In Memoriam, for the Day

Velma Irene Ward Devers, of Warrensburg, Missouri. My great-grandmother. She grew up on a farm in Kansas, with eight siblings with names like "Roscoe," "Ina," and "Mildred," and she was the valedictorian in her high school class of nine. As I knew her, she was always impeccably coiffed and thoroughly accessorized; my cousins and I spent hours trying on the clip-on earrings and long strands of beads organized in egg crates in her dresser drawers.

Pearl Robertson Leonard of Lamoni, Iowa. My great-grandmother. Soft and doughy, with hands gnarled like twisted paper, she spent years on a farm using an outhouse and water pump before retiring to town. She loved birdwatching, Reader's Digest, and Louis L'Amour novels, and made excellent fruit-and-Jell-o concoctions and creamed corn.

Robert Leonard of Lamoni, Iowa. My great-uncle, a farmer, and a round badger of a man with a great bark of a laugh. I remember him shouting cheerful profanities at his cows as they followed his truck in expectation of food; his left hand trembling with Parkinson's until he trapped it under his right; and his bristly cheek when I leaned down to kiss him good-bye.

Carol Jean Devers Sadler, of Warrensburg, Missouri. My grandmother. When she took the GRE, she achieved the highest score of any student at Central Missouri State University up till that time. She loved traditional church music, bridge, and the public library; made wonderful afghans and mashed potatoes with cheese on top; read mystery novels and literary fiction; and taught me to play Scrabble and, with my mother, to be proud of being an intellectual woman. She died of breast cancer in 2003, and her daughter and granddaughters have Raced for the Cure every year since.

Monte Hydrick Sadler, of Sikeston, Missouri. My great-grandmother, a tiny, wizened woman who wore pastel housedresses and brown orthopedic shoes. When cooking, she was deaf to her granddaughters' pleas that she should sit down and rest, let them take care of things. . . . Her recipes included ingredients like "a handful of flour" and "a knob of butter (the size of a walnut)," and she boiled her green beans with bacon and salt till they melted in the pot.

Philip "Bud" Sadler. My uncle, long and lean, with shaggy blonde hair that sometimes fell into his face and an immense fondness for Bruce Springsteen. He went into typewriter repair in the late 1970s, and the times sadly got away from him; but I remember his wide smile and easy laugh, and his delight at corny comedies or when the Chiefs made a great play.

I am lucky to have lost only these five people, and lucky to have loved and been loved by them.