Thursday, November 17, 2011

Marian Hughes Shuff, 7/20/1918 - 10/1/2011.

My mother died on Saturday afternoon, October 1st. She died comfortably at home with Bob by her side.

She was a remarkable person and a woman ahead of her time. In her early twenties, she took flying lessons and flew a solo flight. In her mid twenties, she went to graduate school and began a career in personnel management. She married my father when she was twenty-eight. When that marriage ended in divorce twelve years later, she raised her children as a single mother while teaching and going to school toward a doctorate in education. She became a university professor and met the colleague who was to become her second husband. When she and Bob retired, Mom began taking art classes and became a prolific and celebrated regional artist.

As a mother, she was the best. Despite not having a dad at home during most of our young years, my brother and I shared a happy childhood full of closeness, fun and good times with a Mom who made sure we knew how much she loved us. She let me wear her beautiful bracelet, which we named "The Courage Bracelet," whenever I had to face something that scared me. When my brother's mathematical abilities became evident, she made sure he got the advanced education that kept him challenged. Mom subscribed to Ms. Magazine from its start and encouraged me and all my female cousins to read it. When I became a leader of a campus protest group in college and the administration sent her a letter admonishing me, she wrote them a reply that stated she believed in what I was doing and supported me totally. Due to Mom's influence, my brother and I both made risky career changes in our adult lives because we weren't afraid to try. Throughout our lives, she has been our champion, our problem solver and our friend.
You can see Mom's art on her website, here.
You can read her obituary, which she wrote, herself, several years ago, here.
My cousin, Karyn, wrote a wonderful tribute to Mom on her blog, which you can read here. And my cousin, Megan, wrote a letter to Mom before she died, which follows:

Things I learned from my Aunt Marian, in no particular order:

* that children could be adored.  I always knew my parents loved me, but I knew Marian adored Walt and Annie.

* that in some families, (lucky) kids got to drink one pop a day.

* that the road not taken doesn't matter.  Once a decision is made, it shapes the path, so go with it.

* that you could get married at 50 and actually have over 40 years of marriage together!  Who would have thought it?!  (Since I got married at 40-ish, I'm shooting for 50 years.)

* that a painted threshold is an important first impression, one that many overlook.

* that having central air conditioning is an important selling point for a house.

* that people have definite preferences in how they put the toilet paper on the roll - some like it over the top and others like it flat against the wall.

* that Bill Clinton was an up and comer - and she and Bob recognized it early on.

* that you can be a single, divorced mother in the 60's and be successful professionally, personally and in all other ways.

* to follow your loves - in her case art, Bob, friends, and so many other things.

* that in a big house there is room for everything so it's actually easier to keep clean than a small one.  (This was in answer to my question of why they built such a large house in Arkadelphia).

* to exercise body and mind if you want have a chance of living well into your nineties.

* that a comfortable chair, coffee and a newspaper or book every morning - next to your husband who is doing the same, is a wonderful way to start the day.

* that always showing interest in everyone - especially nieces and nephews - is very beneficial for the recipients of that attention.

* that a book called "Our Bodies Ourselves" existed and began changing the way I thought about myself as a young woman and provided lots of good information.

* That politics is interesting and important to discuss, but always from the perspective of a Democrat!

* That parties are important!

You've lived a life worth emulating and I'm so glad to have had your influence in my life.  For the big things and the little, I love you.

Mom, enjoying the afternoon on her 90th birthday


  1. This is all so moving, Annie. The letter, the art, the history, the life! And especially the blog.... of all those good things said by and about your mom... very evident was the humor and the PRESENCE....

    You must be feeling sad, about now, but also very for pleased for her life and fortunate to have had such a connection with such presence.

    ... and the "courage bracelet," what a marvelous thing...

    Take care, Annie. --Richard

  2. I can't believe she has been gone a month and a half. Still miss her and her positive attitude!

  3. I have been thinking of all of you often, especially your mother. I am grateful that I knew her as a child and regained contact with you and her soon enough to know how remarkable she really has been. Every time I read about her, there is a new detail about her courage, humor, and fortitude (not to mention brilliance). Thanks for speaking of her once again.