Lessons Learned from a Great Lady

There are those few people who really touch us in life, who make an impact on our outlook. I wrote a while back about the three nonagenarians who have taught me so much in life—my mom, my Aunt Ruth and my Aunt Ilene. And now, my Aunt Ilene is gone. In her 90 years, she never amassed any great fortune; she didn’t earn great fame and glory, but in her quiet ways, she spoke volumes to me.

Aunt Ilene came into my mom’s life when Mom was four years old. She was my mother’s lifesaver. Mom’s mother had died a few months earlier and her father knew he needed a housekeeper and someone to care for his eight-year-old son and my mom. So Marion Jones and her daughter Ilene came to live with them. A few months later, Marion and my grandfather married. At first sight, the two girls made a connection. Actually, Aunt Ilene had her eyes on the wicker baby carriage that Mom had, but it was an extra treat to have a new playmate.

(To left Mom seated with Aunt Ilene to her side 2010)

That friendship grew through the years. They picked berries and vegetables together in the garden and sold them door-to-door on the streets of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania. They dated cousins and enjoyed sitting in the boyfriend’s car on main street and eating pints of Hygeia Ice Cream. They graduated in the same class of 1939. Then they married just six months apart in 1942. The astounding thing was that their husbands passed away just six months apart in 1982.

Mom tells me that Aunt Ilene set her eyes on Uncle Wilbur in 9th grade. Whenever she saw him in the halls of the school, she would say, “Hi, beautiful.” This was before they dated, and Uncle Wilbur would turn red with embarrassment that made her do it even more.

When Uncle Wilbur returned from WWII, he developed a blood disorder that crippled him for the rest of his life. Every morning, Aunt Ilene dressed Uncle Wilbur and got his breakfast before she went to work. Then at lunch, she hurried home to prepare their lunch. Sometimes during the summer months, I stayed overnight with my cousin, Carole. I never saw Aunt Ilene hurry through lunch. She took her time and talked with her husband as they ate lunch. I watched Aunt Ilene as she lifted Uncle Wilbur’s heavy wheelchair in and out of their station wagon. I never once heard her complain of backache. She never said an unkind word toward Uncle Wilbur or about him.

(To right, Aunt Ilene and Mom in their graduation dresses 1939)

She showed that same care and love in her cards that she sent her me for birthdays and Christmases. Those cards meant a lot, especially in this day of email. Her snail mail told me that she loved me enough to take the time to purchase a special card meant only for me.

What did Aunt Ilene teach me? She taught me how to love my husband well. She taught me that showing love in small ways ministered to others in big ways. What a love; what a lady.

Rest in peace, dear Aunt Ilene.



  1. by Karen Kay

    On September 4, 2012

    Your Aunt Illene sounds like a special person, and your relationship with her even more so. You really honor her in your writing. As if she is now a part of you… as I’m sure she is!

  2. by Judy Watters

    On September 4, 2012

    Thanks, Karen. She sure was special. Someone who will be difficult to emulate.

  3. by Julie McAllister

    On September 4, 2012

    What a delightful story about you and your Aunt Ilene. She sounds as if she truly left her mark on the world and you. Thanks for sharing just a tidbit of that bond with the rest of us.

  4. by Judy Watters

    On September 4, 2012

    Thanks, Julie. She certainly did leave her mark in her own special way.

  5. by Wanda

    On September 4, 2012

    Like a breath of fresh air is a phrase often overused, but in this case the sacrificial love that your Aunt Ilene showed her husband, your mother, you, and no doubt all that she met, is so refreshing to read about. The steady, gentle, determined, quiet way she impacted lives is a testament to our Lord and Him being all in your Aunt Ilene.

  6. by Judy Watters

    On September 5, 2012

    Thanks, Wanda. She definitely was the “steady, gentle and determined” example in my life.

Leave a Reply

Sorry, but you must be logged in to post a comment.

close window

Service Times & Directions

Weekend Masses in English

Saturday Morning: 8:00 am

Saturday Vigil: 4:30 pm

Sunday: 7:30 am, 9:00 am, 10:45 am,
12:30 pm, 5:30 pm

Weekend Masses In Español

Saturday Vigil: 6:15pm

Sunday: 9:00am, 7:15pm

Weekday Morning Masses

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday: 8:30 am

6654 Main Street
Wonderland, AK 45202
(513) 555-7856