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Dad's new wife spread mother's love to her family and beyond

July 10, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail will run "A Life Remembered." The story will take a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Sarah Louise Rice, who died July 3 at the age of 89. Her obituary appeared in the July 4 edition of The Herald-Mail.

marlob@herald-mail.com

Just two years after the death of her birth mother, Audrey Rice Hamm said she reacted negatively at first when a new woman suddenly came into her home and into her life.

Only 10 years old, Audrey still was grieving her loss when Sarah Louise Rice became her father's new wife and stepmother to her and her older brother, Marvin.

"I wasn't happy at first - she wasn't my mother," Audrey said. "But I soon came to like her a lot. It wasn't long before we felt she was our mother and we began calling her that."

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Sarah Louise Rice died July 3 at the age of 89.

Through the years, Louise remained sensitive to the memory of her children's birth mother.

"In 1989, when she went to live at Ravenwood Lutheran Village, she was afraid we wouldn't like her moving out of our homeplace on Greenmount Avenue, but it was OK with us," Audrey said.

Louise was a mother in every sense of the word to Audrey and Marvin, and through the years, she also became Grandma Rice or great-grammy to her grandchildren and their children, Audrey said. After a while, the word "step" just didn't seem to belong.

When Louise married Arthur Rice in 1949, she was working in the office of Dr. Robert P. Conrad, but she left that job to be at home with Audrey and her brother. Arthur was busy working at the Central Parking lot and later at Coca-Cola.

"When we went to school, we kissed her goodbye and kissed her hello when we came home," Audrey said. "When I was sick, she was right there taking care of all my needs."

After she married and had her own children and grandchildren, Audrey said she really could appreciate how hard it must have been for her mother, who was not only adapting to being married to a man 15 years her senior, but also having another woman's children to care for.

"It must have been very tough for her," Audrey said.

When Audrey and her brother were in high school, Louise went back to work for another doctor.

"I'd come home some days and start dinner," Audrey recalled. "I was in 4-H, so I was learning how to cook."

Louise later was secretary to the director of nursing at Washington County Hospital, retiring from that position in 1982. Her husband had died three years earlier and with both children now grown, Louise began looking for some new way to contribute to her community.

"She started volunteering at the hospital," Audrey said. "She never learned to drive, so she either rode the bus or had someone pick her up."

Beginning in 1983, Louise was an active member of the auxiliary for 10 years. She often served as a messenger until it became difficult for her to walk or stand for long periods of time because of her knees. She was an associate auxiliary member until 2002.

After she moved to Ravenwood, Louise still found the energy and caring spirit to volunteer at bingo games at the nursing home there and play card games with other residents.

Before her marriage, Louise had been a volunteer with the American Red Cross Nurses' Aides Service, helping out both in civilian and veterans' hospitals. She had read in the local newspaper that there was a shortage of nurses after World War II, so she called the Red Cross office and offered her time.

"Volunteering was the love of her life," Audrey said, right up until her health began to fail her just a few months ago. Still, whenever anyone asked her how she was, Louise always responded that she was fine.

As the services concluded on Wednesday and family gathered to remember Louise, one of her great-grandsons commented that Easter would never be the same again.

"Scott, 10, said he wouldn't be hiding eggs under great-grammy's skirt anymore and he was going to miss that," Audrey said.

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