Nana (what most of us grandkids called her) was a part of so many lives, perhaps something a little different to each of us. This is what she was to me.
She was the oldest of three sisters and little brother, Jackie. Her parents were Metta & Ernest Stewart. I never knew her dad, but Great Grandma Stewart lived a near-century life as well. Nana always called her "Mother."
She married my grandpa, John Darvin Simmons when she was 17. Had her first child at 20 (8 pounds, 8 ounces), delivering 11 babies over the course of 22 years, with children under her roof for 4 decades. I thought of her often during my own uncomfortable 3rd and 4th pregnancies. Eleven. Uffda.
She had 29 grandchildren, 50+ great grandchildren, and half a dozen great-great grandchildren. Her genes carry on through nearly a hundred of us. Surprisingly, Mason and Eric are the only twins. (But they are definitely not the only ones with cowlicks.)
Add son- and daughter-in-laws, spouses and more, and family gatherings have always been big. Holidays were a full house growing up.
When I was very small, she had horses named Sugarfoot and Feiry (I've never tried to spell this horse's name before, I may have it wrong), an accordion, and a little dog named Heidi.
Nana often stayed for extended periods with us when I was growing up. We played many hands of rummy and games of 10,000. She was not one to play down to grandchildren, we had to learn to play up to her. She was always working on crocheting a blanket (one for each new baby and graduation in the family) and had a game of solitaire, a crossword, or puzzle of some kind going. Nana was sharp and her handwriting was beautiful.
A fine seamstress, she altered my wedding dress with skilled hand. Her chocolate chip cookies were thick. It made her smile with satisfaction that my kids always drank all their milk. She did not like heights and didn't drive. She was a weather watcher.
While she lived and traveled often between northern Iowa and northern Minnesota, she lived fairly close by most of my life. We were even neighbors for a short while; we lived in an apartment 2 doors down for 6 months while building our house.
She was a meticulous housekeeper and laundress. She ironed.
I preferred visiting with Nana one-on-one in my adult years. When there wasn't a crowd, she had much to say. I enjoyed hearing her memories of being pulled to school over snowdrifts in a horse drawn sled, with heated slates tucked under wool blankets to keep their feet warm.
She carried with her memories of the Great Depression, her husband was wounded by shrapnel in the South Pacific in WWII, and she sent sons off to Vietnam. She saw great change in her lifetime and wondered more and more what our world was coming to. She disliked the internet.
She was healthy the majority of her 91 years, declining rapidly this past week.
Thinking of her kids, as it's been a tough and tiring time for them.
She is remembered by many.
My maternal grandparents, June & John Simmons
Nana and I, my wedding day 1997
Nana, Johnathan & Beau on her 90th birthday, 2015