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Elizabeth Ann Meriwether Donovan, 7 Oct 1930- 13 March 2007

Elegy

Mom's Daffodil

A good life, well lived.

Mrs. Ann Donovan, of Columbia, passed on 13 March after a tough struggle with cancer. She is survived by her husband Tim and daughter Kathy Donovan Hanson, of Columbia, and son John of Leavenworth, Kansas, and grandchildren Tim, Patrick, Erin, and Andy of various and sundry addresses.

Born Elizabeth Ann Meriwether in Denver, Colorado, she was a scion of the Meriwethers of Paragould, Arkansas, a fact of which she was immensely proud, much to the bewilderment of her more sophisticated friends. Her proud parents were father Lilbourn Hays Meriwether and Alma Elizabeth Meriwether, nee Hickson, also of Paragould. Touched as she was by the humor of her father, Ann was cracking wise literally to the end, as she endeavored to make her passage as easy as possible on her family, who were with her to the end. Her last conscious sight of this world was the first daffodil bloom of the season. She loved daffodils.

A graduate of South High School in Denver, she then made her way further east to Columbia, Missouri to attend Stephens College. It was while frittering away her father's money at that august institution that she ran into a dashingly handsome Mizzou football player, a solid Irish-descended beau ideal of a man, who became as putty in her hands. Much to the horror of her mother, Ann decided she would have this man as her own. She should have checked the closet in his bedroom (of course, back in those days, unmarried ladies had *no* idea what their beau's bedrooms looked like). In that closet was the uniform of a 2nd Lieutenant of the Missouri Army National Guard. This being 1951, that had a significance beyond simply a darn fine-looking piece of kit. The newlywed Mrs Donovan waved her bright and shiny Lieutenant off to fight in Korea.

Two Purple Hearts later, Lieutenant Donovan returned from Korea, convinced that soldiering was for him. Eschewing the life of idle comfort that her mother felt she should have, Ann went with her Lieutenant to Fort Carson, Colorado, Fort Sill, Oklahoma (whereat daughter Kathleen was born), Fort Riley, Kansas, where Ann made her family a home in the Riley County Poorhouse (a sad commentary on the parlous state of Army pay and quarters) and then took an exotic cruise on a troopship to set up camp in recently un-Occupied Germany. It was while in Wuerzburg that son John was produced, 9 months to the day after a 4-hour break during a month-long gunnery session at Grafenwoehr.

Returning to the US on another luxury troopship, Ann learned the intricacies of protecting her children from scorpions by putting the legs of their beds in little juice cans filled with turpentine, and the other joys of being a late 50's/early 60's Army wife. Somewhere during all this fun travel and adventure, she developed a card shark's skill at Bridge, a talent that would come in handy later in life. In addition to Fort Benning there was another stint at Fort Sill, followed by Captain Donovan's assignment to the ROTC faculty at Mizzou, and the purchase of a house on High Ridge Circle that would function as an anchor, bringing the Donovan's back to Columbia.

After a stint at Fort Leavenworth, where Ann learned the subtle art of smuggling liquor past the sneaky Leavenworth police (Kansas being a dry state, even if federal property at Fort Leavenworth certainly being very, very wet) the family dodged the bullet of an assignment to Taiwan with the disappointing news that instead they would be going to... Paris, France

This time they forwent the luxurious accommodations of a WWII-era troopship and flew on a new shiny Boeing 707. Landing at Orly, the family discovered that housing in still-recovering postwar Paris was a challenge. Living in two cramped rooms in a little hotel on the Rue de la Grande Armee two blocks from the Arc d'Triomphe, Ann kept her sanity by spending lots of time at the Louvre, Tuileries and other places while husband Tim gallivanted about Europe and the Middle East and John and Kathy attended school and read lots of comic books. Eventually, suitable quarters were obtained and Ann discovered the joys of oddly placed floor tile heating, water with a curious white sediment in it and that wonderful little bakery with astoundingly tasty bread, croissants, and French Onion Soup.

President DeGaulle in a fit of pique tossed NATO out of France (while, of course, staying in NATO so everybody else in Europe would still be prepared to die for La Patrie) so Ann got to pick her family up again and return to Germany, this time EUCOM headquarters at Patch Barracks. It was there that serious Bridge skills were honed, much volunteer work supporting soldiers was performed, some very nice travel around Europe done, and son John's Christmas present of Twister was taken to the New Years party at the O Club where 3 and 4 star generals were seen putting "right hand blue" and "left foot green..."

