Wanda Wilmetta

Yesterday, we dressed in our funeral clothes and stood by the grave to say goodbye to my great-uncle Ken, a man I didn’t know well. You can tell a lot by a person if you look at their family, though. And, in seeing the love they had for him, I know he was a wonderful, loving husband, father, Paw (Grandpa), uncle, brother, and friend. He will be deeply missed by many, including my father, who loved him dearly.

I saw my father for the third time in a month. Possibly a record for us, as we are swoopers. We swoop in and out of each other’s lives. I think I can say that, and he won’t mind. We’ve come to terms with it. And, we’re both swooping in more often, it seems. (Besides, it’s 4:00am, and one of those nights where I can’t sleep, and we all know I’m more honest and free with my words in the wee hours of the night/morning.)

I watched my Great Aunt Mary, wife to Ken, strong and beautiful, standing by his casket, draping the white cloth over the top of her beloved, with the children robed in white and bearing incense standing near the priest. I come from Irish Catholic people, I noted. As I looked around me, I was reminded of the Kennedys. I’m not sure what my family would think of that estimation. Hopefully, they would be honored. That’s how I mean it, of course. I wonder if they notice that I am soaking in the history each time I’m around them, taking note of their memories, being filled with the music of their laughter, and aching with them today as I see their tears, recognizing the curly (and, in my case, unruly) hair, expressive personalities, and womanly curves of my aunts. Recognizing, because of my own reflection. I want to know their stories, and learn about who they are.

During the service, they read some of my favorite verses from John 14:1-6, verses I have clung to, many times, through many goodbyes:

 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, thereyou may be also.  And where I go you know, and the way you know.”

Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Ken is buried beside my Papa and Grandma, my father’s parents. I saw our family name etched on the stone. It caught my eye immediately as our heels scraped across the drought-stricken dirt, no sinking in the mud on this day, while we listened to the prayers of the priest. I walked over to their grave to pay homage to the grandparents I often saw during my weekend visits when I was a young child. I noticed their middle initials, and inquired, seeing my grandmother’s name, Wanda W. What could her middle name possibly be? How could they have found another W name to go with Wanda?!

Wanda Wilmetta was the answer. Oh my, was my reply! Now that is one sassy name! And, my grandfather, whom we affectionately called Papa…was called Edgar Leonardi. Wanda Wilmetta and Edgar Leonardi somehow found one another, two with very distinctive names and personalities. He with his inventor mind, and she with her love for vibrant color, looking gorgeous in violet. She even had violet lipstick and a bright violet suede jacket with fringes. She was fabulous and kind and had a sweet quavery voice. I loved when she would let us get french fries at the Dairy Queen across the street. (Of course, I would get french fries…and not care about the ice cream. Ha!) My Papa always told my cousin Mary Lynn and I that we were beautiful. They drove big cars, Lincolns or Cadillacs, I think, and lived in a big house filled with eclectic furniture and a Victorian flair. They had a white dog named Egore whom I’m pretty sure was deaf. At Christmas, it was always exciting. Santa would leave a huge bag of presents for us on the porch. I loved that. I had a nurse’s uniform and a little cart for all my “equipment”.



It is good to remember…and to learn where we came from. It helps us to know who we are, and shapes who we will be. We are meant to connect and show love. Just as joy and grief dance their dances sacredly together, so must history and future intertwine. I come from a long line of strong, sassy, beautiful, colorful, amazing women. From both sides of my family.

Wanda Wilmetta, whose name is as vibrant as the color pallet of her wardrobe and whose eyes disappeared when she smiled, is among them.


  1. I love learning about my family heritage. It was always so interesting – and it is fun to see the similarities throughout the generations. It is sad that so many of or older generations are gone and we cannot hear there stories now that we are old enough to soak it in and really care.

  2. Beautifully written. Your family sounds amazing. I am sorry for your loss. Your heritage sounds amazing!!

  3. Linda Babcock says:

    Love your pictures! And I appreciate the introduction to your relatives — families are so interesting.

  4. what great memories to share with us! so, so fun picturing her violet lipstick!

  5. It is good to know where we come from. Reading this post reminded me of my great grandma Fessel. She was such a character and I’m so glad I have memories of her.

  6. Your Grandma Wanda Wilmetta sounds wonderful! I am glad you have these special memories Kelly girl! The picture on the wall from when Wanda and Edgar were young, is cool. It is interesting that someone touched her with color but left him in black and white. It reminds me of those little children figurines. (I can’t remember what they are called…but they were old-fashioned and adorable!) Anyway I love the picture of you with your grandma Wanda and the doggie. You are so adorable…then and now!

    I never was blessed with knowing my grandparents from either side…but I had a wonderful mother named… Margie Beulah…and I loved her so very much! I used to think…”what a name!”…but now I love it so much too! My momma Margie loved pretty things. She always wore lipstick, and jewelry, and hats and high heels, and purses, and she would finger wave her hair. She used to use her little red pack of Maybeline Mascara where you wet the brush and stroked it across the solid bar of brown and then brushed it on your lashes. This was also what I wore when I was playing dress up with my momma’s hats, and high heels and scarves, and jewelry.. Yes, she would let me wear her lipstick and she would brush on some of that brown mascara…and even a circle on each cheek from her little round container of cream rouge. That was so much fun trying to look like my momma! She would fix us a tea party and we would have lots of fun together.

    My momma was extra special because she was in a car accident when she was barely into her twenties that claimed her right arm, so she went on to raise four children with only that one arm. I often wondered how she could change diapers and take care of babies needs with only the one arm and hand. So when I had babies of my own, I would put my right arm behind me and try to care for my babies…and it was VERY difficult. I gained new respect for that wonderful mother of mine! Yup…that wonderful Margie Beulah took good care of all of us even though it was hard…and many of the years she did it on her own when her husband left her. She raised us in church and led us to the feet of Jesus. I often attach the word “fortitude” to her when I remember my momma…because she was so strong and capable and fought hard against the odds.

    Thanks for this post Kelly girl…as it made me fondly remember my momma…and reminded me to be once again thankful to God for her wonderful love for me!

    I love you!
    Momma Linda

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