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In Memory

Happy Friday, friends. It’s been quite a week, chez English. There was Sandy, and her battering rain and winds. There was my laptop, which has seen me through 5 3/4 books, whose display screen and hard drive decided to call it quits, 4 weeks from the deadline of my manuscript. There was last night, when Huxley contracted his first stomach flu ever, getting sick 10 times, poor fella. Largest of all, though, there was the loss of my Dad’s mother, Gran.

I come from a large family. My father is one of 7, I have 17 cousins, lots of aunts and uncles, and scads of 2nd cousins. Gran was the family’s glue. She held us all together, with a fierce memory (she never, ever forgot a birthday, a birth, a wedding, or a Christmas gift), an infectious laugh, and a serious love of conversation and family.

That’s us in the top photo, with my cousin Kristy on the left and her sister, Keri beside her. In the middle image, I’m with Gran while her mother, known to me as simply Granny Horrigan, is to her left and my mother stands behind us. The last image is, I think, an Easter photo of Gran, my brother Jimmy and myself. I don’t have a recent photo of us, as it’s been 4 years since I last saw her. She never got to meet Huxley, but the wonders of this here internet allowed her to digitally make his acquaintance on the blog and on Facebook.

Her viewing is this evening, in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Her funeral is tomorrow. While I would have loved to have been able to be there for the services, finances and other circumstances prevented that from happening. That’s alright, though. I spoke with Gran this past August 17th, on her 91st birthday. She sounded like she always did-full of energy and with a lust for life. Her death came swiftly and peacefully. She didn’t suffer, and she went out on her own terms, much like she lived her life.

Gran, you were a force to be reckoned with. I will never forget your robust laughter, your love of crossword puzzles, the way your bathroom in Ardmore always smelled of lemon verbena, the candy drawer you kept so very well-stocked, and your ability to keep this massive web of family of ours humming along. I love you dearly.


The following obituary was written by my cousin Lloyd, a good, kind man if there ever was one:

Eleanore Horrigan Adams – known to loved ones and friends as “Mom”, “Gran” or “Muff” – passed on October 27.  She was a long-time resident of the Havertown and Ardmore communities.

She was born in Joliet, IL in 1921 to parents Owen and Eleanore, and was the oldest of three children – sister to her late brother Jim and survived by John (Budge).

She was married in 1943 to the late James W. Adams, originally of Johnstown, PA, and retiree of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, and is survived by eight children: Lynn, James W. Jr. (Gail), Peter (Patricia), A. Lloyd (Helen), John (Christa), Megan (Noreen), Robert (Celie), and Katherine.  She is also survived by twenty-two grandchildren (ten of whom married, with at least one more planned in 2013) and eighteen great grandchildren (and at least three more due to arrive in 2013).

Beloved daughter, sister and wife; adored mother; revered grandmother, and Hall-of-Fame status great-grandmother – she was the rock of her family. 

If you only look within the bounds of her immediate family walls, the effect that she had on so many lives is immeasurable.  When you take into account, however, all of the others with whom she interacted – friends, neighbors, parishioners, co-workers – and really any other person with whom she made acquaintance – there was truly no limit to the kindness, joy, and friendliness she was born absolutely hard-wired to share.

Devoted to her family; supportive to anyone in need of care, advice, or help; extremely well read; an ardent supporter of The Phillies and the Fighting Irish; a staple at the Princeton Parade; a fierce bridge player and New York Times crossword puzzle completer; unwavering acknowledger of every birthday, anniversary, holiday with the perfect card and gift; a mental Rolodex without rival; and a memory for names, dates, and past events like none other.  These are just some of the things for which she will always be remembered. 

Despite only having a high school diploma, she successful navigated a twenty-year career in the Banking industry, which included several years as head teller at Lincoln (and previously, Continental) Bank.  She was also an active volunteer in the St. Denis and St. John Neumann parishes, where her families were very active.  And her allegiances to Princeton University – her husband’s alma mater – and the University of Notre Dame – where one of her uncles, both of her brothers, three of her sons, and seven of her grandchildren studied – made her an honorary alumnae at both institutions.

