Mary Ann with grandchlid Mom in 1968

In Memory of Mary Ann Bravo Koenecke

1935 - 2006

November 27, 2006

It has been over a month since Mom died, and it is only now starting to set in. I don't know if anyone is reading this, but I wanted to put up one more music file: You're in My Heart. This is a Rod Stewart song that came out in the Seventies. Mom bought the single (for you younger folks, a "single" is a plastic record containing one song on each side, kind of like something you'd download from iTunes) and gave it to Dad. It is really sappy and sentimental, but that was our Mom. I just picked up her mail, which had her latest bank statement, containing the last checks she wrote. Two of them were to her grandsons' Boy Scout Troops, for popcorn she could not eat.

I hope that, when I die, my children will say "family came first for him, always." Because that was all that mattered to Mary Ann Bravo Koenecke. She would do anything for her children and grandchildren.

November 8, 2006

Here is some of the music played at the post-funeral reception: Amore Scusami. It is from a record made by the Visconti, an Italian band Mary Ann and Dick befriended around 1971. They would come over to dinner at our home, and we would go watch them play at The Sandpiper in Minneapolis. It always makes us think of our Mom.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

The rosary on Thursday night and the funeral service on Friday afternoon went very well, and quite a crowd attended to pay their respects to our mother. We are all so grateful for our family and friends, especially in times like this. I will put up pages of photos later after I get more in, but thought I should post some of what people said. First:

Hi, I’m Rosie, Nonna and Papa's first grandchild. And I would like to share with you some of the memories I have of my Nonna. She was a very old fashioned lady and I remember once when she had come down to visit us and we were getting ready to go to church. When I was ready to go I went  down stairs and she saw me wearing jeans, flip flops, and a short sleeved t-shirt. She was appalled and asked why I wasn’t dressed for church and that I couldn’t wear that to church because it wasn’t appropriate attire. Her handwriting was so beautiful, you rarely see anyone write like she did. Last  week a few days before she passed away, I received a letter and it was from her. She was saying how proud she was of me and how excited she was about my grades. It means the world to me to know that she was proud of me.

I remember for their 40th anniversary the whole family went to the Guadalupe River Ranch  to celebrate. And before they were going to renew their wedding vows, Nonna was so nervous, it was the sweetest thing. Nonna and Papas love was like nothing I’ve ever seen, it’s very rare and most people only dream of loving someone that much. They were made for each other like peas and carrots, peanut butter and jelly, or ham and cheese. They were Nonna and Papa, not one or the other.  She missed Papa so much , she didn’t have anyone to cook breakfast for anymore or to take care of. I remember after Papa’s funeral she told me that it would difficult for her to eat because she was always making enough for 2 people to eat, and that it would be hard to get used to cooking for one. Also, when ever we would drive up from San Antonio to visit, she would always make these huge meals for us that wouldn’t be ready until around 10 o’clock that night. She would always have a full pantry, a full freezer, and a lot of Tupperware and pickle jars to make anywhere feel like home.

But now when we come up here there will be no more warm yet gentle hugs, laughs that could fill up any room, or Christmases with those big floral chairs. But those are the memories I wouldn’t trade for anything. She’s very missed by everyone, but you have to look at the bright side,  now she’s up in heaven with the man she loves, cooking huge meals, eating chocolate truffles, nuts and grilled cheese sandwiches with ketchup on the side.

Then Mike:

We are here to honor Mary Ann Koenecke. Some of you may not have had the chance to get to know her very well, so I would like to tell you a few things about the person we are here for today. For one thing, Mom was never on time for anything in her life. In fact, to make this funeral a bit more accurate, I think they should have wheeled in the casket half way through.

She grew up as Mary Ann Bravo in St. Peter, which is a small town in the farming country of southern Minnesota. A very hard blow to her early on was losing her father at the age of eight. From what she told us, Anthony Bravo was full of fun and life, and taught her to appreciate literature, humor, and art. Mom told us that he once went without lunch for six months to save up enough money to go see Caruso. She did love her English sheepdog, Rex, and used to spend long afternoons with him off in the woods around the Minnesota River. Her mother, Mary Bravo, had to work a lot, but did her best for Mary Ann and her younger brother John.

So Mom had a flair for the dramatic from an early age, and was involved in public speaking and the theater in school. She did quite well, getting top marks in the state for at least one competition, and singing on records in high school, but she found herself drawn more to service when she attended the University of Minnesota and joined the Alpha Xi Delta sorority. She was a beautiful, vivacious, and intelligent young lady, who soon became the attention of a man named Dick Koenecke who attended Gustavus Adolphus college in her home town of St. Peter.

When Mom graduated from college, she started work for the Catholic Diocese of St. Paul placing babies with adoptive families, and Dick would often accompany her on her late night visits to help these families. Dick and Mary Ann were married on September 19, 1959. They moved into a simple apartment in Minneapolis.

Their first child, Mike, arrived only ten months after the wedding, a pretty narrow but safe margin in those days. Betsy arrived two years later, and Katie and David a year after that, though David only lived for one day. Trish finally was born in 1970, which completed Dick and Mary Ann’s family.

