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|By: Keith A. Rowley
||Nov 15, 2006
|Saturday morning, after Katherine awoke, our son James crawled into bed with me and fell back asleep. When he woke up the second time, he turned to me and said, “I must have fallen back asleep because I woke up – and you can’t wake up unless you fall asleep.” What a wonderful metaphor for the final sleep into which we all fall and the eternal awakening that awaits us as believers in Jesus Christ and His Resurrection. Mom fell into her final sleep Friday afternoon; and, when she awakens, it will be to everlasting life. To paraphrase Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, she has traded her tired, frail natural body, made of dust and to the dust returned, for a spiritual body, everlasting and free of all infirmities.
Erma Earlene Brown entered this world on February 3, 1928. The daughter of Katherine Grant Harris Brown and Lester Earl Brown, she never knew her father, who died before she was born. She spent most of her childhood with her maternal grandparents – Grant and Kate Harris, her Aunt Mary, and her Uncle Phil in the small town of Wagoner, Oklahoma, 40 miles southeast of Tulsa. Her grandfather, Grant Harris, had published the first newspaper in the Cherokee Strip and later settled in Wagoner, where he edited the Wagoner Tribune until he died in 1939 and Uncle Phil took over the paper. During most of Mom’s childhood, her mother – our “Mama” – worked in Tulsa and spent weekends and holidays in Wagoner with Mom and the rest of the family. After Mom’s grandfather died, she and her grandmother moved to Tulsa to live with Mama.
Shortly after moving to Tulsa, Mom met a charming beanpole of a young man named John Rowley. They were friends in junior high, sweethearts in high school, and married in 1948 – a little more than two years after they graduated from Tulsa’s Central High School. They had the first of their three children, my sister Kathy, in September 1952. Amazingly (just kidding, my dear), they decided to try again and our brother Ken was born in August 1954. After that, nothing much interesting happened in their lives – other than moving briefly from Tulsa to Houston and back, Dad graduating from the University of Tulsa, the four of them living for two years in Venezuela during its civil war, Dad passing the CPA exam, and them permanently moving to Texas in 1962 – until I was born a few months later in December 1962.
In addition to Dad’s sister, Florine, and her family, who we would visit yearly, Mom and Dad had many friends in and from Tulsa with whom they stayed in touch over the years, and they regularly attended several class reunions, including the 50th in 1996. When Mama retired to Northeast Oklahoma in the late-1960s, the annual trip to Tulsa became an annual trip to Tulsa and Spavinaw, until Mama and her third husband, Ed Davis, moved to Tulsa in the early 1980s to be closer to medical care and to Ed’s daughter, Betty Preston.
Mom was an Okie through and through. Her grandfather, Grant Harris, entered Oklahoma – when it was still the Indian Territory – illegally and began publishing his newspaper. After being forcibly removed, he returned 20 years later and was settled in Lahoma when his daughter, our Mama, was born in 1906 and when Oklahoma became a state in 1907. Mom’s father, Earl Brown, was born in Ohio, but moved to Wagoner as a child, married Mama there, and there until his untimely death in October 1927, working at the Wagoner Tribune and for the local theater. Her mother worked in Tulsa for many years, culminating with her service as personal secretary to David Bartlett (“Mr. David”), whose brother Dewey would serve as governor of Oklahoma and as a U.S. senator representing Oklahoma.
That said, once a Texan she was proud to be a Texan, too. After moving to Richardson in 1962 and having me, we moved to Houston in 1964, where we lived – except for a two-year stint in suburban Fort Worth – until Dad retired and he and Mom moved to Walden in 1988. All three children graduated from Texas universities – Kathy from SFA, Ken from Texas Tech, and me from Baylor, and again from UT – and all three settled in Texas after graduation. All six of Mom’s grandchildren were born in Texas and all five family weddings since hers to Dad took place in Texas. She loved the quiet life living in Walden and taking day trips with Dad and with friends from the Walden area to see the surrounding countryside – particularly during wildflower season. When I was growing up, it seemed we always time a trip to visit Aunt Mary and her family in Dallas or Aunt Flo and her family in Tulsa so that we would drive past tens of miles of wildflowers in bloom alongside I-45.
Mom did not work outside the home after Kathy was born, but she was very active at Boston Avenue Methodist Church in Tulsa (where she and Dad had been married), at Westbury United Methodist Church in Houston, and at Walden Community Church for nearly 15 years until we moved her to Conroe in 2003 when it became clear she could not live alone anymore.
As a child, she took me to the library and helped create an environment in which I could thrive. Once I was old enough to go to school, she packed me off to school every morning – driving when I was too young or the weather was too foul to walk – and welcomed me home every afternoon. Once I was old enough to drive, she lent me her car until I had one of my own, even if doing so meant that she wouldn’t see her car again for two or three days because I was driving to some debate tournament in Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, or elsewhere. She opened our house to all of my friends and did her best to make them feel comfortable there.
Paul writes that faith, charity, and love are the only gifts that endure and that the greatest of those is love. Mom had a strong faith in God and his son, our savior, Jesus Christ. That faith supported her through Dad’s sudden death in 2001 and Ken’s even more shocking death in 2004. Mom supported many charitable causes, even after Dad’s death left her little more to live on than Social Security and the proceeds of Dad’s life insurance, and was generous with her hospitality and her trust – two commodities in short supply in today’s world. Most importantly, Mom loved. She loved her family, she loved her friends, she loved God’s creatures, great and small. She was not often demonstrative. She didn’t smother with hugs and shower with kisses. But, until Alzheimer’s robbed her even of this, you could see the love in her eyes and hear it in the tone of her voice.
O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God who gives us victory over death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
I love you Mom. We love you Mom. We miss you, but know that you are now free of the prison of Alzheimer’s and of the pain of your final days and that, even now, that charming young man you met 60-something years ago and all the other loved ones who have passed on before you are welcoming you to a new life of everlasting joy.
|By: Melanie Clement
||Nov 11, 2006
|Earlene was one of my 1st friends in Walden. She came to meet me when I moved in as a new neighbor in 1988. We have been life friends, I will cherish the memories forever of Earlene, John and her mom "Aunt Kat" as they were all a huge part of my married life and in the raising of my children. Our family is much stronger and wiser due to their love. Earlene will be missed!
|By: Dorothy (Mimi) Harrison
||Nov 11, 2006
|Kathy, I'm so sorry about your mom and just want you to know my thoughts are with you.
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