modesto were filled with helping our family.  When Candy needed help with her special needs kids.  Mom and dad came to the rescue.  She moved in with them and they helped her out. In turn, Candy was there these last few years to reciprocate.  She has been the one person in the family to truly be there for my parents.  She helped my dad through his years of cancer and was there to help my mom with daily assistance when my dad passed away.  Mom was grateful to have her there and she loved Beau and Jessica������������s company.

My mom’s life was full of love and giving for her family.  There were other family members that both my dad and her have helped along the way.  I have always thought of myself as a daddy’s girl and thought I could only aspire to be like my mom.  One of the biggest compliments I have been given is from my sister-in-law Donna.  When she thinks I’m being too nice for my own good.  She says, “You are just like your mom”.  Deep down inside we both know that’s a good thing.  My bother and I were talking just a week or so ago about all the things mom has done for our family and others.  My brother said it best when he said, “Mom’s an angel”.  I was glad I was able to tell her that just last Saturday.

I would like to turn some time over to anyone who would like to pay tribute to my mom at this time.  I’ll let the bishop intervene when it’s appropriate.  Please state your name and how you knew mom.

Thank you