Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Aloha, Verna

My friend Verna passed away at 2:12 p.m. today California time. She was 86. Verna is the lady who lived with me for several weeks last summer when she left the hospital after wrecking her car in Sonora. She was vibrant and unconventional right up to the end. (photo, left: Verna (Silver) Nosker with brothers Dick and Bob Silver and their mother Mary (Bogan) Silver circa 1983)

Verna was from two old Tuolumne County families. Her father was a Silver, one of 24 (yes, you read that correctly) children born to Francis and Julia (Salvador) Silver of Shaws Flat. Her mother was a Bogan from Stent, eldest of nine children of James Bogan of Stent and his Chiliean wife Hannah (also called Faviana) dela Cruz Fuentes of Montezuma. About this time of year there's a wonderful display of daffodils under an old oak tree in a horse pasture just southerly of the Cal-Trans yard on Montezuma Road. That's where, said Verna, Mary (Bogan)Silver's Chilean grandmother lived when Mary was a little girl, where the children went to visit and learn Spanish. Although she was born in Stockton and lived very little of the first 40 or so years of her life in Tuolumne Co., Verna always considered herself local. You could bet that she'd tell every waitress, every nurse, every service person she met in the county, "I'm an old timer, honey. I'm an old timer." She was not referring to her age. Only in the last year had Verna begun to think of herself as getting old.

Verna was passionate about young people. She returned to Tuolumne Co. in the 1960's to provide services for children and teens through the mental health program. She was heavily involved in programs combating substance abuse among teens. She later provided counseling in the public schools especially in the outlying communities. The kids called her "the lady with the knot on her head" because she wore her long hair tightly wrapped into a bun on the very top of her head. Ray and I met her through the mental health services she provided in Groveland, and became close friends. When she retired in the 1980's we collected her mail from Jamestown and held it until she arrived somewhere within a 100 mile radius, then delivered it. She and her parrot, a Yellow-Naped Amazon named Goldie (after a cousin, Golden Silver), criss-crossed the western US in a 24-foot motor home, visiting friends and family where ever they happened to be. Two or three times a year she'd spend a couple of weeks in our driveway before moving up to Yosemite Lakes RV park, down to Turtle Beach RV park in Manteca, over to the KOA park between Stockton and Lodi, or one of her other favorite haunts.

Verna was loud, outspoken, and stubborn. She had a unique style. One day she spilled paint on a new pair of khakis. Throw them away? Never! Verna found a brush and daubed red, green, yellow, blue and orange paint all over those pants. Then she painted a couple of pairs of white tennis shoes for good measure. She found causes and hung onto them. She warned seniors about mail fraud (as she regularly returned her Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes entries), boycotted Wal-Mart after they refused to accept any liability when she was injured by another customer in a motorized shopping cart, and daily reminded me, "You have to take care of yourself, honey." She was ecstatic when her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren came to visit or sent photos. Like all moms, she fretted when she didn't hear from them "enough". We never near from our children "enough".

Give thanks for Verna's life. Give thanks that she did not suffer excessively from her cancer. Pray for her family. Be at peace, my friend.

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