About Madeleine: Where do you even begin to talk about your mother and her life, and what a huge influence she’s been on your own life??? I guess for my mother Madeleine, it’s all about FAMILY, TEACHING, FRIENDS, and FAITH. FAMILY has always been such an enormous part of Mother’s life. We come from a wonderful, close family. Mother was born in Arkansas, in a tiny town called Horatio, and grew up in just a slightly larger one called DeQueen. Her father, James T. Manning, was her own personal hero. He was so kind and gentle and loving….and there was no doubt that Mother was his little princess. Mother’s two brothers, Jimmy and Gene, and their MANY cousins were her best friends and earliest playmates. Jimmy, her older brother, would make her ask for little cars instead of the dolls she may have really wanted, so there would plenty of them to play with in the yard. Gene was her adored “baby brother”, and the two of them have been close their entire lives. There were, as her best friend and first cousin Sue said, “DOZENS of cousins”….and they all stayed close….for 90 years! Mother has been heard hundreds of times to say, “Don’t we come from the BEST family in the world??” And the answer to that is, “We sure do”. We had large family reunions several times a year for as long as I could remember, and you could literally just “feel the love”. We weren’t a serious bunch, either; there was always plenty of joking and loud laughter going on. She was a wonderful mother to Kent and me; she was always our “go to” person when we had a problem, as she could always figure out what to do, no matter what the situation was. She was so young and petite and cute, in her tennis shoes and shorts….all my friends envied us, and loved to come over and hang out with her. Of course, as kids will do, sometimes we wished she’d be a little more dignified, like June Cleaver! But she was true to herself always, and we just adored her and loved to spend time with her. She was my “best friend” my whole life, starting when I was two and we played “Big Girls Together” (this little game involved my wearing her high heels and carrying her purse on my arm, knocking at her door where she was sewing…then coming in and shaking hands, and saying “How do?”…. then going out, closing the door and doing it all over again, hundreds of times a day!)… From the time I was a teenager, we hung out and talked and laughed, and everything we did together, including grocery shopping and laundry, was a fun adventure. We took trips together, went to the beach together, went shopping, took long walks, and went to the movies. We shared our thoughts and our secrets, and together we solved the world’s problems….(well, if WE had been in charge, anyway!) After two years of college, Mother moved to Texas for a year and worked in a doctor’s office, and then she got a job in Washington, DC….working as a teletype operator for the FBI. Mother met my father, Don Stanford, who was a writer also working in Washington, and married him after knowing him only about 6 weeks. They lived in New York City for a year or so, then moved to Connecticut . My brother Kent and I came along soon after, and we stayed in Connecticut until my parents divorced when I was 5 and Kent was 3 and ½. At that time, we went “back home” to Arkansas. Mother had a series of office jobs for years and even sold real estate for a while, but her MOST fulfilling job was as a TEACHER….. We come from a long line of teachers; it was just “what you did” in our family. We had enough teachers in different areas of education to have staffed our own school, from kindergarten to college….and Mother had said she NEVER wanted to teach….. But here’s what happened to change her mind: she was 47 years old and had come to visit me in Tulsa, so I had her to spend the day with me in my 4th grade classroom. To give her something to do, I suggested she take one of the reading groups and just listen to them read and talk about the story. WELL. That was just “magic” to her. She told me at the end of the day, “I can’t believe you get PAID to do that! It is just so much fun!!” I just looked at her and said, “You know, Mother, you could go back to school and get your education degree, and then you could do this, too”. She went home and thought about that, and enrolled in some night classes at the community college. Then the next year, she put all her belongings in storage, moved back to the college she’d left 30 years earlier, lived in the Honors dorm, and was a “college girl” again! She loved every minute of it, but said when I came to visit her, she felt confused; was I her daughter, or was SHE the daughter? She felt every bit as young as her 19-year-old fellow students, and they treated her as if she were that age, too! When she graduated (at age 50!), she moved back to Texarkana, and told the superintendent (a long-time church friend) that she didn’t want to teach in the “good” part of town, but rather in one of the poorest areas. So he gave her a job teaching first grade in Union Elementary, which we now would say was on “the wrong side of the tracks”. She LOVED teaching with a passion, and was SO good at it! She stayed at school till 6:00 many nights, and just devoted her life to teaching those little boys and girls. She was passionate about helping them, and was innovative and creative in her lessons and activities. She created a unit on Economics for her class, including a little “store” in which the kids could “earn” play money during the week for doing their work and showing good behavior, and then “spend” that money on trinkets