Our Mom was devoted to her children, and was always involved in everything we did. She wanted her children to be able to attend a Montessori school, and when she found out that there wasn’t one available, she started the first one in the State of Minnesota for us to attend, bringing over teachers from Europe to staff Le Jardin. Fortunately, we were way too young to notice anything odd about having to start every day singing the French national anthem.

She was always one of the most involved mothers in whatever school we happened to attend, as a room mother, Ursuline craft fair volunteer, library volunteer, and Cub Scouts den mother.

After Trish arrived, Dick and Mary Ann moved into what would be her favorite home: an old mansion on Elmwood Place in Minneapolis which had three fireplaces, a hidden stairway, and speaking tubes to find out who was calling at the basement entrance. But Dick and Mary Ann decided to move to Texas in 1972, and here they made their new home. When their children were in high school, the swimming pool was usually full of kids. Even after college, the parties and gatherings often ended up at their house. And Mary Ann loved it. Mom and Dad’s home was always the place to be. In fact, Mom and Dad opened their house to our friends even when we weren’t around, becoming second parents to many.

She loved to entertain, more than perhaps anything else. Once my sisters and wife convinced her to use paper plates when some people were coming over, probably to go swimming or something, and she actually agreed, saying “I like to think of myself as a casual person.” We all thought that was hilarious: our mother was about as casual as Emily Post’s grandmother. We all grew up knowing which way to pass dishes around the table (counter-clockwise, thank you), which fork to use for which course, and never to slurp your soup. Fortunately, this was all done in pretty good humor, so none of us have displayed any permanent emotional damage. Yet.

She was an exceptional chef, who prided herself in her ability to turn out Italian and Continental dishes with tremendous variety. The only trouble with this was that her knowledge did not really translate well into writing: she never could explain how she got the results she did to her children and grandkids, besides putting in about this much garlic and stirring for about so long. Or just until it “tasted right.” On the other hand, one thing you could always count on was that if she invited people over for a meal at 6:00, dinner would be on the table sharp... at 8:30. But that was okay, because it was always worth the wait.

Everyone remembers her in what was her favorite car ever: a baby blue 1978 Lincoln Town Car, that was so long the only way it fit in their garage was for the bumper to poke holes in the back wall. We used to tell people that she could not get a car phone installed, because it would require its own area code. And she pretty much needed a periscope to see over the steering wheel, too, but she loved that car.

She had no sense of direction, either, and never got the hang of consulting maps, so she would get lost around town in that car frequently. We would often wind up in some area of town we had never seen before, with everyone exasperated except for Mother. She would just call it “going on a new adventure.”

So she did make us laugh sometimes, but the first one laughing was always Mom herself. She had a terrific sense of humor, and proved the perfect foil to our Dad’s teasing. We could always talk about anything with her, too: she read voraciously, and had a lively and questioning intelligence her whole life. She was always fun and interesting to talk to. She taught all her children to love reading, too.

She was really in her element when her daughters started getting married, as a whole new level of entertainment possibilities kicked in and she had a grand time planning even bigger gatherings. She would do anything for her children.

And then, soon after that, grandchildren started arriving. She may have loved being “Nonna” even more than being Mom, if that is possible. She absolutely adored those little kids being around again. She thought about her grandkids all day long. What they liked. What they would say. Whenever she and Dick got a chance to keep the kids, they’d let them stay up late and have them all the candy they wanted. She would read and play games with them, as more and more grandkids arrived, eventually making an even dozen.

Through all those years, the love between Mary Ann and Dick grew and became really extraordinary. They were truly a part of each other, and it was hard to imagine what it would be like for them to ever be separated.

Upon Dick’s death two years ago, she did have to be on her own. Life changed in many ways for Mary Ann. She kept trying to keep going, stay healthy, and remain the hostess. But she never recovered from the loss of her soul mate. And slowly, life became more and more of a struggle.

Knowing this, we are truly happy that her struggles are over.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The rosary for Mary Ann Koenecke will be at Sparkman Funeral Home at 7:45 p.m. this Thursday night, November 2, with viewing before and after from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. The funeral home is at 1029 South Greenville Avenue, Richardson, Texas 75081: on the East side of Greenville, across from Restland Cemetary. A map of the location can be found here: Map to Sparkman Funeral Home.

The funeral will be at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church at 1:30 p.m. this Friday, November 3rd, and a map to St. Paul is here: Map to St. Paul the Apostle. We will have a reception after the funeral at Mary Ann's home.

Our mother went through a lot of health problems the past few years, including asthma, cancer, and heart problems (congestive heart failure and arhythmia). She had recently completed six weeks of radiation therapy for throat cancer, and seemed to be recovering somewhat, but her heart just gave out last weekend. She died quickly and peacefully, and we take some comfort in knowing that she is no longer suffering.

We know our mother really liked the work of the Heifer Foundation, and would want donations to be made there in her name in lieu of flowers.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Mary Ann Koenecke passed on to join her husband Dick yesterday. We will have more information soon, but her children have met with the funeral director today and will have a rosary for her at Sparkman Funeral Home on Greenville on Thursday night, 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. (rosary at 7:45). The funeral will be at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Richardson, Texas on Friday, November 3 in the early afternoon. Updates tomorrow.