My MeeMaw was The Candy Lady. That's how the children who attended church with her knew her; that's one of the things that we, her grandchildren loved about her. MeeMaw would eagerly give a piece of candy or gum to any child who asked for some -- no matter how many times that they asked. She always had multiple shelves full of huge Sam's Club-sized containers of candy at her house. After any visit to her house, the grandkids were given a ziplock baggie to fill with anything we wanted so that we would have a snack on the way home.
And it wasn't just kids that she loved to give candy to. Anytime that either she or PeePaw were in the hospital -- an increasingly common occurrence as they aged -- MeeMaw made sure that she had a bowl of candy in the room (usually chocolate) for the nurses. During her last year as she lived with my Mom and Dad, she always had chocolate in her room and insisted that any and all home health nurse-type-visitors take a piece -- or two or three. And the Wellsbrothers all knew that all they had to do was ask -- and they would be able to choose any chocolate that they wanted from the box. And MeeMaw, unlike their mean ol' mother, would let them choose another it didn't contain the filling they were hoping for.
As we were making plans for MeeMaw's funeral services, we knew that there would have to be a bowl of candy there. MeeMaw would have had it no other way. So we had a big bowl of tootsie rolls at the Family Visitation. We knew that a few people might think that was a little bit weird -- but those who really knew her would appreciate it.
My boys, of course, were very excited about the huge bowl of candy -- and even more excited that no one seemed to really care how much of it they ate. They soon figured out, though, that giving a piece of candy (or two or three or seven) to everyone there was even more fun than eating it. So they became the greeters. They spoke to every single person at that Visitation, and made sure that we all had more tootsie rolls than we cared to eat. It really could not have been any more appropriate at a gathering to honor MeeMaw -- and the best part was that they came up with it all on their own.
At one point, Micah asked to be lifted up so that he could see MeeMaw one more time. Earlier he had seen that Mom had asked the funeral directors to place a few pieces of candy in MeeMaw's hands, and had learned that much to his dismay, this candy was not for him to eat. As he was lifted up this time though, he placed a box of tootsie roll dots in her hands, saying that MeeMaw needed one of those, too. Thinking about it still brings tears to my eyes.
MeeMaw, Candy Lady, I miss you so!
(And I'm sorry if a picture of a dead body bothers some of you, but this is a beautiful and precious image to me -- MeeMaw looked more peaceful and comfortable than she had in years, and the box of dots in her hand was the last gift she received from her great-grandson. This picture brings me joy and peace.)
Also, I wanted to share the beautfiul, slightly non-traditional obituary that my sister, Jodi, wrote:
Oleta Loraine Conner, beloved wife, sister, mother, grandmother, was called home to her Lord Saturday, August 22, 2009 at the age of 81.
Born March 12, 1928, to Roy and Sadie Ragsdale, she was the eldest of their four children. Her parents soon found her to be a great helper with the other children. Always the little lady, she was quick to assist with chores and was the best cow-milker of any of her siblings. From a young age, she began to learn to cook in her mother’s kitchen, a skill her family would continue to enjoy for many years.
She graduated at the top of her class from San Saba High School in 1945 and went on to get her bachelor’s degree from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas with a degree in Business Administration.
On July 6, 1949, she married Ira J. Conner, also of San Saba High, to whom she would remain faithfully devoted until his death in July of 2008. With him she would raise two children, Bonnie and Bonnie Conner. As her husband was a coach, Oleta took an active interest in all of the athletic activities in which he participated. Her grandchildren remember their frequent attendance of school events as well as the way she always kept up with what was going on in their lives. She remained an avid football fan until her death. Donnie went on to continue his father’s legacy as a coach, and Bonnie continues her mother’s legacy today as an elementary teacher.
Oleta began her teaching career in 1956, where her gentle spirit and loving heart touched thousands of children who found themselves in her classroom. Dedicated to her work, she spent countless hours preparing lessons, decorating, and making her classroom a fun and safe place for her students. Always striving to be the best for her students, she earned her Masters of Education from Texas A & M in 1971. She retired in 1992 after 35 years at Kendrick Elementary in Waco, TX.
Though her years as a formal educator had ended, Oleta continued her service to children for several more years as a Tuesday-Thursday preschool teacher at Robinson Church of Christ. When she was no longer able to serve as a teacher, she continued to work in the church nursery as she had for decades, always awaiting a fussy baby whom she could rock to sleep.
Well into her later years she was known at her congregation by every child as Mrs. Oleta, to whom they could always come for a piece of candy, and often two if they asked nicely. Through her last days she continued to keep a box of chocolates or a bowl of candy nearby for anyone she wished to bless. She continued to be the candy lady to her great-grandchildren up until her final days.
Despite many physical challenges, Oleta’s gentle, peaceful, and joyful spirit never wavered, continuing to be a light to everyone in her life. After relocating to Glen Rose to live with her daughter, Oleta continued to make new friends with everyone she met. She always sought the good in others, and through her love encouraged everyone to be their best. Her Christ-like spirit in the midst of challenges remains the legacy her family most wishes to carry on.
She is survived by two children, Donnie Conner and Bonnie Spies; a son-in-law, Bob Spies; a Daughter-in-law, Stephany Conner; her sister, Nettie Oma Carpenter; two brothers, Joe Ragsdale and Red Ragsdale; six grandchildren and four great-grandsons.