My beautiful mother passed away on October 10, 2019. She had been in the hospital for a couple of weeks with pneumonia and tragically she was too weak to fight it. We did get her home with the whole family including Dave’s sons Adam and Carl before she passed in peace. She was 91 years old.
Mom was born in rural Pennsylvania- it says Dunbar Township on her birth certificate – on April 7, 1928. She was the second youngest of 12 children born to Mary and John Kovac. Her parents immigrated some years earlier from somewhere in the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. This region encompassed Austria, Slovakia, Hungary and the western part of Ukraine. My nephew Adam found this entry on Rusyn Americans that might help explain where they came from – we never knew exactly. Her mother died in childbirth when Mom was an infant and she never knew her father.
The story I heard recently was that when the Mother died the Father took off leaving the older children to fend for the younger. They were nearly separated but somehow the older sisters kept the family together. Mom lived with her older sister Mary when she got older helping her take care of her 2 nieces Edwina and Sandra and nephew Pete. We were very close to Mary, her husband (Uncle) Ed and our three cousins growing up. Apparently she moved for a while in her high school years to be at a better school but after graduation came back to live with Mary and Ed again. Mom worked in the different mining towns Uncle Ed worked at. I know she worked for a while at a general store in one of the towns and handled all the mail.
She had one serious boy friend during this period that I know of – a sailor named Murphy. I asked her once why she did not marry Murphy and she told me that she didn’t think he could provide for her in the manner she was looking for. Lucky me I guess! Mom was a quite a catch in my estimation!
Mom met Dad when Dad’s father – a mining engineer working for my uncle Ed – was invited with my father to watch a World Series broadcast on Uncle Ed’s new-fangled TV! I believe Dad was working for Goodyear in Ohio after separating from the Air Force. He would come home to visit his parents during that time. They were married in Grant Town on July 31, 1954.
After Mom and Dad were married she moved for a brief period of time to Dayton, Ohio where my Dad was working for Goodyear Aerospace on the early aspects of the space program. Shortly after they moved to Alamogordo New Mexico where I was born.
Dad switched jobs and started working on the Atlas rocket program with General Dynamics. They moved to San Diego for a short period of time where Rick was born before moving to Cocoa Beach in early 1957. Our family was part of the first wave of engineers and scientists to support the fledglings space program.
Mom took an interest early on in gardening. She was a member of the Garden Club – I remember going to the shows where she displayed her arrangements.
She loved being outside working hard in the Florida heat to tend her gardens around our house. She was a Cub Scout leader when we were younger. She enjoyed sailing with the family. However, when Dad learned to fly she was less enthusiastic about that! She was the best Mom you could hope for – always encouraging us to do new and different things and always being there when you needed her.
When we were growing up we would vacation most summers in Virginia with my Grandparents and in West Virginia with Aunt Mary and Uncle Ed. They had a farm in the mountains that we enjoyed visiting and meeting many of Mom’s many relatives. My Mom’s family now has hundreds of second and third cousins!
Mom grew up in Hollywood’s Golden era and I believe she dreamed of being a movie star. He favorite movie stars were Barbara Stanwick and Tyrone Powers. She was fascinated with stardom and was an avid fan of celebrity talk shows in the 60s and 70s.
They moved for a short period of time to the Los Angeles area in 1975 – the same time I went to college in nearby San Luis Obispo. Brother Dave was still in high school and was with them. I enjoyed going home on breaks and visiting them there. After they moved back they lived for more than a decade in a waterfront house near the golf course. When Dad retired in the early 1990s they moved back to the original family house which they had been renting.
After we left the house Mom and Dad started traveling. They made several trips to the Pacific Northwest when I lived there in the 1980s. They made a number of trips to Europe in the 1980s and 1990s and visited me twice when I lived in Germany in the late 1980s. During their second trip they traveled to Medjugorje in Bosnia and Herzegovina to visit a Catholic site. They also traveled closer to home visiting the Canadian Maritimes on the East Coast and and a cruise to Alaska.
Slideshow of Mom & Dad’s Travels
In the late 80s and throughout the 90s Mom celebrated the birth of two grandsons Adam and Carl and Rick’s marriage to Myhra in 1997. We did a lot of things together as a family.
Mom’s extended family is very large. All but the two older sisters married and had at least 3 children if not more. Her sister Barbara passed when her children were young and the oldest sister Ann took care of her two children. Her older brother Michael also had a very large family. She kept up with them over the years and the house was full of pictures of relatives I had never met.
Mom was raised in the Catholic Church but stopped going when we were very young. She starting attending the church again in the mid-1980s. After she started back it became the center of her life until her death. She spent a lot of time with her church friends and was very active in dozens of church activities.
Dad passed in 2002 and Mom lived, with brother Rick’s help, in Cocoa Beach until 2014. In 2004 her house was severely damaged in a hurricane. Rick worked to rebuild as she spent time up north with her relatives. She spent all of her free time at Church or with various church friends. A woman named Claire Nicholson who was also very active in the church became very good friends with Mom.
In 2014 Mom suffered a serious fall and we decided it was best for her to move to Panama City where brother Dave could help her care for herself. She resisted the idea of a assisted living facility and successfully stayed in her house there until her passing. The past couple of years she had several women that helped her including Beth with whom she became very close to. I moved back to Cocoa Beach around the same time and visited Mom 2 or 3 times a year while she was there. I am grateful for those last years we had together.
In August my youngest nephew Carl got married in Ormond Beach Florida and Mom was able to attend. She looked beautiful and was able to attend the ceremony and reception. It turned out to be the last time the whole family was together – including Carl’s wife Kari’s family too! We were very, very grateful for that – a true gift.
Her funeral mass was attended by dozens of her church friends and the family including cousin Sandra. Her long time friend Clare was there and with the Franciscans said a special prayer for her. Her favorite choir director Phil played beautiful music during the service. It was a special moment for all. She rests in peace at Saint Joseph Catholic Cemetery in Palm Bay Florida – just several miles south of Cocoa Beach.
Rest in peace Mom – thanks you for giving me life with Dad – thank you for always caring and the gifts you gave me. I will always love you and keep you in my thoughts along with Dad. You and Dad were the best part of me – I miss you both.