My mother Florence Stendahl died on March 5, 2022 of pneumonia. She was 93 years old.
Family was very important to her. She was the eldest daughter and third child of seven in her family, born in northwest Minnesota. Her love of family extended to her aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews; and their children.
She lived her life with purpose and dedication. She formed a loving partnership with my father that spanned almost 71 years. While he traveled extensively for business she created an elegantly designed and efficiently run home. In an age when long-distant calls were few and far between (and often ended abruptly) she managed to interpret and execute the shared parental and money management goals on her own. (Who was the captain? Who was the lieutenant? They made it work.)
Her Lutheran faith was the foundation of her life. While my brother and I were growing up Mom volunteered tirelessly in a series of charities focusing on the health and welfare of families. She stepped up and got things done with a clear-sighted ability to comprehend and serve any situation.
When I was in high school and my parents essentially had an empty nest, Mom got her real estate license. Then she consistently out-sold everyone in her office each month, for over a year, until another job relocation with my father ended her streak. She didn’t do things part way.
She was a dazzling and engaging hostess. She used her artistic talents and taste to design her own clothing and jewelry which she had custom made when she travelled in Asia with my father. She was always stylish and “put together.” I don’t believe she ever owned a pair of jeans (something that was a bit of a sartorial argument between us). I vaguely remember a pair of Bermuda shorts worn for “gardening” when she and the family dog Hans would ambush groundhogs.
She was ready to execute lavish dinners for my father’s business associates. And while she would often engage caterers for large groups, she was an excellent cook. With the help of a French chef in Australia, she rounded out her culinary abilities, but even before that experience she had been feeding the family with delicious cooked-from-scratch meals. No one can make a pot roast so perfectly caramelized and still succulent and juicy the way my mother did. She was guarded with her recipes, so sadly her secrets pass with her.
No matter where my father’s work took them she had the ability to hit the ground running. Within days she knew the best and most reliable trades people and vendors. She would have located a new church and interviewed the Pastor. She would have set up her new charitable workload. She would have visited schools and enrolled me and my brother. She essentially arranged and executed 4 trans-Pacific moves (one with a toddler under two and while 8 months pregnant with me; one with two toddlers; one when my brother and I were under 12; and one when we were teenagers, and I don’t think we were much help except to pack our own rooms.) Having struggled with small regional moves myself I am daily reminded of her efficiency. She made difficult tasks look simple.
Throughout our childhood Mom made sure that we were exposed to beautiful art both in the home and when we traveled. Wherever we went we visited ancient sites, churches, and museums. Through her network of contacts (formed in an age without the internet and Facebook) she would arrange visits to artist studios even if it meant riding in a small boat to an otherwise deserted island. (Think tiny motor boat in the open Pacific Ocean.) She had serious investigative skills most journalists would envy.
She had gone to school to study art before she met my father. Once married she made the home her canvas. But she also expressed her artistic eye through painting botanical subjects on china and creating lovely quilts for family members.
When I was three and a half years old, she gave me my first journal and the instruction to “Go observe.” We were on an ocean liner crossing the Pacific and she was late for a bridge tournament—she was an outstanding, competition-level bridge player with insane recall of entire games from decades previous. We both got more than we bargained for from this gift. I got enough to build a life on.
After her death a cousin remembered Mom by saying, “she always had a wink of mischief in her eye.”
Mom would have loved being remembered that way.