Two weeks ago, Mrs. Maria VanderPutten, my mother-in-law, went to her Eternal Reward.
She suffered a fall, was taken to the hospital and the doctor gave her 24 to 48 hours to live due to a blood clot on the brain. The physician’s timing was right and now she is gone…..
Although Mom had been suffering with severe dementia for the last two years, her death was unexpected to us. Physically she was frail but she still seemed reasonably healthy, as far as we knew.
I remember the first time I met my future mother-in-law. Vincent and I, with a friend who was the chaperone, traveled from North Dakota (a Catholic Shrine where we had been working and courting) to the Missouri Homestead where the big and boisterous VanderPutten family lived. There were 13 children – 10 boys, 3 girls – and most of them still lived at home. They worked, prayed, and played on their 80 acres with gusto!
Mrs. VanderPutten impressed me from the moment I met her. She was a small but feisty woman who worked hard to keep her home fires burning. From sunup to sundown, she was cooking, cleaning, gardening, taking care of her flowers, telling stories, teaching the Faith, singing, praying.
At prayer time, she led everyone in the songs….many of them Latin.
She told stories of the saints, the end times, the war, the Olde Country (she was from Holland), the Catholic Traditions that she missed so much….
I remember Vincent telling me that she immigrated to Canada from Holland. I also remember him telling me that she was intent on NOT marrying a Dutch farmer.
John VanderPutten was also in Canada. He didn’t frequent the bars or the night spots. He worked hard and then went home. But he was 29 years old and wanted a family of his own. He asked the priest if he had to go to places like these to find a wife. The priest told him, “John, just keep doing what you are doing and pray. God will provide.”
He went to work on a door at a customer’s home. A babysitter was there….her name was Maria….it was a set-up by a friend. They sat and played cards together. The rest is history…..and he was a Dutch farmer who had also immigrated! Just what the Divine Matchmaker ordered! 😀
Their wedding picture:
Mr. VanderPutten was a supervisor of a very successful construction firm in California. They would go on vacation every year. One year they went to Europe with all their nine children for 3 months! John made very good money.
John and Maria knew the value of raising kids Catholic. And they saw the lifestyle in the city, in California, was not conducive to a wholesome atmosphere for raising children.
So, they left everything they had – job, worldly possessions….packed what they could into one vehicle and decided to move somewhere in the country where they could raise their children peacefully…..raise them Catholic, inside and out.
As they traveled around the U.S. they came to a sign in Ohio that read “Apple Cider, Free Samples”. They stopped to get a drink of the freshly pressed juice and John asked the old man if he would be willing to sell his farm to him. The old man hesitated, but only for a moment, and then said that he would. John wrote him out a check for $30,000 and they all moved into the 2 story, run-down old farmhouse that night and began pressing cider to sell the next day!!
Ah! Such Faith and Such Vision. What a willingness to do whatever it takes for the sake of their children’s souls! Talk about seeing the bigger picture!
Fast forward many years, more children……the final destination was FairPlay, MO, living on a beautiful farm with 80 acres where the family worked hard on the land growing melons and other vegetables and fruit to sell to the public…..
Though the season for Truck Farming was busy, working hard each day in the scorching heat for many hours, I remember the pleasant evenings of ice cream and conversation.
I also remember the winters, when things slowed down. Everyone still had their chores. Firewood had to be cut, goats were milked, meals were made, etc. But in between times there was skating, playing board games, lively discussion….
Maria was a strong woman. She was not afraid of sacrifice. And she taught her kids not be afraid of it either. Sympathy was not handed out freely. I remember Father VanderPutten saying that she would make a meal once a week that, on purpose, tasted lousy just to teach the kids how to sacrifice. Now, I think he was saying that tongue-in-cheek but the gist of it was….if it didn’t taste good….all the better, now you could offer it up!!
If the weather was hot (and it got HOT in Missouri) don’t expect to find comfort at Maria’s. Yes, she had a fan, but AC was out of the question.
November would roll around, cold weather had set in for a time and all the neighbors had been using their heaters, furnaces, etc. Maria used……a sweater, leggings under her skirt, maybe a scarf….. She hadn’t even started a fire yet in the old wood stove!
Haha…….a difficult place to visit! At least at night when you had a dozen or so kids in tow that you are trying to get to sleep!
But during the day….Ah! It was beautiful, those acres in Missouri! Rolling hills, ponds, goats, horses, raspberries, blackberries, cantaloupe, watermelon……
And so many blueberries!! My husband had planted 2 acres of blueberries when he was working, single and still lived at home. When he decided to move and get married he gave the blueberry patch to his parents.
They had a U-Pick Patch for many years and Maria was out there picking with the rest of them, in the heat, dripping sweat. She pruned, watered and looked after the berries with pride. She looked after the Selling Stand. She made jam, pies and many other dishes with the berries.
When we went there for blueberry-picking time, the kids would have a certain quota they had to pick before they could play. And it was not an easy quota. They all started early so as not to have to pick in the heat of the day. It didn’t matter if you were 5 years or 15 years old….you picked. With plastic ice cream bucket hanging on a string around the waist, you picked with a vengeance! And woe to you if you just jumped around from juicy looking clump to clump, from bush to bush. You would be admonished quickly and told to “Clean each bush!!” Were you feeling sick in the heat, no matter. Were you tired…tough! You got it done because you disliked those dreaded words….“You sure are lazy!”
Our son Giuseppe (Sep) with his grandma about ten years ago:
Mom and I visiting….
As I mentioned, these last couple of years have been hard for Maria. She knew she was getting dementia and it terrified her. And for the last many months she has not been with us mentally. It has often made me think of St. Louis Martin, St. Therese the Little Flower’s father, who suffered the same thing at the end of his life. It was his and the family’s greatest cross.