While not a single mother per se, the pace of military business and Tim's travel made Ann's life a challenge at times. Never more so than when things like the 6 Day War occurred and EUCOM headquarters was lit up like a small city 24/7 and any time the Soviets rattled a saber, the tension level skyrocketed.

Leaving the frenetic pace of EUCOM headquarters, the family returned to the relative calm of Denver, Colorado. And then waved Dad off to his tour in Vietnam. While waiting for her soldier to return home, Ann watched the news of America's first televised war, took phone calls from evil people who said evil things about her soldier husband, protecting her children from those two-legged vermin, just as she had protected them from the 8-legged variety earlier. She endured two major surgical events, one per child. A very dense Red Cross Director at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital discovered that Ann could be très formidable when bumbling bureaucrats stood in the way. During this time Ann also experienced the dread of a visit by the Western Union man, delivering a WIA telegram. It was only after his return from Vietnam that the family learned there should have been four more WIA telegrams. During this time, Ann had managed to see a daughter well into puberty and son starting same - with no casualties or bruises.

As a reward, the family returned to Germany, where Ann was the Colonel's lady, presiding over the Battalion Wives Club and continuing her volunteer work supporting the military community. Being reassigned to Frankfurt, Ann once more picked up and moved, into the cockpit of the early 70's activities of the Baader-Meinhof gang of terrorist thugs. When her father passed, Ann was in Denver when news came of a bombing at the Frankfurt Officer's Club which killed an un-named officer. Pins and needles in Denver until Tim could get in touch to confirm all was well.

Returning to the US, the family settled in Columbia, putting down permanent roots. Tim was the Professor of Military Science, Kathy was attending Stephens, and son John went to Rock Bridge, and Ann was the central linchpin that held it all together. Ever the dutiful mother, Ann attended every home football game and wrestling match that John played in. Being a mother, however, she never once actually saw him play football or wrestle, always looking away or leaving the stands, not wanting to see those brutes trying to knock down her little boy. The only reason she actually saw him win the state wrestling championship was because it was filmed, and the film was shown at the post-season awards banquet. Even then she might have looked away...

Ann spent the rest of her life maintaining the family hub, while husband Tim gallivanted about being a Rotarian, daughter Kathy got married and started producing heirs, and son John attended Mizzou. Then she got to relive the joys of the soldier family as John joined the Army and Ann spent the next 20 years worrying every time the news got bad overseas. This time, thankfully, she was spared any telegrams. She played ruthless bridge every Thursday afternoon at the Columbia Country Club, there wasn't a crossword puzzle safe from her pencil. She enjoyed herself immensely with her grandchildren, secure in the knowledge that she could always pass those babies back to their parents.

A pillar of strength in the bad times and a beacon of humor always, Elizabeth Ann Meriwether Donovan will be sorely missed by those who knew and loved her.

I know I do, and she hasn't been gone for two hours yet.

Now is the time at Castle Argghhh! when the Armorer dances, For Mom.

Adagio,

Coda.

Addendum: After reading the comments I have this to add:

Don't be sad. She had a good life, well lived.

...

102 Comments

Words can't express it well enough, but I'd like to offer you and your family my most humble and very sincere condolences for you terrible loss. God Bless, V5
 
A wonderful tribute.
 
I'm terribly sorry for your loss, John. It seems as though she had a full, if very busy, life. I hope, when the inevitable happens, I'll be up to writing something this good.
 
Damn, John... my condolonces to you and your family. I remember when my own mother passed away a few years back. I knew it was coming, but it was still a hard blow to take. Given the fine writing that you posted regarding her life, it's obvious she knew what she was doing. If you need anything, anything at all, you have my contact info. Respects,
 
My sincere condolences.
 
God bless you and your family John. Your Mom lived a great life based on your account here. I'm sure she is in a better place now, living and dying with cancer is an awful thing. Her soul is at rest now.
 
John, V5 and Raven have expressed my sentiments more eloquently than I could have. Please accept my sincere condolences, and know that you and your family are in our thoughts and prayers.
 
A toda la buena familia Donovan: Mi mas sentido Pésame. If it´s true that, those who have gone before, live by the memory of those which are left behind, she shall live for many years to come. A fitting tribute from a loving son.
 
My condolences, John. Your writing makes me miss your mother even though I've never met her.
 
My sincere condolences. I can type that now that the tears have cleared from eyes.
 
I'm sincerely sorry, John It sounds as if she had a wonderful life, and lived it every day to the fullest no matter what was handed her. And that is an admirable trait no matter the circumstance of her passing. But she'll live on in each of you and yours, at least. And that is something admirable as well.
 
John - May I offer my sincere condolences for your loss. This post is absolutely beautiful.
 
