Archive for April 2011


April 24, 2011

Eulogy for Edythe

This is a service of thanksgiving for the life of Edythe Irene Heintz – a caring sister, faithful wife, devoted mother, loving aunt and grandmother, dedicated teacher, and good neighbor.  Though we gather today to mourn her loss to us, we do so in gratitude for the many ways in which she touched and enriched our lives during her nearly sixty-eight years with us.

An accomplished professional educator whose career spanned thirty-six years, Edythe served the public as a teacher at many levels from nursery school and kindergarten through high school, as a supervisor of fellow teachers and counselors, as coordinator of a child development center, and as a specialist consultant and teacher of the mentally retarded.  She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Oregon as well as four professional certificates, and served as an officer in several of the nine professional organizations of which she was a member.  She pursued basic educational research and assisted the advisory boards of institutions such as the Pearl Buck Center in Eugene and the Developmental Disabilities Council.  Throughout her career, Edythe took delight in community volunteer activities: she was a Parent-Teacher Association president, a Sunday school teacher in the Unitarian Church, a den mother for Cub Scouts and an organizer of outdoor education camps for mentally retarded youth. 

Yet those of us now gathered here to remember Edythe were touched by her in ways which cannot be summarized by a brief review of her distinguished public and professional career.  I know we all carry within our hearts and memories vivid impressions of Edythe’s unique spirit and these arise naturally from the common well of shared human experience. 

Edythe Irene was the eldest of six daughters and two sons born to Samuel P. and Effie E. Ware.  All of her sisters – Theresa, Virginia, Mildred, Dorothy and Naomi – survive her, as well as her two brothers, Samuel Parker (Pete) and Frank Jackson.  As the eldest child in a large family, Edythe was early accustomed to assuming heavy responsibilities for her younger siblings’ care and upbringing.  The character traits she developed to cope with this were evident throughout her life:  she was a nurturing personality, with deep reserves of compassion and understanding, yet leavened by a keen ability to organize and motivate all those around her. 

Her husband, John Pittinger Heintz, whom she met and married at the University of Oregon, survives her, together with three sons; Thomas Pittinger, John Eden and Ronald Terrence.  Edythe was blessed with three granddaughters – Crystal, Julie and Lisa – through her son Thomas and daughter-in-law Patricia, all of whom survives. 

As Edythe’s son, my earliest memories of her are too primal and pre-verbal to articulate.  She was the first person I knew before and after coming into the world, and she shaped my inner realm as surely as she did my endeavors in the public sphere.  The ties between a mother and her son are deep and difficult, so our relationship was not always an easy one.  As I grew older, I became better able to understand and share her simple human pleasures and delight in living.  Although Edythe spent her early childhood in eastern urban settings, she reveled in the fruitful abundance of the western Oregon valleys, particularly the berry crops of the Willamette Valley, which she gathered throughout her life while able to do so. When she could no longer stand or stoop to gather them herself, she asked me to drive her to the fields just to watch others harvesting strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, boysenberries, marionberries and loganberries.  In summer she kept time by the ripening of each berry crop in its turn.   Edythe was fascinated by the inscrutable and unique personalities of cats, both domestic and wild.  She tolerated their every idiosyncrasy except their desire to hunt the birds and squirrels in her garden.

Edythe was sorely afflicted by painful physical debilities in her last years and I was blessed with the opportunity to serve as her primary caregiver.  It was difficult to live daily with the pain of my mother’s declining health, yet I admired her dignity and independent spirit.  She found it hard to gradually reduce the scope of her activity as her condition worsened, but she bore this with a valiant determination to maintain herself so she could continue to serve her extended family.  Although Edythe was periodically riven by severe pain, her passing occurred peacefully as she slept in her own bedroom, surrounded with the familiar.  We can take consolation in this, and also be glad of Edythe’s life among us even as we mourn her loss.

Following this service you are all welcome to attend a gathering at Edythe’s home to share your memories of her. 

(These remarks were prepared and delivered by John E. Heintz at Edythe’s memorial service on 23 November 1990.)

