In honor of my Grandma, Lucille Luethje, I would like to post the tribute I wrote for her and read today at her funeral:

It’s times that these that being the writer in the family is not all it’s cracked up to be. What do you write about a woman like Lucille Luethje? Funny how I can churn out a nearly flawless 20-page research paper the night before it’s due, yet I find it so difficult to sit down and write a tribute to my grandmother. Even funnier how all the fancy words I know suddenly seem to glaringly inaccurate, so uninspired, for how do you capture the spirit of a woman who meant so much to so many different people?

Some of my earliest memories are of Grandma Luethje—holidays spent at the house in Bertrand and family gatherings at the cabin at Johnson Lake. Grandma loved to cook, and was a magician in the kitchen, always cooking and baking for family gatherings. She made the best ham gravy, and baked a mean pecan pie. The sugar and peanut butter cookies she made were so addictive that I would dream about them for months afterward. She was always so glad to have her children and her grandchildren come visit, and we always had so much fun on our trips to Grandma’s house.

Grandma was a natural storyteller with an impeccable memory. When Mom, Dad, Lindy and I would pick her up to head to Utica and visit the Uncles, the drive always passed quickly as Grandma chatted and told stories. It seemed she had something to say about each farmhouse we passed along the way. She would tell us who lived there when she was young, who they sold the place to, their children’s names, their grandchildren’s names, what kind of car they used to drive, and on and on. Grandma would entertain us stories of her childhood–like the time she hit a boy over the head with her metal lunch bucket, or the day a band of gypsies came traveling through and tried to take Uncle Bob.

As the only girl in a houseful of 5 boys, it’s no mystery what helped form Grandma Luethje’s strong personality. All she ever really needed to do was give a stern look and shake her finger to make you behave. She loved her brothers dearly, and I think it’s safe to say that they adored her in return. Nothing could bring a smile to Grandma’s face faster than knowing her brothers and their wives were coming for a visit, and the large family gatherings were always filled with good food, rowdy card games, and lots and lots of laughter.

Mother Theresa once said, “I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.” I think Grandma knew exactly what she meant. She was the matriarch of our family, in every sense of the word, holding us together even after we lost Grandpa in 1998. In the 12 years since Grandpa passed, there have certainly been moments when Grandma questioned her ability to live on without him, but she did live on, because God knew that there were still some very important things that Grandma had to do.

You see, life is a lot like school. Every situation and every person we encounter offers us an opportunity to learn, and Grandma stuck around for nearly 91 years to teach us some very important lessons. She taught us that hard, meticulous work can yield incredible results. She taught us to be appreciative of the things we have, and to never be wasteful. She taught us the importance of preserving one’s history, to hold dear to the stories and memories you treasure, and to pass those memories along to the next generation. Most importantly, Grandma taught us that love is a bond that can never be broken, and that family is something worth treasuring above all else.

Grandma Luethje – 90th Birthday, August 2010
All of us – children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren
The grandchildren and great-grandchildren

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