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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Helen Drylie Wolcott ~ March 2, 1910 - March 22, 2007

Somebody's makin my life mighty glad
Somebody's kind to me when I feel sad
Somebody's missin' me when we're apart
Precious somebody the pride o' my heart.
Somebody's fair to me all the way through
Somebody's trustin' me knows I am true
Somebody's dearer than words can define
Precious somebody, Somebody o' mine..

Grandma Helen died on Thursday, March 22, 2007 at the age of 97. She was born in Pittsburgh, PA on March 2, 1910 to her parents, Joseph and Mabel P. Marsh. Mrs. Drylie-Wolcott was a medical assistant, a Director of Religious Education, was for thirty years in service with the National Aging Program, including a Directorship of the Pinellas County Coalition on Aging. She was an active member of Altrusa, Int. for twenty years, a member and past President of the St. Claire Daughters of the King, a prayer order. Most recently, she was the Co-Director of the Institute for Biblical Literacy in Athens, GA.

Helen was predeceased by her husbands, Herbert D. Drylie, Sr., Robert L. Kaechele and Robert H. Wolcott. She was also predeceased by her two children, Dr. David M. Drylie, a local physician, and Herbert (Dick) Drylie, Jr. a Commander and fighter pilot with the US Navy as well as a granddaughter, Laura Drylie Dougherty . She is survived by her five grandchildren: David Drylie of Christmas, FL, Deedee Drylie of Atlanta, GA, Deborah Drylie of Gainesville, FL, Diana Murphy of Santa Monica, CA, and Dicky Drylie of Virginia Beach, VA. She is also survived by nine great-grandchildren.

Dearest Heidi, I find it hard to believe we have lost not one, but three wonderful, brave, courageous women in our family since you have been gone. When I last saw Grandma, ten days before she died, I told her you sent your love and a big Happy Birthday. She squeezed my hand and smiled. She never failed to ask how you were doing and to tell me how proud she was of you.

Aunt Deborah gave this thoughtful, heartfelt tribute to Grandma Helen at her memorial. Those of us who knew her know how perfectly it describes "Dr. Grandma":

"If there is one word which comes to mind when I think of my grandmother, it is “color” – specifically, the color purple.

Indulge me for a moment and close your eyes and envision the color purple – from the lightest shade of lavender to the deepest darkest amethyst – that is the rainbow which was Grandma Helen.

Her love of purple goes back to my earliest memory of her – when I was a young child and spent a rare and precious weekend with her and she pronounced that we were both “purple people”…. A bond we shared, almost as a special secret.

Another word to describe Grandma ….”particular”. She was “particular” about everything. I think that it sounds better than “picky”. In the last few years, there were times when her being “particular” could be a trial of one’s patience.

Miss Marie, a God sent angel to this family, can attest to this sometimes trying but ultimately lovable characteristic. She took grandma to CVS so many times for just the right watch. They’d purchase a watch one week, only to return it the next! It finally got to the point Miss Marie had to pull a sales clerk aside and convince her to refuse acceptance of another returned watch from Grandma.

One day, maybe 8 months ago, Marie called me somewhat upset about Grandma’s announced plans for their day together. Apparently, Grandma had become unhappy with her pillow and after several trips to several stores, finally found just the right one. She returned to The Villages, tore off the tags, threw away the receipt and used that pillow for several weeks. Then, suddenly, on Monday she announces to Marie that the pillow was no good, too lumpy, and must be returned. It was her insistence upon returning a used pillow, with no tags and no receipt, and some degree of uncertainty as to the place of purchase which prompted Miss Marie’s call.

After explaining the situation and background, Marie and I concluded two things. First, there would be no stopping this (at the time) 96 year old woman from doing exactly as she intended and second, if there was anyone who could convince a sales clerk to accept the return of a pillow (used), with no tags and no receipt it would be Grandma.

When I was preparing for today, I thought back to the only other memorial service during which I said a few words – that was my dad’s – Grandma’s oldest son.

With my dad, it was a sudden and unexpected heart attack at what I increasingly see as the tender age of 65. In reflecting on his untimely death almost 10 years ago, I’ve come to see a silver lining in the relationship which sprung up with my Grandmother. A relationship and closeness which grew and blossomed when I wasn’t even looking.

After my dad’s death, Grandma moved here to Gainesville so her increasing needs could be more easily looked after and attended to. Over the last 10 years, those needs increased and resulted in the loss of her independence and consequently, increasing dependence on others. Yet, each loss was faced with wisdom, resolve and quiet acceptance of her ever-greater list of limitations and ailments.

For me, only after her death have I come to fully understand and appreciate that my father’s death opened the door for me to enjoy and experience an enriched relationship with Grandma Helen – a relationship which likely would not have occurred if it had not been borne out of loss.

Towards the end of Grandma’s long life, especially when compared to her husbands and sons, she frequently questioned why she was still here – her feelings of uselessness frustrated and confounded her. She wanted a purpose for her life and was far too humble to even consider the possibilities – the possibility that her purpose was to show and lead by example her family and friends towards a pathway of life filled with dignity, determination, grace and acceptance while never losing the essence of herself. A particularly colorful person who could (and did) indeed convince a sales clerk to accept a used, tagless, receiptless pillow …"

The poem, loved by Grandma and used for her memorial program, was written by Norman Bright, British POW, during WWII.

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