John darlin' Mothers often wonder whether they have made any impression on their sons' lives. With daughters, they know. A daughter stays close, and shares tears, laughter, confidences. Sons so often, when they grow to be men, also grow to be like their fathers. And so the mother who dried their childish tears, read them stories, handed them their favorite bear or blanket, listened to hundreds of breathless confidences and put oh so many wilted handsful of half-crushed wildflowers into countless jelly jar glasses keeps those precious moments pressed between the pages of her heart, hoping her sons occasionally remember too... just a bit. Your Mom would be so proud to know how much you loved her.
 
Our thoughts are with you John.
 
What a beautiful, touching tribute to your mother you've written, John. I'm sure she's watching you from above, beaming with pride. My deepest and most sincere condolences to you and your family in this most difficult time.
 
John, My deepest condolences to you and your family.
 
My condolences, John.
 
John - your musical selection for your mother's tribute is one of my favorites; 'though I am driven to say this time that there was NOTHING common about your mother. Rest. ML
 
A fine and moving tribute, John... best to you and Beth.
 
Rest in Peace, Madam Donovan, you did well. My sympathies for your loss, John.
 
What a wonderful tribute. Our thoughts are with you and your family, John.
 
I'm so sorry John, you have my deepest sympathies.
 
I am sorry for your family's loss, John.
 
I'm so very sorry for your loss, John and family. She sounds like a very great lady and someone I would have liked to know.
 
John, you have my deepest sympathies upon your loss. Take care.
 
Well done.
 
What a wonderful tribute to a remarkable woman. Those of us who grew up in military families know full well the very heavy price paid by military mothers in supporting their warrior husbands and nurturing thier children. It sounds as if your mother was one of that special breed who was able to manage it all with elan. Please accept my condolances to all of Clan Donovan. Marine6 Sends
 
John, I am so very sorry to learn of your loss. It is beyond words. Nick
 
A wonderful tribute to a remarkable woman. My condolences on your loss.
 
John: My condolences to you and Beth. It sounds like your mother had one helluva life. A life well-lived indeed.
 
I wish that I was articulate enough to express it better, but the best I can do is offer you and your family my condolences. Your tribute makes my heart hurt at your loss, and mine for having never met her.
 
The bridge-table in Valhalla is being set up even now. And if Loki tries the dog-biscuit hor d'oerves trick he'll be soooorrry....
 
Hee! The Infamous New Year's Reception, when the food ran out and a young Armorer conspired with a renegade battery commander to serve Milk Bones with Onion Dip to the rather tipsy crowd... Thanks, BCR - I needed that!
 
John - What a wonderful review of your Mom's life, thank you for sharing her with us. I can picture her joining my Dad's fierce bridge game in heaven, he will so enjoy the competition :-)
 
His money better be good, Barb. Mom takes her bridge *seriously*... ;^ )
 
It's sounds like you were a lucky guy. My condolences to yourself and your family.
 
I was, Kate. No doubt. All that is good in me came from Mom and Dad. The bad I did all on my own.
 
John, my sincerest condolences to you and your family in your time of grief. God bless and keep your Mom, I pray.
 
John, I won't be sorry for her life, but for your loss. May God keep her and reward her being the Rock upon which your family was built.
 
John - My Dad will give her a run for her money. He was a *serious* card player, and had perfect memory of every card played. The only card game I ever attempted to beat him at was Cribbage, where his memory didn't help as much ;-) BTW, as children, Dad and his siblings all learned to play poker with their parents and their friends, and had to bring their own money to the table. They learned fast, or they were broke!
 
Well, now we know where you got your wit and charm. Your mom sounded like the kind of person everybody wishes they could be, even on her bad days. Thank you for reminding us how truly great people live. Bear hugs to you and your family. Kat
 
Then Mom will have a worthy opponent!
 
Thanks for sharing your Mom with us, John. Now we can all remember her, too. What a wonderful life. Godspeed, Elizabeth Ann Meriwether Donovan.
 
A good lady, John. Sounds a lot like my mother..
 
Mr. Donovan, I am not a word smith, but the intellectual challenges you present, the colorful language you use, and the mental imagery you post constantly push me to use more neurons than modern reading usually requires. I believe that your abilities and skills come from nurture, not nature, and point toward the blessed attributes of your parents. God bless you in this time of remembrance, and the bagpipes will be sounding at my home tonight. You and yours are in my families prayers. Keep up the good fight! Alan Briley, RN, former paratrooper and sniper, USA
 
John, my heart felt condolences. Your mom sounds like a wonderful woman and the model military wife and mother. Thank you for your glimpse into her life and times. You and yours will be in my prayers, Sir.
 
