Today the world lost Priscilla, my dear sweet mother-in-law. I met Priscilla six months after I started dating her son and the first thing she said to me was “Jeff tells me you have daughters”, and on our ride home Jeff told me that before we left she pulled him aside and said, “don’t you lose her”. Priscilla had a way about her that made people instantly connect with her, it was her smile, her demeanor, and her sincerity that drew people in right away.
Priscilla was the only child of Fred and Rowena, she was born in 1925 and in 1931 she suffered the unimaginable loss of her sweet dad, Fred who passed away after a tennis accident resulted in an infection. This was in 1931, before the antibiotics we have readily available today. Rowena and her young daughter developed a very strong bond that helped them both get through a very difficult time, When Priscilla was 14 her mother remarried and along with her new step-father came a 14-year-old step-brother. Priscilla and her step brother remained close friends until his passing many years ago.
Priscilla met the love of her life, David, at a church youth fellowship group held at the Congregational church in Brockton that catered to the newly immigrated Swedish population, both Priscilla and David’s mothers were first generation Swedes. The young couple were also in the same Physics class in high school and attended the same dancing school. After they both graduated from High School, Priscilla attended Simmons College in Boston and David went to complete his education at Norwich Academy in Vermont. With the outbreak of WWII, David’s classes were cancelled and he eventually found himself enlisted in the Coast Guard until the war ended. In 1947 they were married. They moved back to VT so David could complete his education and on their first anniversary they welcomed their first son Jeffrey. She would always tell me that his arrival was the best anniversary gift she ever received.
In the years that followed two more sons arrived and Priscilla and David’s cape style post WWII home in the suburbs was full with three boisterous boys and the coming and goings of the neighborhood children. Priscilla enjoyed her days when her sons were young, she gave back through volunteering her time at the boy’s school and as a den mother.
When the boys were still quite young, Priscilla and her mother purchased a cabin on the water on Sawyers Island in Maine outside of Boothbay Harbor. It was there Priscilla and her mother along with the three boys would spend their entire summer with the husbands coming up on the weekends and for a two week stay during the summer. The boys enjoyed picnics, boat rides, hikes, lobster bakes, and freshly baked berry pies. An idyllic childhood memory for these three boys.
There came a time when the boys grew and moved out and began families of their own and ultimately the addition of five grandsons. The grandsons loved spending time with their grandparents who by this time had retired to New Hampshire. It wasn’t unusual to see all five boys camped out overnight on the floor of the living room after an evening of playing Up and Down the River and Tripoli with Gramma. They cherished her and she had a special spot in her heart for each of them.
Once David retired, they set off to see the world. They purchased a Road Trek van and hit the road. They would be gone from NH for about 5 months a year visiting friends and relatives, birding, visiting National Parks and exploring the USA. Their longest trip was when they drove to Alaska. Along the way they would meet fellow campers and very quickly strangers became friends. They also did a fair amount of international travel usually with the tours that included lots of hiking and lectures. In the 7 months they were home in NH each year, Priscilla continued her tradition of volunteering at the local theater and library.
Priscilla said she loved having me in the family because there just weren’t enough women, she would say that we were surrounded by men and she was right! When the great grandchildren began to arrive, after two great grandsons, she welcomed her first great granddaughter. She had a special place in her heart for all the great grands but I suspect there was a bit of favoritism towards the girl.
We loved to spend time with them in NH and when we vacationed together in South Carolina. We enjoyed their ritual of popcorn and wine before dinner and playing games after dinner. Priscilla was a great bridge player and nothing gave her greater pleasure than playing games with her family.
The last few years of Priscilla life were challenging with battling the ailments associated with aging. She was optimistic and upbeat and usually the staff’s favorite patient. These past few months were especially difficult due to Covid-19, she couldn’t see her beloved David in person, but they talked almost every day. Thankfully they were able to spend a little time together in the past few weeks. In one of her last conversations with her son a few days ago after having trouble reaching her husband, she told him “tell dad that I miss him and that I still love him”. In just 2 days they would have celebrated their 73rd anniversary, a milestone very few people attain.
So tonight, a bright light has been extinguished with the loss of Priscilla, I’ll miss her smile, her warmth, and her love for her family and I know her spirit will live on in the lives of all who loved her.