 I’ve been planning on a posting for each of my sisters and my brother and I’ve asked for help with that.  In Edie’s case, it has been especially difficult since the Heintz brothers don’t seem to be interested in maintaining close family ties.  Johnny is the exception but Johnny and I have had our difficulties also.  Anyway, I decided to go with Johnny’s eulogy as a base for this posting and add some remembrances that I have. 

As Johnny mentioned, Edythe was the eldest and was in her late teens when I was born.  She and Theresa worked during the war building Liberty Ships in Vancouver Washington and I don’t know if that interrupted her college education or if that was how she financed her education.  I think the latter.  In those days not many went to college and I’m sure it was even rarer for a female.  I know Edie was a good scholar and I remember Millie grousing about being compared to Edie by her teachers in school and I think that Edie set the bar pretty high. 

During the 40’s, dad spent most of his time in Alaska because that was where the work was.  Mom decided to travel to Vermont-New Hampshire to visit what remained of her family in about 1946 and left Edie in charge of the house while she was gone for several weeks.  Millie told me about this and said Edie ran a tight ship with carefully regulated tasks for each sibling and the house hummed right along under her control…but then Mom came home.  Edie promptly added Mom to the bottom of her task list and that’s when it hit the fan.  Mom was a very strong-willed person and refused to be added to Edie’s task list and Mom had seniority. 

As Johnny mentioned, Edie was very well educated and so, when employed as a teacher, she had to be paid commensurate with her education.  That proved to be a problem for her since a school board, always under budget strain, could hire a new, inexperience teacher for a fraction of what they paid Edythe.  I suppose if she hadn’t have had to move and find a new position because of Jack’s transfers she wouldn’t have had much of a problem but she did find it hard to find a teaching job in her later years and ended up teaching hardened convicts in the Oregon Penitentiary in Salem.  Which brings me to another story about Edie. 

Edie was claustrophobic and would really go bonkers if she was enclosed in a tight space.  When she got the job with at OSP, she would have to go through several levels of containment to reach her students who were real hardcases.  I don’t know how she managed those steel doors closing behind her and locking her in, I’m sure it was a traumatic experience.  One day she noticed that someone had stolen her Oregonian newspaper and took her class to task for it.  One of the convicts with a sense of humor pointed out to her that they WERE all violent criminals and that she shouldn’t be too surprised that they didn’t respect her property.  Edie had a sense of humor too and immediately saw the humor in the situation.

I noted Johnny’s recollection of Edie getting him to drive her out to a berry patch to watch berries being picked…  I don’t think so.  I think Edie was used to getting people to do what she wanted them to do and probably she wanted Johnny to go pick her some berries.  I remember Johnny getting in a lot of trouble for leaving Edie in a berry patch as they were driving to Eugene from Medford and he got exasperated with her and drove off and left her there.  She called one of her sisters in Eugene and everyone got together and sent a rescue team for her.  I wasn’t home at the time but I heard about it later. 

Another story about Edie is when she was living on Haight Street in N.E. Portland and she put Ronnie and Johnny in the car for a trip home to Springfield.  It was their job to read the street signs for her since she was busy driving and couldn’t do both.  She drove into downtown Eugene the wrong way on a one-way street ( I think it was 6th Street) and got all the way into town before she noticed. 

Millie and Edie were especially close and shared the same values and politics.  Edie was an adamant feminist all her life and was a tireless advocate for the inequality of opportunities for women.   Which makes her demand for a ‘Real’ doctor when she was given a female doctor at Kaiser-Permanente that much more hilarious.  At that point in her later life her son Ronnie was a psychiatrist and he was married to a psychiatrist so she surely knew better.

Edie was in a great deal of pain with rheumatoid arthritis ravaging her body toward the end.  I believe she was also suffering from emphysema, something that runs in our family, and was chained to an oxygen tank.  She was on prednisone and other extreme drugs and she decided that enough was enough.  She refused to take the drugs that would prolong her suffering and chose instead to go out on her terms.  I loved and respected Edie and I am proud of the way she lived her life.    



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