Your mom would be so proud of her boy right now.
 
She sounded like quite a lady. My condolences to your family.
 
Wonderful farewell. Bless you and yours.
 
Your mom seems like a special person. I think I would have liked to know her. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.
 
Your mom would be so proud of her boy right now.
Yeah, what he said. The quality of her personhood and the content of her character is most certainly reflected her children. Do they play bridge in heaven? Surely they must. The poor fools, they won't know what hit 'em until it's too late. Thoughts and prayers are coming in from all over the place, and you can add Smithers, BC, Canada to that list.
 
Damn. I hate cancer. Fine life. Fine Woman. And this proves you've earned the highest honor I can think of: you are your Mother's son.
 
Beautiful. And perfect. If my sons wrote about me that way, I would know that I had done well. She loved and was loved in return. And I cried for a whole lotta reasons...loss and joy and happiness.
 
My heartfelt condolences
 
Condolences John. December 30, 2000 for me.
 
Don't be sad. She had a good life, well lived.
May we all be worthy of such a tribute when our time comes.
 
Don't be sad? How not? It's not the departed we feel sad for, it's us, and how diminished we feel when a loved one leaves us. Of course, a life well lived just fills our memories and makes the missing inevitable. I am very sorry for your family's loss, John. Shalom.
 
Words will always fall short at times like this, but I am struck with two thoughts upon reading this: 1. She must've been a wonderful lady, and I wish I could learn the details of the many stories touched so lightly here. 2. I think I understand a bit of where John's nature and behavior must have come from; the capable, courageous, inquisitive, quirky and generous of possessions/spirit mother obviously lives on in her son. My condolences, John. Obviously, hers was truly a life to celebrate...
 
John - My family would like to send our condolences. Your celebration of your mother's life above had me laughing and crying at the same time.
 
Copland should have titled it, Fanfare For An Uncommon Lady. The Guardian Angel Squad is AWOL and Twister is missing from the shelf...
 
Your Mom has an interesting name John. My Mother passed away from cancer on her 61st birthday. Her name was Jean Elizabeth. My daughter is named Elizabeth Ann. You sure we aren't related? ;-) God Bless You & Yours John. What a fine woman your Mother is! And always will be! Trust me, she'll always be there. Every minute you draw breath! Not much but there is comfort in that. It carries me to this day as it will you. I hope to see Miss Elizabeth Ann on the Other Side. But pardon me if I don't break the cards out of the deck! :-)
 
I know she was a proud and strong woman. I know you will miss her. My condolences.
 
Joy and My condolences for your loss. I guess we now will have to watch our language in Fiddler's Green.
 
My condolences. It's good to hear you had such a good mother who led an interesting life.
 
I'm sorry for your loss, John. This is, however, just about the finest tribute I have ever read. I suspect she's blushing over it right now.
 
Deepest condolences to you and your family.
 
Well said. Sorry to read of your loss.
 
What a truly wonderful life led. Thank you for sharing her story and my deepest condolences on your loss.
 
John, As a frequent reader and very occasional commenter, I appologise if this comes across as overly familiar. Your mother has left you with two lasting, indelible gifts. A lifetime of lessons and memories, to carry her love in your heart always. And the mettle of your own character, forged on the hearth of a loving and nurturing home. Thank you for sharing such a heartfelt and eloquent glimpse at the life of a truly remarkable woman. Your tribute speaks volumes to both the Mother she was, and the Son you became. From and old Tincan sailor, Fair winds and following seas, Mrs. Donovan.
 
Oh John... I'm in tears and I don't even know her. I just know how much YOU love her, and that's enough to make me cry. Hugs... many of them. I'm so sorry.
 
I just noticed something. My Mom is two years and 12 days younger than yours, Hoss. I hope I can embrace the future as gracefully as you have.
 
Hey John- One more thing. FbL recently wrote a post answering the question "where do we get men like these?"... from Mothers, like this. I'd say that applies to you too. Cass is SOOO right. Mothers of boys always wonder what the boys think of them, or if they think about them at all.... I can only hope that when my time comes, my boys remember me as fondly as you remember your Mom.
 
Very sorry for your troubles, John. I did not know your mother, but I know her son a bit. And so, in a way, I know her. From this, I am proud to know the both of you, and doubly sorry for your troubles.
 
What a wonderful eulogy for a steel-cored but soft-hearted woman. And YOU, Major, are one of the stalwarts too, and I am proud to have met you last October. Blanche and I offer our sincerest condolences on your grievous loss. Keep the caissons rolling, sir.
 