In the end, however, it was her gift for story-telling for which her family and loved ones will most remember and love her.  She was a conversationalist – and listener – like none other.  This was where she had a de facto PhD!  In a day and age of information overload and too many sources constantly bombarding you with “noise”, she possessed a gift for making even the most mundane story interesting – sparing no detail.  One never walked away from an encounter with her without a new update on at least some member of her family – if not multiple members – nor would one leave without some new nugget of insight – a piece of history which made one more aware of the Adams legacy, and of the many, many things that made each family member part of who they are today.  And ultimately in those stories, she built bridges between herself and her family with others, connecting us with each other through similar life experiences, shared feelings, mutual thoughts and understanding.

If it’s true that we’re the sum of our parts, then it’s safe to say that “Muff” was the master mathematician that kept adding her family all together – making them whole, and putting them back together whenever they needed it.  She leaves behind the ultimate blueprint on how to lead a life as the consummate family member and friend, in the truest sense of the words.




20 Responses to In Memory

  • Dena says:

    I’m so sorry, Ashley.

  • EcoGrrl says:

    Beautiful memories of your gran – I’m glad you got to speak to her when you did, and my heart goes out to you and your family. I’ve lost all my grandparents and my dad, and treasure every memory I had with each of them. Lovely tribute, and all I can say is during loss, we need to be gentle with ourselves. You are a brilliant light reflecting on what she’s given you. (hugs)

  • Melanie J. says:

    Such a lovely obit.

  • Wendy Harrell says:

    I know you inherited many of your Gran’s qualities from reading about her. You will carry her memory with you always. So sorry for your loss, Ashley.

  • jen says:

    that is one hell of an obituary. it is clear that she was well loved and will be dearly missed. sorry for your loss, and for huxley’s to never know such a wonderful woman.

  • Michele says:

    My best thoughts and prayers for your family. Your bone deep love for your Gran and her love for you were evident even if just blinking on the screen of computers in pictures and paragraphs.

  • Claire says:

    I’m so sorry for your family’s loss, Ashley. What a wonderful lady. Thank you for sharing your photos’s and memories with us. Thinking of you all. love Claire xxx

  • Michelle says:

    I am sorry for you and your family’s loss. It sounds like gran lived a long and wonderful life and will be kept alive in all your memories. Looking at the pictures, I am amazed at how much Huxley looks like you as a child!

  • So sorry to read of your gran’s passing. It sounds like she was very much loved and will completely understand that you weren’t able to make the funeral. You have wonderful memories of her though.

  • Lois says:

    I am sorry for your loss, it’s hard to lose those we love so much. I have never read such a love filled obituary before, oh the love she must have felt from those around her to have inspired such a dedication to her.

  • Susan says:

    I’m sorry for your loss.

  • Apseed says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Ashley.

  • Dana says:

    Ashley and family – so sorry for your loss.
    What a great tribute to your gran. Nice to have all of those wonderful memories to keep her close to your heart.

  • Kristy Adams says:

    So sorry for your loss Ashley. I agree with all the other comments about the beautifully written obituary. Sounds like a special lady you were blessed with, and an awesome Notre Dame fan!! She would have loved the game tonight. Although I’m sure she had the best seat in the house! Wishing you a lifetime of wonderful memories.

  • Eileen says:

    What lovely words. My heart goes out to you and your family. I can tell that she will be sorely missed.

  • Katie says:

    So sorry for your loss. What a beautiful story about her life and family. Your family is in my prayers. Grew up in Havertown myself. Small world……

    Hope Huxley is feeling better. Lots of snuggling is in order for everyone :)

  • Lynne says:

    My deepest sympathies are with you and your family. From the sound of it, an awful lot of people will remember your Gran fondly :)

  • Molly says:

    I am so sorry to hear of your loss. My sympathies to you and your family.

  • indio says:

    So sorry to hear about your loss. You often write about how close you are to your family so I’m sure the loss will leave a hole in family gatheirngs. Having many happy memories of your Gran will be a comfort.

  • Allison says:

    I am sorry to hear about your Gran’s passing. But man, what an amazingly full life she seemed to have lived. What a beautiful obituary! My favorite part is “And ultimately in those stories, she built bridges between herself and her family with others, connecting us with each other through similar life experiences, shared feelings, mutual thoughts and understanding.” I love love love that! And think that’s an amazing quality in a person!