I was watching CNN a few years ago when they ran a human interest story about a woman in Arizona who celebrated her 85th birthday by para-sailing. Oh my gawd! I called my mother. Guess what Aunt Florence is doing now?!!! My mother wasn't surprised. Five years earlier, my mother had celebrated her 50th by jumping out of an airplane. I come from a long line of very interesting, rather eccentric and quite bold women. Who would have guessed?
I took this picture of Florence at a family reunion in Highland, IL in 2000. She always had fresh flowers in her hair or on her hat. Her laugh was infectious and she was very proud of those gorgeous teeth. A few years ago she went in for some surgery and the nurse tried to remove her teeth. With a patronizing little pat, the nurse said that she couldn't have an operation with her teeth in, thinking they were false because she's so old! Florence threatened to bite the woman's hand if she stuck it in her mouth again. The teeth were real and connected to her face!
Aunt Florence was planning to celebrate her 100th birthday in May on a parasail. She missed it by 7 months. Her memorial service will be in Highland, IL today. Her brother and other family still live and have a business there -- Widmer Florist.
Florence was an amazing woman. Born in an era when women could be mothers or have a career, she chose the latter, as did several other women in the family. She had her own floral shop on North Grand in St. Louis until she was in her late 70s. She sold the shop and decided to marry -- for the first time. She had boyfriends before, but apparently the relationships were quite proper and chaste, because she told my grandmother Genevieve (who told me in whispers) that Florence really liked married life. She REALLY liked it!
Her first husband died and she wasn't ready to be old yet, so she got herself a younger husband. She was in her 80s when she married Norm, in his 60s! They were sweethearts until end.
I felt Florence's presence in Highland this weekend. I was there this weekend exhibiting at the Highland Art in the Park, along with 60 or so amazing artists, many of whom have become friends over the years. Sales were pretty good (Highland is small, but they love art and support the show), I was honored to receive an Award of Excellence.
Thank you Highland. And thank you Aunt Florence. You will be missed.