I am sorry to hear of your loss. Knowing someone so old and wise truly gives us a link to our past.
 
What a remarkable, tough, loving, amazing woman and what a privilege it must have been to know her. My condolences to you and your family John, upon her passing. When I am gone, I hope my son will write about me with as much unabashed love, admiration and devotion, though I am sure I won’t deserve it.
 
John, As a long-time Castle reader, I would like to offer my sincerest condolences. God bless you and your family. Chadd Newman St Petersburg, FL
 
I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my Mom about 5 years ago now and it is not an easy thing. But be glad she was with you till the end. My Mom had Alzheimer's and it felt like we lost her twice. God bless you all.
 
My sincere condolences.
 
What a wonderful tribute to an outstanding lady and mother. She will be remembered not only for her good works but for the children she gave to the world.
 
Sounds like my mother. My condolances on this wonderful woman's passing. I get to appreciate my mother as seen through your writing. Your skill, my good fortune. Thanks, V/R Jim West
 
John, I'm sorry for your loss and for the passing of such a grand lady. We are all the better for having read your tribute and for knowing her now a little better. She raised a fine son, and you've done well here. God bless your whole family. I'm praying for all of you. Press on. Subsunk
 
I'm very sorry to hear of your loss. Thanks for sharing some of her life with us.
 
terrible news John. Condolences. You and the fam are in my prayers.
 
John - A beautiful, funny, loving tribute. I'm awfully sorry for your loss and join the chorus of mothers here who hope they've made one-half the impression on their own sons. Your family is in my prayers.
 
What struck me about this tribute you crafted is the perseverance, wit and adaptability your Mom showed. A grand person - one great Life. Not a bad way to leave this Earth, surrounded by those who love you, with a daffodil as your precurser - a lovely, fragrant, sunshine-colored harbinger to Spring itself. God bless you and your family, John Donovan.
 
We owe the deepest of gratitudes to your mom for her unspoken service to our country. Thank you and Godspeed, Elizabeth Ann Meriwether Donovan.
 
Well lived indeed. Condolences.
 
My sympathies to you and your family at this time. We went through this ourselves recently, and it is a blessing to have both great memories, and to know our loved ones lived well, and loved well.
 
Your outlook is testament in itself to how well she lived her life, and how fully. With condolences to you and your family, John....
 
I'm sure there is one hell of a bridge game taking place up there. Prayers for all of your family. She sounds like she was an incredible woman.
 
"A good life, well lived." She'll be breaking hearts as she crosses through Fiddler's Green on her way to Heaven's Scenes.
 
Well written. You are a lucky man. God Bless
 
Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there... I do not sleep. I am the thousand winds that blow... I am the diamond glints on snow... I am the sunlight on ripened grain... I am the gentle autumn rain. When you waken in the morning's hush, I am the swift uplifting rush Of gentle birds in circling flight... I am the soft star that shines at night. Do not stand at my grave and cry— I am not there... I did not die...
 
Sorry I'm so tardy on this, I couldn't think of anything to say except "my condolences", which you do have. I do bet you miss her, and wish she coulda stuck around for a bit longer, but in health. I miss my Momma. As Acidman said, you always miss yer Momma. May your knowledge that she had such a good run ease the pain some.
 
I am so sorry your mom is gone. I can only hope that one of my sons will find me worthy of the same kind of elegy. May Elizabeth Ann Meriwether Donovan rest in peace. 2 Timothy 4: 7
 
She obviously loved greatly... and passed the trait to those she called hers. Our deepest sympathies to the Donovan clan on the passing of this great Lady.
 
I'm very sorry for your loss, John. She sounds like one heck of a woman and she obviously did a fine job of raising you. Take care, dude.
 
John, I am truly sorry to hear of your loss. You and yours will be in our prayers. Larry
 
I miss my dad, every day. he died 7 years ago this March, from the same malady. Like your mother, dad lived a fine life, raised a family in the Army, and made every experience more enjoyable just by his presence. Your mother will be sorely missed, a light in this world is dimmed, but not extinguished, as her spirit, influence, and soul will carry forth in you, your sister, and her grandchildren. God Bless you and your family, and Godspeed to your mother, I am indeed indeed poorer for never meeting her. Condolences, Chuck
 
she'll be in my prayers at Mass next Sunday, and you and yours as well. ..and a fine toast to her memory on Sunday night. be at peace.
 
Well done John, Well done. My wife's mom passed just this week. Were I able to put such your touch to words, she was a very fine mother-in-law, so much so I just started calling her "mommy" in honor of her gentle greatness I toast to you and bow my head to your loss, Richard