each Friday afternoon. She did this wonderful work as a teacher for 15 years, and told me a million times how glad she was that I’d made that suggestion and that she’d acted on it. It truly was her “life’s calling”!!! She could never see a little kid anywhere without wanting to make eye contact and conversation; she found little children just fascinating and so much fun. As for friends, Mother had a million of them, all ages, all races, in all life stages… all kinds of people. She really had a talent for making friends, and for being a friend. She just attracted people to her, and she was a faithful friend when a person needed someone on their side! She has had some of her friends since childhood and early adulthood, and has made new ones throughout her whole life, even as recently as her December hospital stay. She was always easy to talk to, and funny; her humor was evident in just about every conversation. Her lifelong best friend was Sue, her first cousin, who died just two days after Mother’s stroke. Their mothers were sisters, and they had shared so many experiences over their lives, from spending nights at each other’s houses as children, to being in Washington at the same time during WWII, to being divorced mothers in the 50’s (when that was looked down on by some people), to sharing their experiences with “getting on in years”. The past few years, they wrote back and forth every few weeks, and joked about sharing a room in Heaven! Mother absolutely LOVED helping people, especially those less fortunate; one of my earliest memories was of her packing a huge box with clothes, toys, and food….and delivering it to the porch of a poor family on Christmas Eve, a family who would’ve had nothing special on that day. She never wanted credit for her good deeds, either; she just enjoyed being a “helper” to someone else. Our family has been a bunch of faithful and active churchgoers always. Mother was raised in the Methodist church; she sang in her choir, was active in Sunday school, and helped with kids’ activities. Since we all grew up in the church, it was NEVER “shall we go to church today?” If it was a Sunday, and you weren’t SERlOUSLY ill, it was “a given” that you would be in church! We loved everything about it, and our lives revolved around what was going on in the church, and our church friends were our closest, most cherished friends. Our faith in God was, and is, what got us through life’s rough patches…..though as Methodists, we considered we had God’s permission to play cards, go to a movie on Sunday afternoon, and even dance! We consider God as our very closest friend, and our prayer style is more of a constant, ongoing conversation with that closest friend. Our faith might be called simple and childlike, but that’s the way it is for us….our bedrock, and our guide for living every day. The Methodist Hymnal is our guidebook as surely as the Bible is; those hymns are the music of our lives! We share devotionals as readily as some people share recipes, and it was always easy to talk about God and what He might want from us, or what His plans for us might be. We believe in that Great Homecoming, and that Great Family Reunion…in our forever Heavenly home….and in case anyone has been wondering where God IS in all this, the past few weeks? Right here with us, every step of the way!! He guided us to bring Mother home, which is where she wanted to be all along, and He guided us to Hospice, which has helped Mother stay comfortable and which also has helped us all know what is happening and what to expect, and He brought us Brenda, Mother’s very own angel, to care for her, and to care for us in the family, too. And He’s brought so many friends and family members together, to hold one another up in His love….. We thank you, God, for all of this love and support. Now, just in case you are thinking Mother was perfect…..well, not quite……Though she was an excellent seamstress, making lots of beautiful clothes for herself and for me, (even my gorgeous wedding dress!) , she was a pretty terrible cook! As Kent will tell you, when she put a pork chop on your plate, it would go “CLUNK!” And her idea of a good lunch was a Coke and some crackers. Like a lot of women in our family, she thought there was nothing she couldn’t do, but let me tell you, sometimes her undertakings were downright dangerous! She was always taking apart the vacuum cleaner and the telephone to work on them, so it was a wonder she never blew up the place! And I can’t tell you how many times she ruined my hair when I was a child, with her disastrous haircuts and permanents, which never turned out like we thought they would (finally, when I hit my teens, I said, “No more home perms, and no more home haircuts”!) Mother also liked her little drink in the evening, though in later years it was just an inch of “light wine”….it was the IDEA of it she liked most. Mother’s favorite saying in life was “Let your Conscience be your guide”….which always worked for me, and for her, too. Not a bad way to live….. She lived life to the fullest, and enjoyed it tremendously. Now she’s going Home, to that wonderful Family Reunion in Heaven…… Godspeed, Mother, and we’ll see you again soon. *In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that you select from either, or both, of the very special organizations listed under “Place A Donation” from the column in the upper left of this tribute. –
Saturday, February 9th, 2013 2:00pm, Myers Park United Methodist Church
Service Extra Info A service in celebration of Madeleine’s life will be held in the church chapel.