June 01, 2012

Collette Ray Larzalere Ford

My sweet grandma passed away last week after a lengthy battle with PSP (Progressive Supranuclear Palsy). While we have been expecting this event for quite some time, and are grateful that Grandma no longer has to suffer, it was still difficult to experience. Saying goodbye to someone you love is never easy, especially someone like my grandma.
Here's a little bit (okay...a lot) about her.
My grandma was born on September 1st, 1927 is Escondido, California. She was the youngest of four children, and lived her formative years during the Great Depression with a widowed mother and little money. She never met her father, Doctor Raymond Verplank Larzalere, as he died of pneumonia (which he had contracted while crossing a flooded river in the middle of the night to deliver a baby), before she was ever born. As a child, my grandma remembers being a bit of a "tomboy." She loved to be outdoors doing something active at all times. (This trait continued until she contracted PSP a few years ago. I think that her inability to get up and go was the hardest part of the last couple of years.)

Grandma is on the far left
As a young teenager, my grandma's family moved to San Diego, in 1942, so that her mother could get a job. She had been working as a nurse, but discovered that she could make more money working in the war industries...so off to San Diego they went. My grandma attended San Diego High School, and it was a hard transition for a shy girl of fifteen.

My grandma graduated high school in 1945, and began attending San Diego State in the fall. She majored in "Commercial Subjects," because that was what her mother wanted (even though my grandma wanted to major in "Physical Education"). After graduation, she began teaching dance for the San Diego Recreation Department. This is where she was working when she met my grandpa in 1948 at a birthday party.

Their first date was a Padres game, and they were married the following year on September 4th, 1949. They had a loving and devoted marriage which produced eight children. My dad is number four. My grandpa worked as a manager for Sears, and they moved around a lot...but eventually re-settled permanently in San Diego. When asked how she managed eight children, my grandma's response was, "I don't know...I just did."

My dad is the one on the top left
One of our final visits with Grandma
THIS is how I remember my grandma 
There are SO many things that I admired about my grandma.
She was adventurous. When she was in her early twenties, she and a girlfriend hitchhiked all the way to King's Canyon in the Sierras by themselves. Her and my grandpa honeymooned in Yosemite (as did my parents), and throughout the years, visited all 49 of the continental United States in their RV. She has also explored Europe SEVERAL times. As an old lady, she once told her children that she wished she had had a Harley as a young woman so that she could explore the country on the back of a motorcycle.
She was competitive. One of my dad's fondest memories of her was when he was in little league as a young boy. They had  a baseball game for the mothers one Saturday. While all of the other mothers participated to have fun, my grandma went to WIN. My dad says he still has a perfect image of my grandma in his mind SPRINTING around the bases, and sliding into home, as she got an in-the-field home run.
She was a woman of great faith. While my grandma was of a different faith than me (she was a devout Catholic), her devotion to God is something that I admired greatly in her.  She defined her life by her religion. She attributes her success in marriage and mothering to her faith.
She loved music and dancing. I remember being taught how to "shuffle-step" (tap was her favorite dance form) as a little girl, and sitting with my grandma as she played "I've Been Working on the Railroad" on the guitar. She cajoled my grandpa into taking dance classes with her all through their marriage (including country line dancing).
I love being able to see some of myself in her as I read her through her "life story." She loved to read, and to travel, and to learn new things. She loved to dance, and she loved music. My aunts and uncles remember her dancing wherever she was, even if it was while she was cooking dinner in the kitchen. She loved to tell stories, and exaggerated them whenever possible (this is a trait that both my dad and I share). She loved camping and being outdoors. She loved animals. But most of all, she loved her family.
We were able to celebrate her life yesterday at her funeral in Carlsbad. It was a mostly joyous occasion, as we remembered her and visited with family. I'll miss my grandma. It was hard to see her suffer these last few years, but I will remember her as the vivacious, spunky, and loving woman that she was.
I'm thankful to be able to call her Grandma and for all of the loving and fond memories of her that I will be able to cherish for a lifetime!

All of the remaining Ford siblings

The Ford cousins (minus a few) 

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