Say ‘hi’ to Uncle Howard

Published 9:58 pm Wednesday, November 26, 2008

On this week when most of us think especially hard about how thankful we are for what we have, I find myself lamenting what, and especially who, I have lost.

My great-aunt, Marcella Marie Wyatt, passed away at the age of 97 last Friday. She was laid to rest on Tuesday.

Though my family can take solace in Aunt Marcella having lived a good, long, mostly happy life, her absence will leave a gaping hole in the Wyatt clan.

Marcella was the eldest of 10 children and sister to my beloved grandmother, Stella.

My grandmother, Marcella and their little sister, Rita, all lived in the same tiny town called Riceville, Iowa, for what seems like forever.

It’s a close-knit community where my great-uncle Jim was the barber, my grandpa owned the local service station and my great-uncle Howard, Marcella’s husband, farmed out in the country across from an Amish homestead. He was also the only cop in Riceville for many, many years.

The three sisters made a habit each day of meeting uptown for coffee. They laughed and gossiped and complained from time to time about their newest aches and pains.

They proudly displayed photos of grandchildren and great grandchildren and boasted about their large, loving families.

Marcella was a fervent supporter of her children and grandchildren and that was evident when she talked about them.

Benny was the sheriff in a nearby town, a top cop if ever there was one; Hazel was the loving caretaker; Pete could farm as well as his dad; Mary Ann was the best restaurateur in Riceville. Jerry and Tom had plenty of bragging done on them, too, though I didn’t see them as much.

As if having six children weren’t enough, Marcella was also like a second mother to my mom, Kathy, and her sisters Julie and Dianna.

There was only one person Marcella loved as much, if not more, than her children and that was her husband, Howard. Those two would giggle and hold hands and smile while they posed for pictures out at the lake. She was a giddy schoolgirl around him, and his death in 1991 hit her especially hard.

After Howard passed away, Marcella filled her life with family and other simple loves.

She loved gardening — especially her flowers — and she could crochet just about anything. My very first baby blanket was a special gift from Marcella, as was a stuffed mouse that she sewed a red dress for. It’s worn from being hugged and cuddled so long, and it was loved just as much as she was.

Though she sometimes acted grouchy just because she could (she was 97, after all), Marcella was a soft-hearted and generous woman to the core.

She let her Amish neighbors come in and use her phone many, many times and she always treated them with dignity and respect, not annoying curiosity like some visitors were apt to do.

Speaking of visiting, a trip to Riceville was never complete without seeing Marcella, either uptown or at her small country home. She always had a cookie waiting when I would come to visit and carried on the tradition when I brought my own children to meet her.

I could go on and on about all of the little things Marcella did that brought joy to my life when I saw her.

I loved her dearly and I will miss her deeply.