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Armchair Genealogy

By Melinda Cohenour

A Tribute to a Remarkable Woman,
my Mother Lena May Joslin Carroll

Born: 7 May 1918, Pineville, McDonald County, Missouri
Died: 03 March, 2010, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma

      In the month in which the day of my birth is celebrated, it is often that my thoughts turn to the woman who brought me into the world, my sweet and wonderful mother, Lena May Joslin Carroll. As this is a column devoted to genealogy, it seems fitting that mention should be made of the incredible advances made in both tracking our family histories but also in locating new members of our “cousin-ship” – that broad plane that comprises the largest number of leaves on each of our trees. For every parent, grandparent and great grandparent back into the mists of time that we list on our tree, there are siblings and their offspring down through the ages that carry the imprint of the familial DNA. Having submitted my DNA to Ancestry a year or so ago, my cousin-ship has grown into the thousands of living cousins who are identified through the matching process of their DNA to my DNA. Much can be learned, discerned, or confirmed by the branch of science that explores the mysteries of DNA, including a controversial subject: the genetic predisposition for inherited diseases. One of those most discussed today is the horrific thief known as Alzheimers.

      My precious mother, Lena May Carroll, was stricken with Alzheimers and her loss of memory was first noticed about 1999 or so. Prior to that, we thought she had experienced a series of strokes that would leave her a bit confused for a day or a few minutes or so. Gradually, over the next couple of years it became painfully apparent that more than that was taking place. I cannot begin to tell you how agonizing it was to have my best friend, my confidante, my adviser, my adored mother retreat from us in her mind. She often did not recognize me, saying, "You cannot be my daughter. Melinda is not fat!" She would remember things from many, many years before - a poem, a conversation, a person she did not remember as having died years before. She never, NEVER ceased to mourn the loss of my father, who passed away in 1996. That was the one constant throughout all her days. She would ask, however, "When is Jack supposed to get home?" and bring about painful remembrances for me - and a concern as to how I should respond. I always chose NOT to remind her and bring forth a new and fresh bit of agony for her.

      There were moments, sometimes a whole day, when she was completely lucid. Blessed moments when I would greedily grab time with her to share love and conversation, times when her sparkling wit and massive knowledge of things both everyday and normal and complex would make my heart sing. Love, alone, however, did not bring about full communication. Yes, I always, always, tried to show her love. She had always been the most dear person to me, memories of her sweet attention and loving way of making my most hurtful wounds stop hurting, make my happy moments even more blessedly happy with her to share - but those times were increasingly fewer and fewer between. I lost my mother many years before her death. So sorry for that. I would give anything for science to find the cure that no one else should ever have to suffer the pain of that horrible, slow, losing.

      In closing, and as a further tribute to her, I offer the text of Mother’s obituary as published by the Fort Worth Star Telegram, March 11, 2010. (In 1952, our Daddy wanted a portrait of Mother before she became a grandmother the first time. This is the portrait chosen for the obituary.)

Lena Carroll (1918 - 2010)

   Lena May Joslin Carroll passed away peacefully at an Oklahoma City, Okla., hospital, Wednesday, March 3, 2010.

   Funeral: 3 p.m. Saturday, March 13, at Bluebonnet Hills, where she will be interred beside her beloved husband. Visitation: 5 to 8 p.m. Friday.

   Lena May was born May 7, 1918, in Pineville, Mo., to James Arthur and Carrie Edith Bullard Joslin and lived an extraordinary life. She was a poet, rockhound and lapidarist, coin and stamp collector, Sunday school teacher, leader of a number of benevolent organizations, gardener, artist, sculptress and essayist. She served her country as a journeyman electrician in the shipyards of Oregon during World War II. She was a member of the First Baptist Church of Monahans, and later the First Baptist Church of Guthrie, Okla., and was a 50-year member of both the O.E.S. and S.O.O.B.

   She was preceded in death by her husband of 62 years, John Edward Carroll; her daughters, Noralee Edith Crowson and Jacquelyn Earlene MacGibbon; four grandchildren; a great-grandchild; and her brother, Jack Oakley Joslin.

   Survivors: Her brother, Rex Edward Joslin; sister, Linnie Jane Burks; daughters, Mary Elizabeth Adair and Melinda Ellen Cohenour; eight grandchildren; 22 great-grandchildren; 13 great-great-grandchildren; numerous nieces and nephews; and many beloved friends.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

      No amount of narrative could possibly convey the many facets of my mother. She was a force to be reckoned with, both strong and tender, firm in her faith, giving and loving in her humanity, fascinated by knowledge and dedicated to learning, a brilliant mind and a compassionate and benevolent person who never seemed to tire of the pursuit of beauty in nature. Her memory brings forth tender regard from all her many descendants. Instead, your author offers some photographs that help to portray her personality.

      The month of February is most noted for Valentine’s Day, the usual commemoration of devoted love. MomMay and DaddyJack became engaged on Valentine’s Day in 1934 and were married 10 June of that year. Their love was an everlasting love, they shared 62 years of marriage before DaddyJack’s passing in July of 1996. Even though Mother lost memories of so many other people and events, she never lost the memory of her lifetime love. She was blessed in many ways by the effects of Alzheimers, for she was always cheerfully “…just expecting Daddy to come home any time now.”


Lena May Joslin's engagement portrait - taken after becoming engaged Valentine's Day 1934 and before her marriage 10 June of that year.

      River Lady. A young and vibrant Lena May, a newlywed of 16, DaddyJack took her photo as she waded the waters of the Pecos River. Summer of 1934.

      Mom thru Van Window as she left with her two oldest daughters and their daughters for a trip to Canada in 2001.

      In 2006, Mother traveled with me to a job assignment in Sarasota, FL. Hurricane Wanda forced our evacuation from Sarasota to Orlando. Then Wanda became fickle and hit Orlando instead. This photo was taken on our return trip. Wanda's flood waters are evident in the background.

      On the weekend of 7 May 2007, Mother shared her birthday at our home in Phoenix, with her first-born, Mary who was born the morning after Mother was 17.

      An exuberant Mother amongst the bougainvillea and oleander in our backyard in Phoenix in 2008.

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