Thursday, August 27, 2009

Missing Keppy

The Rev. Katrina VanAlstyne Welles Swanson died August 27, 2005

My family was one of the outer-urban pioneers back in the ‘50s, living the country life out beyond the city limits of Kansas City, but going to work and school in town. And traveling between on that great blue-gray institution, the Martin City Bus. It was on that rattle-trap conveyance that I made a friend of Keppy Welles who lived even farther out than I did. We bonded on the long bench seat up front and discovered we shared many interests.

She was two years older and began, even at that early stage of our friendship, to influence me. She persuaded me to come to the Youth Group at her church but failed to mention her father was the Bishop. I discovered that much later. After she got her driver’s license, we gave up the bus and rode in her woodie station wagon that she drove like a maniac. We smoked Camel cigarettes and thought we were inordinately cool.

We hooked up again in Boston where we were both going to college, and then again back in Kansas City where her husband George was the rector of an inner-city church. A few years after that we both ended up in California and spent many weekends together with our new young families. She and George became my oldest son Scott’s godparents.

When she and George went to Botswana, we welcomed Peter and Hilda, the rector and his wife, from the church there with whom they were exchanging. The Bloomfields then became godparents for my second son Philip. We remained friends with the Swansons through all the years that they were on the East Coast and I was still in San Francisco. I followed her career as she blazed a trail for women as one of the first eleven women ordained in the Episcopal Church.

Scott and I visited Keppy and George in New Jersey in the early 90’s, and we saw her again in San Francisco when she and George were returning from the Olympics in Japan.

I last talked to Keppy in early July of 2005. Christmas 2004 I had sent her a shawl I had knit for her. She said she felt my love when she wrapped herself in it. In that conversation, I told her the story of buying the only eggplant in the small town where I was living, and she was the one who encouraged me to write it down. And so my book, Down Home Musings, began.

The last communication between us was a card from her that said: “Dear Patty…Love, Keppy.” Nothing in between. Her handwriting, but George had addressed the envelope. I knew she was thinking of me. She died August 27, 2005 before she received my last letter to her.

She was my friend and confidante, co-madre for my son, spiritual counselor, guiding spirit, role model, and someone who lived her dream. I miss her still.


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