Celebrating the life of a devoted farm wife

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Donna J. “Dimp” Young
Donna J. “Dimp” Young (Submitted photo)

One story my mom always loved to tell was how she met my dad.

Dad was working on his aunt’s farm when he noticed a couple of teenage girls sitting near a pond. One would look his way and smile. The other ignored him completely. Dad’s cousin finally insisted they go introduce themselves.

Mom barely nodded, pretending to be aloof. Her best friend was chatty, filled with obvious glee to be meeting two good-looking fellows. “I worked really hard at ignoring both of them,” Mom said. That was the girl my dad wanted to win over. Eventually, she agreed to a double date and they went to our county fair.

Mom was the fourth-born child, named Donna, but nicknamed Dimples by her dad. The name Dimp carried throughout her life.

Last week, just one day after hip surgery following a fall, we visited Mom in her hospital room. Sitting in a chair, working on a word puzzle, Mom greeted us with her usual spunkiness and a smile.

I told her how sorry I was that she had required surgery, but happy to see her looking much better than in the emergency room just a couple of days earlier. “Ah, you know I just do this stuff for attention,” she said with a chuckle.

She was still, in her own way, playing a little hard to get. She told the nurse she was fine, no need for pain meds, no need for a doctor, but jokingly asking if a good-looking doctor came along, “Could you trip him, just to give me a little more talkin’ time?” Her blue eyes sparkled as she won this young nurse over.

Mom was doing so well she was transported back closer to her home for rehab the next day. My sister had spent the day with her, and Mom was remarkably talkative and light-hearted.

Mom passed away shortly after midnight. Our last conversation had been about her upcoming 90th birthday. “Are you sure I’m going to be 90? Wow, that’s great! I don’t feel 90 …” As I smiled, she added with a laugh, “Most days I feel about 110!” She said we needed to start planning a party since that was going to be a big birthday.

In the days that followed, one conversation with a friend who had worked alongside me on our farm throughout junior high and high school stood out. “Your mom was the perfect farm wife,” Jim said. “She did field work, helped with milking if needed, kept everything mowed and then fed us all like kings. Man, she fixed me a whole lot of pancakes,” he said with a laugh, “and it seemed like she enjoyed doing it.”

The comment so many have always made about my mother is that she somehow managed to look elegant, even out mowing the lawn or doing chores. She once told me she wanted Dad to still be proud that he had chosen her, every single day. This continued even after Dad’s death at age 63 in the summer of 1995.

Only 17 when she married her 19-year-old beau, they truly started out with nothing. Farming “on the shares” with a home that lacked indoor plumbing, Mom had to revert back to roughing it a bit.

“It was worth it … he was worth it,” she said of pumping water and using an outhouse. “We knew if we worked hard, we could own that farm eventually,” she said. And they did, plus other adjacent farms as they became available.

At the height of their success, they owned six farms and rented a couple more. But they shared those farms, welcoming visitors and hunters, saying it was only theirs on paper, only for their earthly time.

A few years ago, Doug and I took Mom along on a family vacation to Holden Beach, North Carolina. I snapped a great photo of Mom barefoot on the beach at sunset, arms spread wide, smiling from ear to ear.

As we say goodbye and celebrate my mom’s life, I love picturing my spunky mama flying high amidst amazing beauty. She is surely celebrating a new birth, arriving on the shores of glory.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.

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