Sunday, September 16, 2012

Thankful Thursday - Eileen Smith Kruse

Mom asked me nicely if she could have the blog this week. I said she could. Well, OK. she bribed me with Greenies. We are dedicating this to Gramma Eileen.

We here at KruseKats thank all anipals and humans for their kindness and patience with us over the last 2 months. Mom is making these thank you cards for all their friends and family, and I thought you deserved a big thank you as well.

Mom told me why she chose the rubber stamp with a butterfly. She and Dad took flowers to Grampa Elmer's grave the day after Eileen's funeral. While they were contemplating, a little yellow butterfly came flitting through. It flew close to Dad then hovered over Elmer's headstone before it continued on it's path. Butterflies are a symbol of rebirth, so it was really incredible that this happened. So, Mom found this stamp and couldn't believe it! She had to make sure to color the butterfly yellow, of course!

The remainder of my post is the witness eulogy that Mom did at Eileen's service. It is a testament to a strong Alabama born woman.

I am Wanda Wienen Kruse, Eileen's daughter-n-law, and I have a unique perspective of of the public and private sides of her life. I will celebrate her life while I share stories about most important things in her life – dancing, family, and her son Art.

I saw a picture early on in our relationship of Eileen calling a dance in 1948. I knew this was a woman who knew her own mind and was willing to cross barriers in a post-war male world. That was the woman I was going to have to appeal to in order to earn mutual love and respect as a daughter-in-law.

Likewise, Eileen had to learn to let go of her only son. The first holiday meal, thanksgiving, in our house making flour gravy. She started to stop me, but turned and walked into dining room. I think it was because I was using flour instead of corn starch as the thickener. Whatever the reason, that was strength of character, that woman I saw in the photograph.

That same year, I made Christmas dinner. I thought I would make okra in her honor. To me, okra is a vegetable. I honestly didn't know it was sacred! So I made it as per a cookbook, steamed I think, added herbs and mushrooms. I put the dish on the table, and it got stares. "Cleaning out the refrigerator, I see."

Art and I were able to see her strength of character in hospice. I had commented about her hair looking nice. She spoke up clear as a bell, “Take a picture.”, her eyes twinkling. All I could think of was Gloria Swanson saying, I am ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille.

Family to Eileen was more than blood relatives. She and Elmer were the neighborhood adopted grandparents. We have retained close ties with 2 dancer families.

However, her Smith family was something close and dear to her heart. Art’s generation of Smiths have renewed ties over the last 10-12 years. Eileen and I were talking at the first Smith thanksgiving at our house. We were both tired and happy and elated, and we both came to the conclusion to Gramma Lurline Smith was smiling – her family was back together. Eileen lived for this reunion. If we got an email from one of her nieces and didn’t tell her the news ASAP, we’d hear about it!

In her prime, you could be that Eileen would be at a square dance almost any night of the week. The only way we could keep track of her was through dancers saying, “Oh, I saw your mom last night at the dance!”

It has been the love and support of dancers that have helped Eileen through the difficult transition from dancer to spectator. All the cards and phone calls she has gotten in the last month attest to the esteem she and dancers have for each other.

I would sometimes sit beside her at a dance, and she would comment to me about the skill of the caller’s hash, impromptu calls. When she was struggling with her walker, I would sometimes give her directions such as veer left, touch a quarter, and she knew exactly what to do.

I have a couple last stories about Eileen and Elmer, her husband who has been gone almost 20 years.

We were at a mini-Legacy picnic, and had to introduce ourselves. It came around to Elmer, and he said, ‘I’m Elmer Kruse, god’s gift to women.” I thought Eileen was going to die! She looked at me rolled her eyes, and I could tell she wished the earth would swallow him up.

Eileen once told me that Elmer would all finish his dances with a homage to her. He always did the singing call, “Alabama Jubilee” in honor of her Alabama roots. Even after all those years, she was wistful in the telling.

So, in her honor, I have asked for Alabama Jubilee to be played. You can sing along or imagine you are dancing -dive for the oyster, dig for the clam and all promenade.


  1. Wanda, what a wonderful tribute to Eileen, I feel as if I've known her. Had to take a detour to listen to the Alabama Jubilee, in her honor.

  2. Beautiful. I know this time has been really hard for you, Art and Eileen. I wish you all peace.

    1. This is very special Wanda. Death is hard for us left behind, but so beautiful for those in Heaven. My Mom went there on March 19 of this year. We had no warning (other than she would have been 86 on May 21). She always said when she woke up each morning "thank You God for a night of rest and let's see what today brings". Marsha - 9/16/12

  3. What a special tribute to a special lady - purrs to you.

  4. We know how difficult these past few years have been - we're honored to know someone who would give so much of herself to care for a person with such a rich heritage as Eileen. Blessings to you..

    and purrs from all of us kitties.

  5. Wanda, that was a beautiful and special tribute to Eileen. I hope she realized what a special daughter-in-law she had. You and Art have done so much to help her in these past few years - now she and you can be at peace. Mario smooch!

  6. What a beautiful tribute but I've come to expect some class out of you, Wanda. Eileen was a very special lady and I hope she and Elmer are dancing up a storm in Heaven.

  7. And thank you guys for donating Duck Soup for Mini's auction. Duck soup! We love it! QOL MOL *ducky hugs* and Purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrs