Two great lifelong learners: a memorium

January 29, 2013


Mary Ashton

Mary Ashton

Bill Bagshaw

This month, we lost two people close to us in our family.  My grandmother (94) and my father-in-law (would have been 82 today.)  One thing that always impressed me (especially as a librarian) was that although these individuals came from very different generations than myself, each had their own committment to lifelong learning.

My grandmother was from a generation where you married young (18) and worked in the home.  She never learned to drive, and raised her 3 boys in a small home with lots of family around.  However, she also helped work in my grandpa’s bakery for 20 years, not just with the physical labor, but with managing the books of their own business.  Up until she went into the hospital, she always read the two local newspapers every day and was always up on the latest in national/local news and with her celebrity gossip and “stories”, aka soap operas.  She wasn’t one to express her opinion on news items often, but she was always informed.  She enjoyed biographies and travel even through her 80s.

My father-in-law was one-of-a-kind.  In his eulogy by his daughter, it was so true that he knew “a little bit about everything.”  Unlike my grandma, Dad was quite outspoken about many subjects, some of which could reflect his generation with less politically correct language.  However, he was also very intelligent, and his thoughts and arguments were always informed and interesting. Besides the newspaper, Dad was always reading something, whether a novel or doing puzzles.  He was an excellent carpenter who also did whittling and liked to learn new skills. 

Both of these individuals were loved by everyone who met them–I never met anyone who didn’t immediately like Dad or my grandma.  The night before my father-in-law’s surgery, my grandmother was in the hospital critically ill.  When Dad and I spoke, and I said I was worried about him, he said not to worry about him, but that he was worried about my grandma.  When I spoke to my grandma in the hospital in one of her more lucid moments, she asked about my father-in-law.  That was the kind of people they were. 

Although very different, they set a good example for us in the family of what it meant to live life and continue to be interested in it until the end.  Lifelong learning is very important to me, and we will miss these two great examples of how learning and knowledge makes life worth living at any age.

Our families will be very different without them, but we were very lucky to have them.


2 Responses to “Two great lifelong learners: a memorium”

  1. Stephanie said

    Thank you for sharing your family stories with us. Very beautifully written. Much love to you and your family. Stephanie

  2. Jennifer said

    Thank you so much for sharing these stories. To hear the stories of others thoughtfulness even at their weakness reminds me to be so gracious at my strongest!

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