Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Fabulous Durkee Girls--Part II

          The Fabulous Durkee Girls Part II

         Virginia (Durkee) Richards.  Big sister to Dorothy (Durkee) Harris.  You already know about how different these sisters were to each other but were bonded by blood and love.  Let's count the differences:
          Virginia could start anything from cuttings            Dorothy layered starts
          V was a realist that did not attend Church            D was an every Sunday Episcopalian
          V was very Fox Republican                                D not so right
          V was physically an oak                                      D was a willow
          V gardened on a hillside                                      D gardened on the flat
          V taught &  counseled at a high school                 D taught sewing arts at Clark College
          V did not want a funeral service                           D filled the celebrating church
          V was peanut butter                                            D was the oil
          V was a named Rhododendron                            D was a named Dogwood
          V was a tea-totaller                                             D would take a tetch of Johnny Black
          V was computer literate                                       D refused to use computers
          Virginia introduced  Dorothy to her future husband through her husband to be (Leverett).  Lev was  wiry & little of stature physically. As a man he cast a giant shadow:  flew bombers in WWII, retired a colonel in the air force reserves,  worked for the Oregonian newspaper as a reporter and had many scoops, wrote 3 books, went to tennis camp in Hawaii well into his 90's, mowed his own lawn with a hand-pushed reel mower, and he and Virginia could really cut the rug way into their 90's.
           As I sit here at the computer February 7, 2014, Marieke and I have experienced a power outage which froze up our pipes/well?  V & D lived in an era that was introduced to electricity.  Can you picture living without lights--fire up the candles, it's dark--no t.v., oven, stove, reading lights, no computer, no well water, no electric heat...  We got a taste this week and it's fun until you have to flush the crapper( for those of you who do not know this little piece of  etymology:  "crapper, taking a crap,going to the John" came from the gentleman who perfected the toilet, Thomas Crapper, although it was actually invented by John Harrington.  The good part, I don't have to do the dishes; the bad they are stacking up and we don't have many left.  Thank God (god) for paper plates and our wood stove.  Still the problem of water--Virginia and Dorothy had a spring which headed on their parents property--lucky them.
           Their father Mr. Durkee sent both of his only two children to Willamette University in Salem.  This was in hard times so I know that they worked for the school president.  Mr. Durkee sent these girls to university when women were chattel.  I wonder if he emphasized education for his girls because he was  an educator.  A thumbnail sketch of their father:

The works of R.S. Durkee in Clark County were many and varied.He was a state representative , educator and county superintendent of schools , farmer and community leader.Durkee was a founder of the modern-day Clark County Fair , an active Grange member , served 10 years as president of the board of the Canners Cooperative and was on the board of the Clark County Cattlemen's Association and the Nut Growers Cooperative.He worked to bring electricity to Battle_Ground and to create Lewisville Park , for the expansion of Vancouver Memorial Hosptal and sat on the board of the Fort Vancouver Regional Library.Durkee is cited as having once said , If you want something done , give it to a busy person.

Tuke's Mt. gift of the Durkee Sisters to Clark Co. in perpetuity                                                                   
               One can see from the portrait of their father that the two offspring were born to serve and give back to the community.  Not only did Virginia and Dorothy become teachers but they gave their home place in Battle Ground (34 acres on Tukes mountain) as a park to the people of Clark County.  Really something when they could have made $$$$$$ by developing it.
              Virginia was imbued with this generosity.  She gave in thousands of small ways.  Measure a person by how they treat ordinary people.  She gave a job to all of my children. Grant, Ty, Alisa, Noel all worked for her in her garden and she let our  grandchildren Star, Caitie, and Maymay play there too.  She supported our family in every way from baby showers to never missing a jazz/rock party.  This is the mind of the Durkee sisters at 80 years +:  We had a shuttle at one of our parties and I asked Gin why they didn't take it to the top of the hill..  She said, "We thought that was for the old people."  She always had a coke or root beer waiting in a cooler if she wasn't home.  Her cookies were the real thing down to the correct spatula press in her out of this world peanut butter cookies.  Much wisdom was imparted to all during break time or visits.  Perhaps, it was only natural, since she was a school counselor in her days at Hudson Bay Hi.     ( Marieke went to see her as a student--interesting how our webs cross and re-cross each other).
              She was always an intellectual staying on top of all current, salient topics.  She had a computer long before her contemporaries and sneered at snail mail.  She was always trying to get Deedee, her sis, to use one.  Her e-mail address was giniadr.  Hence, why I called her Gin.  She was way ahead of the curve on vitamin D.    She was a political junkie and had Fox news on incessantly to my visiting chagrin--she couldn't convince the left out of me though she tried rightly.  I'll always wonder if she voted for Kennedy in '60(difinitely not according to her niece Katie who watched the returns with the family).  She was the first to tell me why the male maturity gene does not kick in until about 25.  Wished I would have known that then.  That old, "If I knew then, what I know now" syndrome.
              She suffered many trials in her life. They did not make her stop living or believing in this world.  It was a pragmatic lesson to us all to keep going and make the best out of what we cannot change.  She did not go to church yet she supported  the good works of Dorothy's church financially.  I can only say that she was a saint that didn't go to church.
              On a lighter note, she was an avid, avant-garde-ner.  She always had the newest varieties or hottest new thing.  A huge hosta collection--she turned me on to Sum and Substance and other newbies.  She was the first to have Crocosmia 'Lucifer'--a devilish red.  Every year she started hundreds of chrysanthemums and shared what she didn't plant.  She had great advice about "too diligent weeding":  You never know when you might pull out something interesting or a new variety.  She had an extensive Rhododendron collection and knew all of the hybridizers--had one named after her--'Virginia Richards'.  Her indomitable spirit was amazing.  She had severe osteoporosis doubled over half way to the ground.  Her affliction suffered no complaint and did not stop her from pulling herself along, planting her dizzy lizzies or weeding.  For me that was the greatest example-- that as I grow closer to the ground (on this side of)--I hope I too will not give up but with my last strength I will drag myself along the ground planting with my last shovel bang and nary a whimper.

                                                  Here is a poem she inspired me to write:

                                                  Gin and I Ponder

                                        Time has been well spent
                                        Did you want to repeat 
                                        What you said
                                        Only a little
                                        Was it worth saying at all
                                        Did you believe it was
                                        A joke then but
                                        Now it makes 

                                        Only the truth

                                        There was someone else who believed
                                        Not like a crowded church parking lot
                                        Promises of  pie and ice cream
                                        Feasting in one of many mansions
                                        Like rows of Japanese maple clones all waiting
                                        To be worshipped like Emperor One in fall color
                                        She said the words I have been thinking
                                        For a long time maybe 90 years she said
                                        What’s the matter with going to sleep
                                        We have no promises of  smiling reuniting
                                        Memories only that become the recorded word
                                        Of every man’s brain joined with Gaia
                                        Saying I have not crushed  hummingbird dreams
                                         I have built compost and planted spring colors too
                                         I am happy to go to sleep each night
                                        As long as I was aware the day before
                                        And the day before that
                                        And if I fell asleep while it was light
                                        Forgive me
                                        Wasn’t this enough

Make it enough!        Our annual hegira for apricots and picnic at Maryhill Winery


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