Louise Weber Mulligan
July 5, 2017

By Jane Mulligan Cavanaugh

A woman has many roles to play in her life, but being a mother is probably the most important because of the long lasting impact her actions have on future generations. A good mother is a childís best teacher and Louise Weber Mulligan was a very good mother.

She taught us about loyalty by entertaining her childhood friend every summer. Unable to move or even speak, Buddy had been confined to a nursing facility. She would pack him up in her car and push his wheelchair out to our backyard where she fed him while chatting about the old days. She was a faithful letter writer to her friends, children and grandchildren sharing news, advice, magazine clippings, or words of encouragement. Bringing homemade treats, she visited her Tante Blau until she died at 105, and, she showed us how to honor those who were an important part of our past. She organized her high school reunions until the 60th and entertained so many former classmates, that they became household names to us all.

She taught us about creative energy as she spun ordinary fabric into golden threads for Barbie and Ken. With her Singer sewing machine humming, she created first communion dresses, tennis outfits, Halloween costumes, and special occasion dresses. With skillful hands, she crafted pocketbooks, beautiful sweaters, warm afghans, and snappy argyle socks for my father. She trekked into the woods every winter where she clipped evergreens and then skillfully transformed our hula hoop into a hearty yuletide wreath. She tended her gardens and delighted in their bounty.

We learned about ingenuity on one of our visits to the East Haven Green. Every fall my mother took us to the Green where we scrambled to collect fallen chestnuts which we later turned into masterpieces of necklaces and pipes. One year, unable to find an adequate supply of these coveted crowned fruits, my mother, with golf club in hand, attempted to persuade a few chestnuts to fall off the tree. When a police officer arrived and inquired about her curious activity, she smiled and quickly asked the officer if he was acquainted with her uncle, Captain Eddie Stenham, of the East Haven Police Department.

We learned about the importance of family as we daily sat around our small kitchen table sampling the new dinner recipes she enthusiastically prepared or devouring the breakfast eggs she scrambled mixed with bits of bacon and love. She regaled us with stories of her youth enveloped in a small town and embraced by a close knit family that included many cherished aunts, uncles, and cousins. The Sunday gatherings of the gang of aunts were joyful opportunities to feed her family ties while sharing Betty Crocker inspired treats. She raised us with an appreciation for family as we watched her keep cobwebs from ever settling on those special bonds. We admired her tireless efforts as she welcomed and celebrated the extended Weber family at her yearly backyard picnic, and she rejoiced whenever there was a new member added to the gathering. Babies were blessings and she doted on her grandchildren and was tremendously proud of the people they grew into. We also learned about perseverance when her kind and gentle brother, Georgie, had been lost to cancer. Through a veil of flowing tears, she carefully peeled a mountain of potatoes for the special German salad she would bring to honor his memory.

We learned about the need for relaxation as we watched my mother, with minted ice tea in hand, ease into her favorite float of the season and drift in the summer breezes of our backyard pool. But, she always worked up the courage to eventually submerge in the oftentimes chilly water, but not without an accompanying crescendo of oohs and ahhhs. Although, there were occasional mishaps when she didnít land quite squarely on her float, and was forced to swim before she could recline.

We learned about the importance of being practical and thrifty as they were traits that permeated my motherís very essence and were displayed in countless ways from the saddle shoes she picked out and the clothes she fashioned, to her ever ready travel snack of peanut butter on Ritzy crackers. There wasnít a sock she couldnít darn, or a spot she wouldnít attempt to defeat. Things werenít thrown away; they were simply mended, handed down, or reinvented. She was impossible to buy gifts for because she never needed anything and anything bought was too expensive.

While she would never acknowledge an affinity with feminists, she taught us that a woman of substance is one who is an equal partner and never shies away from responsibilities. While my father always took the lead on the dance floor, they were true partners in the other areas of their lives.

In her eighties, we learned about strength of will as we watched my mother singlehandedly care for my ailing father. It was her strength that prompted him to walk and carry on beyond what his body could do, and it was her strong will that returned him home from the nursing facility because that was where he belonged.

My motherís life was defined by hard work and sacrifices for others, and she would want her grandchildren and great grandchildren to know that it is that those everyday acts that bring the most lasting satisfaction. She would tell you to nurture relationships with your family and friends rather than focus on yourself. She would want you to lead a life of purpose in order to make some difference that you have lived and lived well. My mother lived a wonderful life and she made a difference. For those many lessons, we are ever thankful.