My first memories of Sonia were from 14 years ago, Christmas of 1992 to be exact – Carrie and I had been dating for a while and she brought me, a California boy back to spend the holidays with her family here in Poth. It was a bit of a culture shock for me… made no easier by the fact that Sonia had another one of her "non-traditional" Christmas trees that year – I think this was the Salt Cedar Tree year, but I'm not sure. I know it wasn't the gumdrop tree.
Sonia and I hit it off well – she was very kind and she welcomed me into their home... despite the fact that I had to sleep in the basement. Sonia and I became fairly close over the years. In fact, Carrie often claimed that Sonia liked me better than her – as evidenced by the fact that Sonia usually gave me good Christmas gifts. And whenever I came to visit, regardless of how she was feeling, she would always cook me a breakfast to order.
My over-riding impression of Sonia is that she was a strong-minded, even tough, but also very kind woman. Carrie asked all of the family members – including our children Sydney and Jillian to name the first 5 words that came into their head to describe their grandma. They both used the words "nice" and "kind." Sonia and Gene raised two of the best children you could ever hope to have. Carrie has told me many times that one of the strongest influences in her life was Sonia…
Back to the lists of 5 words: Sydney's list included "Singer" – Sonia loved to sing with her granddaughter Sydney. Jillian's list included "Good Talker": whenever they got together Jillian and Sonia loved to have their own private conversations. Jillian's list also included "good cook," which was a surprise to Carrie, since her memories growing up were of pop tarts for breakfast, and Sonia's idea of a gourmet meal was a new type of hamburger helper. But it is true that in the past few years, Sonia had become a good cook. She used to love preparing food for events here at the Dewees Remschel house and she would always prepare an awesome family Christmas dinner.
Clay, Patty and Carrie compiled a few pictures from Sonia's life that we'd like to share with you to help remember her. It's appropriate to begin with Sonia and Gene.
They shared an incredibly close 50 year partnership where they
everything together. From dog club to raising their kids, city
politics and the hospital board to the historical society: it was a
true partnership of love, trust and companionship. When Carrie asked
Gene what his 5 words were to describe Sonia, he said, "Hardworking,
Good Administrator, Active, Great with Books, and Joyous Attitude."
Gene will truly miss his most trusted advisor and closest friend.
Sonia learned to dance as a child from her father, Petroff Slaby and she had a lifelong love of music and dance.
And she liked the theater and all things dramatic. She passed this on to her kids, especially Carrie. Carrie has told me many times about all the trips to museums, symphonies and shows that Sonia took her to as she was growing up. And Sonia even passed it on to her granddaughters – much to Carrie's dismay, she gave Sydney a pair of tap dancing shoes a couple of Christmases back.
Sonia was an incredibly helpful and supportive person. Three words that came up on our list of adjectives were "giving, supportive and dependable" She was always there when anyone needed her. She taught Carrie about dog training and about self reliance and believing in yourself. She volunteered with the Boy scouts. She was even a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician for a couple of years.
Carrie and Clay were reminiscing last night and they were sharing stories about how Sonia always came through for them… typing school papers at the last minute or doing whatever it took to help them succeed. Sonia would do anything for anyone.
3 more words to describe Sonia: "Vibrant, fun-loving and full-of life." Sonia loved games and she liked to try new things.
In this picture she's playing some sort of card game with Clay's buddies in high school. She looks just like one of the guys, huh.
I'm not sure what's going on in this one.
One aspect of Sonia's personality which cannot be overlooked is how incredibly well-organized she was. She made lists for everything and always new where everything was. She had an amazing ability to keep things straight, from rents to bills to taxes, not to mention all of Gene's appointments and commitments. This is most definitely a character trait that has been passed down to her daughter.
Every year since 1997, we have hosted a summer Barbeque at our home in California near Lake Tahoe. Sonia was the matriarch of these events, holding court in the kitchen and keeping order over the proceedings. Many of us have great memories of Sonia running these events with a kind but firm military precision.
Despite her sometimes unconventional approach, Sonia was a strong believer in Family Traditions. When Clay and Carrie were young, they would always look forward to their annual summer driving vacation. The 4th of July BBQ's was a tradition which Sonia and Gene started way back in the early dog club days.
But the most important tradition for Sonia, and her favorite event of the year, was Christmas. For 40 years, Carrie has only missed one Christmas with her family – and that was because we had a one week old baby at the and couldn't travel.
In the end, Sonia's legacy is the friends and family she leaves behind – all made better by having known her.
In putting together this slide show with Carrie, Clay, Patty and Gene, I've feel like I've come to know Sonia that much better… and love and appreciate her that much more. Being part of the Maeckel Family tradition for the past 14 years has enriched my life immeasurably.