October 14, 1929-September 25, 2018
She was in her 89thyear. And it’s the little things that seem to stand out the most—her instant coffee in her favorite mug, her rolled up Kleenexes, her beautiful penmanship, and stacks of murder mystery novels. I’ll remember her tapping her foot to gospel music or thumbing out parker-house rolls, whistling while she hung clothes on the line or washing white beans. I’m sure everyone here has memories much like mine.
Gram lived her whole life in this area, born, raised, married, raised her family, and served her community well. Many of you will remember her serving as the Town of Glen Justice, or as a member of countless organizations, clubs and chapters. She dabbled in real estate, emergency response, 55 Alive Drivers Training and so much more. But I am not here to talk about her resume. I want to talk about the kind of woman that she was, and the legacy that she has entrusted to us.
So let’s start with Patricia as a wife, a woman and a mother. On February 10, 1951 she said “I do” to Eugene Hernigle, or “Pop” to us kids. She once told me that at first glance, “the man was made of muscle, and it was impossible to resist a man that looked as good as he did!” And so started their marriage of 48 years and the Hernigle Family took root in Fultonville, with the arrival of Holli, Frank, Eugene Jr., Suzanne, Gary, Billy and Chris. There are so many memories to recount, stories to tell, antics to share, but what I want to focus on is her character. Life wasn’t always fair, easy or smooth. But if you knew Patricia, you wouldn’t be able to tell when life was tough. A faithful woman, she reminds me of one of the Proverbs that is often overlooked – but as I read it the other day, I reflected on the similarities and thought that her role as wife, woman and mother must have stemmed from this very passage. So, as I read the words of Proverbs 31, picture Patricia, Mom, Grandma, GG, in your mind’s eye:
The Wife of Noble Character
A good woman is hard to find,
and worth far more than diamonds.
Her husband trusts her without reserve,
and never has reason to regret it.
Never spiteful, she treats him generously
all her life long.
She shops around for the best yarns and cottons,
and enjoys knitting and sewing.
She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast
for her family and organizing her day.
She looks over a field and buys it,
then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden.
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,
rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
She senses the worth of her work,
is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.
She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth,
diligent in homemaking.
She’s quick to assist anyone in need,
reaches out to help the poor.
She doesn’t worry about her family when it snows;
their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear.
She makes her own clothing,
and she always faces tomorrow with a smile.
When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say,
and she always says it kindly.
She keeps an eye on everyone in her household,
and keeps them all busy and productive.
Her children respect and bless her;
Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.
The woman to be admired and praised
is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God.
See what I mean? How perfectly this Proverb embodies Patricia, or maybe Patricia embodied the Proverb? She once told me, “If you start your day with a prayer and end your day with a thank-you, you will have a good life.” She was a faithful and dedicated woman and often dispensed amazing life advice. She was known to say “worrying won’t change what is, what was or what will be, so just get on with it.” Oh and, “no sense complaining because no one wants to hear it anyway.” The Golden Rule was something that she lived by, and all those that lived in her home, knew that you do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Even when it came to chores – “what the washer misses the drier gets.” Or my personal favorite “Juli, no one likes tan lines!” She was the backbone of the family, she taught us how to look after each other, and she left us with incredible gifts like her family cookbook, and a unique quilt for each of her children. She was a woman who regularly called friends and friends of friends just to check in and see how they were doing, just to put a smile on their face.
The only way to get hurt in this life is to care. Gram cared more than most, loved more than most and was made to suffer more than most because of just how much she cared. But no matter how many times she was knocked down or made to endure things that no one should, she just kept coming back; caring more and loving more—opening herself up to even more pain. Yet there were never any complaints or bitterness—it was the only way she knew how to live.
The kind of love Gram felt for us was a love without condition. She may not have approved of everything we did, may not have liked some of the decisions we made, but she didn’t lecture, she didn’t judge. She just kept loving us, letting us know that she was there and if we ever needed her, we could count on her to listen, to comfort, to help.
She lived a simple life. It didn’t take much to make her happy—a phone call, a card, a visit or a family pond picnic. We were the most important people in the world to her. She lived to make our lives better and was proud of us.
To think that someone like her felt that way about us should make us all feel more than just a little good. We can never forget that there is a part of her in each of us, something that she gave to us and asked nothing for in return.
Property can be ruined and money squandered, but what we inherited from her cannot be damaged, destroyed or lost. It is permanent, and it keeps her from becoming just a wonderful memory. It allows her in so many ways to remain just as alive as always—alive through each of us.
There have been and will be times in our lives when situations arise where we’ll want so much to talk to her, be with her or ask her just what we should do. I hope that, when those times come, we can begin to look to each other and find that part of her that she gave to each of us. Maybe we can learn to lean on each other and rely on each other the way we always knew that we could with her. Maybe then she won’t seem quite so far away.
It is not the extraordinary things that make life worthwhile but the love that we share with those around us- a love that comes from God. Gram lived and shared her heart in a way that was truly admirable, and I have a sense that she took the teachings of St. Paul to the Corinthians very seriously when he said,
“Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, always perseveres. Love never fails. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
I believe those words were Gram’s motto – and after performing 1000 wedding ceremonies, those words were committed to her heart, to her memory and became a foundation for her life’s work.
She told me this summer, ‘this old mare has learned something today, she ain’t what she used to was…and a nap now is the best idea you’ve had all day!” Today we say Goodnight, one last time. We started our day with prayer like you taught us and now it’s our turn to say thank you, for your wisdom, your humor, tenderness and compassion, your understanding, your patience and your love.
Rest in Peace Gram.