Joan A Walters has died. She was born Joan Cecelia Anderwald to Eleanora Snaer and Thomas Jacob Anderwald on October 18, 1930, in the old homestead on the Farm to Market Road 1077 in Bandera, Texas. She died less than a mile away. But actually, many thousands of miles separated those two points. And many, many friends, and relatives!, lined that long road.
T J Anderwald was a descendant of one of the first Polish immigrant families to settle in the area, founding the town of Bandera. This was always a huge source of pride for Joan. Eleanora was French and from Gonzales. They raised 10 children. Yes, they were Catholic. Joan was the baby of the bunch. Louise Koehler is now the only survivor of that generation. A few years back, Joan told Louise that she, Louise, would have to live longer than her so that she could take care of her, Joan. Louise met both requests, as we shall see, first by turning 100 this January! I will choose not to list the other siblings, or their offspring, or their offsprings offspring. Where would one stop…? So please do not be offended if your name does not appear somewhere in this tribute. She loved you all. And many friends knew, or know, a lot of them anyway.
Joan’s attire and presentation was legendary. Her wardrobe included a hat collection of some consequence. But primarily, she dressed for herself. What others thought was more their business than hers. It was just what she did. An unexpected bonus was that she caught the attention of young women, attracted to what she had going on. She guided many through the pathway to self-confidence and style. What a blessing!
But there was more. Much more. Most were not fortunate enough to know the scrappy side of this tough Texan. The following should tell you all you need to know about that. She battled her way back from a fall that would have killed many. It happened on December 23, 2020. She fell in her garage, likely the result of a small heart attack. She got herself wedged between her car and the garage door. There was tire rubber under her fingernails from trying to claw her way back to vertical. She couldn’t. She was 90 and injured. She was found after spending at least ten hours on the cold concrete floor. With maybe one ounce of her 91, sorry Mom, 90-pound weight being fat for insulation. My cousin finally got a text through to me as I sat for an early Christmas dinner with friends in Maine. I called from the magic call spot outside. Bunny explained what had happened. Then said, “I’ll give her the phone”. “You mean she can talk?!” Upset. Almost angry - “Why are they taking me to the hospital?” ’Nuff said… She was a lot tougher than she looked.
That event did signal the beginning of the end, but it took two more falls to keep her down. The end came, mercifully, a little less than a month after the last fall. But not before she had secured another group of friends at the nursing home. And she somehow retained a certain elegance even in her final garment, a hospital type gown. Largely due to the incredible care by a certain woman, in bathing and skin care and shampoo and etcetera that most could not afford at the fine spa that one would have to go to to receive such care. And there would still be a huge missing ingredient. Love. I asked her once, how do you do it. Clearly implying that I knew that a price was exacted for her way beyond the mere physical aspect of what she did. “I feel that I was born to do this”. Amen. No, I cannot give you her name. Her schedule is always full.
I had kept my promises to Joan. I will keep you in your house as long as I possibly can, Mom. And I will never lie to you. No matter how bad the news. I’ll give it to you straight. A very special woman stepped up to tackle a majority of care required now by Joan. Doctors’ offices. Advocacy. 4:00am airport runs for that last trip to Maine one year ago. The goal was for friends and relatives to remain just that as much as possible. And bring their own unique care as friends and relatives. Then, that special ingredient crept into the equation. Love. In both directions. Perfect. Then there was the addition of some amazing hospice care. These got her through the first sixteen months. In her own home.The nursing home, equally impressive, the last seven. And “her” hospice people got to follow her there. Perfect.The bonus round had gained her almost two years of quality life. The list of people who played a role is long. Ask me sometime. Seriously. But be prepared. I will be singing a great many praises. Again, please don’t feel hard done by if you are not mentioned or implied. That is on me. You know that she loved you.
Finally, (I know, I’m exhausted too!), I will leave you with a little challenge. She died six days after her birthday. On her birthday she managed a brief but amazing phone conversation with her sister Louise. I didn’t listen, just handled the phone. I know that she got out some good words. Even sentences. I could hear her pronouncing clearly and with good cadence. I didn’t want to hear the words. Those were private. The facial expressions told all. Great Joy! And Louise had then fulfilled her sister’s second request. Lastly, a beautiful bouquet arrived with perfect timing. Mom made note. I read the card, choking up as I scanned ahead. “Happy Birthday Aunt Joan! Your great, great niece Autumn Joy was born this morning! So, you share a birthday! We love you! Love - Paula, Keith and all the kids". Mom was beaming! Perfect. Clear for takeoff, Heaven bound! So, how old was she? Well, for many years now, her answer was “Thirty-nine, and holding”. Your secret’s safe with me Mom. Unless these folks remember some of their math.
Photo of Joan Cecilia Anderwald taken in July of 1952 by the man who married her. Norman G. Walters became my father in February of 1954.