Elsie Bernice Deese - 90
Sept 08, 1924 - March 29, 2015 (Palm Sunday)

Birdie was born and raised on a farm in Clearfield County, PA. The middle child in a large, devout and caring Free Methodist family. She died peacefully in her home with family on the sixteenth floor overlooking the downtown core of Portland, OR. She married Joel H Deese in 1945 and they raised six children together, establishing homes in North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. She was and remains much loved as a consummate post war pioneer American mother and homemaker. An archetypal Virgo and natural teetotaler she could and often did everyone's sewing and taxes, all the while fomenting a charismatic presence among her relatives, both young and old, and giving enduring comfort to the many neighborhood friends of her six children. 

Birdie inherited an engaged family service imagination from her mother, Sara Smeal, so for her 'saving a life' came as second nature. Her children can tell you of numerous heroic life and limb saving stories, such as using kerosene to draw off blood poison in a child. She probably saved all their lives at one time or another. At the age of 50 she was diagnosed with lymphoma and given 9 mos to live. It took her only a year to bring it into total remission through group prayer and raw natural dietary methods. 

Though prone to humor, she was on occasion an outright comedian. Especially on special occasions. She had a laughing with you and laughing at you delivery that gave many of us our funniest moment at the reunion or wedding or long car trip. When it got started she would pile it on. She must have gotten this from her big sister Vera.

She did not deliberately listen to music or watch TV. She instead conducted a personal year round Christmas is coming soon campaign. Apparently always taking mental notes, she literally turned it into a monumental art form. To be her child on that day was a true revelation of the Lord as child. Somehow, over the course of the previous year, she had gained access to your secret wishes and brought them into a living color all at once gala event that was not for the weak of spiritual generosity.

As hobbies she quilted and sewed and crocheted and did needlepoint, accomplishing hundreds of complicated items. At her peak she wrote 300 birthday and Christmas cards a year. Miraculously, she even found a few lost relatives through personal hunches and writing letters of inquiry.

Her chief accomplishment was in carrying through from childhood her parent's faith in sobriety and humor, giving her a never ending source of adaptability and absolutism which everyone who knew her could trust and enjoy as both the honest salt and the wisdom of the ages she embodied.

Though she imprinted well, she is irreplaceable and she will be sorely missed. She is surely among the heaven bound.


Here is just a sample of one liners from her last years with dementia.

Oh honey, I'm doing better than anyone I know.
Nobody needs to be better looking than you.
God I wish I lived by myself!
Is it my head we're worried about, not yours?
This could be your next dollar.
You're head is probably like that now because you won't listen.
When you can be your own boss you sure don't have no reason to get married.
Am I dreaming or not. I'm not getting up to find out!
I guess we're supposed to laugh later.
I'm ready to wash my hair because I finally have nothing else to do.
Well all four of us laughed but not at the same time.
I've been in bed about ten days - after I caught on that I could do that.
I start every day. I start and that's as far as I get.
I better get smaller and older, maybe that will work.
Well, don't I have my own car parked someplace?
I sure wish I didn't know who I was. I got to get up now and do that.
I hope you weren't talking to me all this time.
It wouldn't be hard to not forget you.
Simmee told me long ago that she was working on it.
(watching tv) They're trying to put us to sleep.
Is there another place on earth to go to?
Did Vesta ever marry anybody?
Can I blame you for all this!

With all the days there are and you have to wait for them to come to you.
Just because you don't have any friends we don't want you to bring them all here.
I am so far behind. If you only knew how much I have to do.
I don't know when I grew up. Maybe not yet.
You' aren't thinking I'm gonna die before I die, are you?
You may have all you want but I might have all I don't want.
I think I should go over there, change my name, put something ugly on and move in.
I grew up on a farm so I don't ever believe I don't believe.
I have more to do than you can imagine but I can't do it all at once. I'm way behind.
I've gotten too tall to put on my own shoes.

Letter from Leslie - December 2015