My mother, Marilyn Anne Enz McVay, died February 17 in West Lafayette. Mom lived all but 13 of her 79 years in Whitley County. While “The Raven Lunatic” will return in two weeks with my usual irreverence, today I share how much it meant for our family to bring Mom home to Whitley County.
My mother descended from two pioneering Whitley County families, the Creagers of Thorncreek Township and the Longs of Washington Township. Reuben Long and his brother first came down the Tunker Road in the early 1830s behind a team of oxen, and purchased farms on either side of Sugar Creek. My ancestors Washington Long, Anna Long Hoard, and LeNore Hoard Enz were all born on the same farm near Tunker.
My mother attended Washington Center School until ninth grade when the family moved to Fort Wayne for three years. Remarkably, she and my dad have always included in the Washington Center School alumni activities.
Many Washington Center friends came to the visitation and shared stories about growing up in the 1930s and 1940s on a Whitley County farm. A lifelong friend remembered riding bicycles to St. John’s Lutheran Church on Keiser Road for Vacation Bible school, and another spoke about my mother playing her flute in the band. Another remembered that she raised purebred black cocker spaniels.
My mother taught first and second grade at Washington Center before it closed in the mid-fifties, and I’ve heard from many of her students who still live in the area. Mom met my father, who was also a teacher at Washington Center, while still a college student.
Dad’s Purdue mentor advised him to meet area farmers and start an advisory board, so he stopped by to see Carl Enz and talk about his herd of Angus. My soon-to-be grandfather, Carl Enz, introduced the young teacher to his wife and younger daughter, who were eating watermelon on the back porch of the farm house on the Tunker Road. Dad soon found other excuses to visit Carl Enz, until he screwed up his courage to ask my mom for a date. They went to see “Blossom Time” at the Foellinger Theatre in Fort Wayne and were married for nearly 57 years.
After college and Dad’s graduate school, my parents returned to Whitley County, living in South Whitley for another four decades. I know how incredibly fortunate I was to land in that nest in that community in that time.
We brought Mom home to Whitley County on Ash Wednesday where she was laid to rest next to her parents, close to her great-grandparents, and in Eberhard Lutheran Cemetery.
Ash Wednesday was a cold but sunny day, warm for February, yet all around you could sense the promise of spring in the trees and fields. Mom would have been 80 on the 28th of March; I find something poetic that she began and ended her time on earth in the early spring. Thanks to her lovely friends for helping on this journey home.
Published March 9, 2012 on the Opinion Page of the Columbia City Post and Mail.