And now Maria is gone….a blessed relief for her. If she isn’t already, she will hopefully soon be with her beloved husband, who died about 18 years ago now, and with her very best friends, Jesus and Mary.
She was always, to me, a wonderful example of Strong Faith, Quiet Courage, and a great Fidelity to her Family. She leaves quite a legacy behind her – 13 children and over 100 grandchildren and great-grandchildren! We will miss her.
Good-bye Mom, Rest in Peace…..
Sign up for the drawing this evening (Tuesday, Aug. 8th) here.
Jacquelyn Matties said:
What a gorgeous rosary!
May she rest in peace!!!! I am so so sorry for your loss and so awestruck by the life she had and lead. She was a striking beauty on her wedding day. By the way you describe you MIL, it seems you had to be a pretty good choice for her son, because it seems very likely if you weren’t, she would have said something. 😉 So it says alot of goodness about you as well. thank you very much for giving us an insight into her life and legacy! May Our Lady watch over her and all her family, God bless!
Thank you kindly, Mary.
Julia Mary said:
Eternal Rest grant into her, O Lord! I hope that when I go to meet my Maker, first, that I am spiritually ready, and secondly, if I have daughters in law, that they will have half as many fond memories of me as you have your mother in law!
Wow, what a wonderful testament to her life story. I really enjoyed reading that! I’m so sorry for your family’s loss… you are all in my prayers, Leane. Especially her. from all of us here!
Zephyr Hill said:
Thank you for sharing your mother-in-law’s wonderful story! I loved the family photos and memories from on the farm. Women like her are becoming more and more rare these days. It is wonderful to see your own family carrying on many of these traditions.
It has been a real pleasure to learn about Maria. These memories are invaluable for your families. The little ones will come to appreciate this story of love and sacrifice found in their own family history. Our deepest sympathies for your loss.
Jean bischel said:
How good it was to read of Maria. We remember her, John, and all the family from the time we lived in Missouri. Our children still talk of the wonderful “Putten cantaloupe”. We often picked blueberries as well. John was brave during his last illness and Maria, as well as the family, took good care of him.
Since I have lost addresses for the family please offer condolences to all for us. She will be in our prayers. May she rest in peace.
Jean and Kirby Bischel
Very beautiful, Leane. What a great example Maria was. May she rest in peace.
Lorraine Wolfe (nee Legare) said:
What an amazing story Leane, hugs to all of you from me and I want to mention that Vince and his entire family were very fortunate also having you become part of their family. I can tell you had a very good relationship with them and that is so important in life. Having grown up with you, I know what a wonderful and loving person you are and what an amazing friend you made. So I can see you fitting in so well. I will love you always and cherish the memories we had growing up together. Take care my friend
That is very kind, Lorraine! Thank you and God bless you! ❤️💗❤️
May God rest her soul and comfort all of you. Thank you for sharing her story. It is encouraging that we can each persevere in spite of our circumstances.
What a beautiful glimpse into grandma’s life. It brought back so many memories….
colleen strand said:
Thank you for sharing some of Maria’s background. We only knew her for a few years when we went to Mass with her in Springfield. We enjoyed her very much when we had a few picnics after Mass. She was pretty “no nonsense”, but she had a sense of humor. I think she was in the very early stages of dementia when we met her, but she had a lot stories to tell. May she rest in peace.
Emily G said:
May she rest in peace.
Thank you for writing about her; it was very inspiring to me. You were so blessed to have her for a mother-in-law and grandmother to your children!
Amen, What a great article about my mom. She was definitely very religious and God fearing. A woman of God, very much like the woman of proverbs chapter 31 v.10. I was very blessed to have a mother like her. She definitely was an inspiration to many.
The fact that she had 13 children at a time when it was looked down upon and socially frowned upon, shows great courage. She was trying to live a traditional life before the traditional movement was much of anything. She threw out our TV in 1971, saying it was a distraction to our life and faith. She tried to put God first in all things.
Yes, she was a believer in in Paul who said “eat whatever is set before you”. She would remind us that we eat to live and not live to eat.. She would also remind us of the starving children throughout the world. She was a great cook but always kept us prepared for the not so good meals. She always had a good sense of humor and loved to tickle us as kids. She would take out her dentures and pull funny faces to make us laugh.
She enjoyed telling us of her childhood and her days in the war, the hardships they had to endure, and the bravery of her father and brothers. Living in a chicken coop during the war and eating animal feed after picking out the mice droppings, having their heads shaved because of lice, these were just a few of the stories she would tell us to inspire in us an appreciation and gratitude for all we have.
She definitely believed in the virtue of frugality as the thrift store was our most favorite place. Rarely did we have anything new, mostly hand me downs and preowned.
The rosary was definitely her favorite prayer. We said it every night along with many hymns and special prayers. I remember her once accusing dad of daydreaming during the rosary about 2×4’s, he grinned and cleverly explained that his work and prayer go hand in hand!
She was an exemplar of modesty and was a pioneer in the back to dresses movement.
She loved to read and had an affinity for apparitions, prophecies and marian literature.
She definitely had a green thumb, enjoyed growing lots of flowers and working outdoors.
She inherited from her dad an artistic talent for drawing and painting though she never had much time for it. She also had a lovely voice, and loved to sing. She taught us many songs and hymns, taught us dutch songs and even would yodel.
My own children grew very attached to her and loved playing and teasing with her when we would visit her, even with her dementia the kids hardly noticed, they always thought that she was just a great grandma. And indeed she was!
Loving memories always!