Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mary Barbara Pepper: 01/01/1929 - 02/15/2012

My mother died this morning after a very long illness. She was an awesome woman, and I loved her deeply. Born Mary Barbara Daugherty on New Year's Day in 1929, she grew up during the Great Depression on a farm in northern Indiana. She was ahead of her time in many respects, and wanted to go to college from a very early age. So, she applied herself, worked hard, and was accepted to George Washington University in Washington, D.C. in 1947. It was there that she met my father, Hobart Garrett Pepper Jr., who was a World War II veteran and a pilot in the Army Air Corps. They were married after graduation in 1950.

Dad was recalled to the service because of the Korean Conflict, and mustered into the newly-formed United States Air Force as a first lieutenant. After their first duty station in Waco, Texas, they were transferred to Pepperell AFB in Gander, Newfoundland, Canada in 1956. I was born December fifteenth of 1957 in St. Johns, and since mom had found out she couldn't have children, they adopted me in 1958. I only ever needed one miracle in life, and I got it at the very beginning: Being adopted by Hobart and Mary.

Dad didn't want me to ever know I was adopted, so I grew up completely convinced that I was their natural born son (Dad and I had the same steel-blue eyes, so I even looked the part). It wasn't until mom started suffering from dementia back in 2010 that I found out: I was 52 years old by then. What an awesome gift they gave me.

Mom was a traditional housewife and mother - since dad was off flying so much, there was no way she could work - and our home life was much like the, "idealized" fifties and sixties households you see in old TV shows like Leave it to Beaver and My Three Sons. The main difference was we were stationed in a series of wonderful places as I grew up: Denver, Colorado; Fort Walton Beach, Florida; the Panama Canal Zone; Tacoma, Washington; and Tokyo, Japan: I had a magical childhood.

When dad retired in 1972, we moved to San Antonio, where mom ended up spending the rest of her life. Now freed up, mom became a very successful real estate agent, and also a breeder of champion lhasa apso show dogs. In fact, her dog Lulu won Best in Breed at Westminster the day before she died. Anything mom put her mind to, she got good at: She was a golfer, and hit three holes-in-one in her career, two of them on the same hole of the country club that is in the neighborhood I now live in.

I will miss her, and I will love her forever.

Here are some of my favorite photos of her.

At the top is mom and dad shortly after they were married. Lower left is mom's high school graduation photo, and lower right is mom as a little girl. She was such a happy little girl that everyone called her Mary Sunshine.


Anonymous Ray Toler said...

George, I just came across your site while looking for information on the FS1R. My sincere condolences on the loss of your mother. I lost mine almost nine years ago and still miss her dearly.

Oddly enough, the quotation that has given me the most comfort over the years comes from Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, and I paraphrase, "If you've ever lost a parent you already know how it feels. And if you haven't, no words can possibly make you understand."

9:29 PM  

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