Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My Distant Cousin

My cousin passed away yesterday.

She was something like my 4th cousin once removed (I know the connection but not exactly what it's called.). We shared a set of many-great grandparents here in Botetourt, going back to the early 1800s. The ancestors in common were John and Mary Painter, and then those who came before them.

Pat was my cousin's name. She was 86 when she went on to the next phase of her journey. I did not meet her until I was an adult, about 20 years ago, so she was already an elder when we met. I do not remember exactly how we were introduced, but she immediately embraced me as a long-distance relative. She called me "cousin" every time we saw one another.

She gave me a sense of family for which I never properly thanked her. I always knew, in my heart, if I needed sanctuary for whatever reason, I could go to Pat. Sometimes you just know those things.

Pat was a professor of math at the local community college, a mother of three, a grandmother, a historian. She is survived by a sister, her children and their spouses, many grandchildren, and a multitude of other relatives. She also had many close and dear friends, many of whom live or lived in Fincastle.

Oh, how she loved Fincastle. She always spoke of it with great fondness, as if the little community was the best place on the planet. And with her in it, it probably was.

My cousin graduated from Fincastle High School and went on to attend Hollins College. She obtained her BA and a master's degree. She taught in the local school system for 16 years, and then served as an instructor at Virginia Western Community College for 15 years. She retired in 1992. She was close to retiring when I first met her, I think.

Pat was an active member in local garden clubs and in Historic Fincastle, Inc., an organization that oversees historic interests in her beloved community. She played golf and the piano (though I never heard her play; she mentioned it once).

She was instrumental in having a stone memorial placed on Rt. 779 to commemorate Painter's Chapel, a church that was started by our forefathers, in the Catawba Valley.

I met Pat's daughter before I met her mother. Her daughter was a local writer whom I greatly admired. During a writer's conference, we began talking about our ancestry and discovered then that we were related. We stayed in touch and have remained friends. Later, I met Pat daughter-in-law, who became one of my dearest companions.

I spent time with Pat when I also served in Historic Fincastle. We worked together on various community projects, including the annual festival (now defunct), and in setting up the museum portion of the Early Cabin. I remember how she kept wanting me to come and take pictures of various components of the little museum.

We also were in a book club together for the better part of a decade. I loved her take on the things we read. She always had a spirited point of view and while she sometimes got off topic - well, we always get off topic in our book club. It's a lively group and Pat's presence will be greatly missed.

Three years ago, Pat took my journal-writing class, telling me then that she had kept a journal for most of her life. She didn't need to take my class, but she was supporting me in my efforts to begin a career as an instructor. I hope someone finds her journals and treasures those words.

Pat was a people person - she was definitely not an introvert. She spoke her mind and believed that women deserved the same opportunities as men. She taught math because she loved it. She once told me the only reason girls had trouble with the subject was because no one expected anything else out of them.

I was saddened to learn of her passing, but she had been ill for a while and I am glad that she is no longer suffering. I am sorry, too, for my friend and her family, who have lost a dear loved one.

Life is hard, and getting older does not bring about ease and comfort, not like it should. It is hard to watch those you love move on.

It is harder still to say goodbye.

My cousin, Pat.


  1. I'm so sorry for your loss.... aging is not fun as I can attest to, and all we can hope for is that our parting this world will not be too painful in the physical way. xo

  2. So sorry for your loss, Anita. (((Hugs)))


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