Onalee Anderson was born in Jacksonville, Illinois on June 11th, 1936 to Lucille and Gary Eberhardt. She passed away at her home on Lake Sawyer, Black Diamond, WA, on August 16th, 2015 under the loving care of her children. Each of her children, as well as their spouses, were able to care for her during her last months. Her last two weeks were spent in the house that she had shared with our dad for the past 28 years. She passed in the same exact place, looking at the same view, as our dad. We believe that this was how she wished it to be.
She leaves behind 4 children: Cheryl Gregg and husband Roger, Natalie Staley, Gwen Anderson and Matt Anderson and his wife Lily. She loved and was loved by 10 grandchildren: Jared, Meg, Hillary, Marc, Kevin, Morgan, Matt, Maxx, Flossie and Gus. She was preceded in death by her husband, Wayne, her parents Lucille and Gary Eberhardt, brother Ron Eberhardt, and a granddaughter, Lindey.
Mom graduated from Valparaiso University in 1958 with a Bachelor of Science in Education, and was proud of the fact that she and her friends were the charter members of Phi Betta Chi. To nobody’s surprise today, she was their first social chairman.
It was during her years at Valpo that she met Wayne Anderson while on a double date with another guy. He quickly realized he was with the wrong girl, and stole her away to become his date for life. They were married on June 22, 1958.
Moms first year of teaching was in Aurora, IL with 36 first graders. She then joined Wayne, who was stationed in the US Army down in San Antonio and taught there briefly before starting their family.
Mom loved children. Over the years, she taught , and sometimes directed, Preschool thru 4th grade . But the gift that she had in connecting with young children was never more appreciated than by the ones she loved the most…..her grandchildren. We treasure so many memories of Grandma reading to her grandchildren, making craft projects with them, cooking and baking with them, teaching them “Heart and Soul” on the piano and sharing her love of Jesus with them. She was absolutely unable to bypass a good children’s book – or a book on sale – because she was intent on building up their library and their love for reading. All of our kids, her grandchildren, knew that grandma’s arms were always open and that she was ready to be with them.
Our mother was a gracious, loving and kind woman. She was a hostess to the mostest, an amazing cook who “outdid herself” in making family gatherings memorable and special. She was never happier than when her house was filled with family and friends and the sounds of laughter and love. She was a bridge player, who along with her “foursome”, played cards in far-flung places such as Germany. She loved growing flowers and arranging them. She and dad traveled the world: China, the Mediterranean, much of the United States, including Alaska, and the Caribbean. She loved music passionately. She played the piano and the clarinet, but her favorite instrument was her voice, which she used to sing in choirs, around the house, in school, and in the car. And the songs that she sang were invariably about the Jesus that she loved and served.
She was an amazing mother. I honestly can’t remember when she didn’t have time, didn’t have energy, or had something else that she wanted to do when we needed her. The words, “Not now”, were not in her vocabulary . She sacrificed for us, loved us uncompromisingly, and cheered us on, enabling us to become better than what we thought we could. Her pride in us, her kids, was total and sometimes bordered on embarrassing. We have lost our cheerleader, our supporter, the most amazing hugger and our friend. Life will not be the same.
Mom was so appreciative of little kindnesses. She treasured the notes, gifts, flowers, and visits given her by friends. She kept them in baskets and revisited them often. She was thankful for the small group from 1st Pres. that she and dad, and later, just she, was a part of. Her Thursday morning Bible study and the women that were in it with her, was something she looked forward to greatly and was hoping to feel better enough to join up until the very end.
But it was her faith in God that transcended all these other loves and defined her as a person. She was a prayer warrior. We will never know, this side of heaven, how our lives were changed because of her prayers and the God who answers them. Her Bible was usually open….highlighted, noted in the margins, falling apart from use, and spilling out with sticky notes with written insights.
A book that I treasure is “Edge of Eternity”. It is an allegory for the Christian life – a more modern day “Pilgrim’s Progress”. In it, the main character, Nick, travels a road here on earth that leads ultimately to heaven. Along the way he is given a large bag and is told to pick up rocks and place them in this bag. Confused, Nick notices that the bigger rocks are a result of difficult times and sorrow, and yet he continues to carry his collection of rocks, bending under the burden that they become.
My mom had quite the sack of rocks. Losing her dad at the age of ten, undergoing bladder cancer, uterine cancer, and ultimately lung cancer were the boulders she bore. She carried those rocks uncomplainingly, with grace and humor. But the allegory doesn’t end with death being the giving up of that bag, laying it down in utter exhaustion and frustration because life is over. Because as the main character in the story lays the bag down at his Savior’s feet, Jesus lovingly asks him to open the bag and pour it out. As he pours out the contents, he is astonished to find that every rock has been transformed into a beautiful jewel. The larger, more cumbersome rocks become the most beautiful of all, and they are given as an offering to His Savior. I can only imagine my mom’s joy as she lays her jewels at her Savior’s feet and hears Him say to her, “Well done, good and faithful servant”.
A week and a half before she died, in an effort to distract from her overwhelming pain and nausea, I asked my mom to talk about her life. I learned things that I never knew before. I learned that despite her recent ease in striking up a conversation with just about anyone, she was a painfully shy little girl, a daddy’s girl. Her very first job was selling hosiery. During her second year of teaching in San Antonio, she taught a little boy, Benito, who captured her heart. She and her mom played tennis together often. She loved to sing in choirs, and over the years, has participated as a bass, tenor, alto and soprano. (Her favorite was bass). As we got to the end of her story, I said, “It’s been a good life, hasn’t it?”, and she replied, “It’s been a very good life.” But as was always her way, she turned the conversation into the things of God. She hastened to add, “ I just want it to be known that my life is a picture of God’s grace and mercy. Anything good that I’ve done is because God has been gracious and merciful to me, and it is only for the goal of giving Him glory and honor”.
Thank you for reminding us, mom. But we knew, mom…..we always knew.