Happy Birthday, Nana

by jessicaturner on February 2, 2011

In an effort to pay tribute to my dear Nana, whose birthday is today, I thought I would share the eulogy I wrote in her honor. She always loved being a groundhog baby. :)

Thank you for taking the time to honor her by reading it. You also will get a preview about the baby’s gender – we find out for sure tomorrow at 9 am!

Good morning. I’m Jessica, Marilyn’s oldest grandchild, and I will be speaking on behalf of the family. This past week, I was doing some laundry and spotted the pink and white afghan that Nana knit for me as a baby. It made me smile – such a tangible reminder of her love.

Me in the pink blanket – Christmas 1982

In reflecting about Nana’s life, my mom shared how Nana never played favorites. She loved all her children deeply.

I love how as she got older, her kids were always near her – Uncle Frank living with her for a while, Uncle Mike and Aunt Debbie living next door to her, and Nana living with us and near us in Oshkosh. When she moved back to Milwaukee, her kids cared for her when she lived independently and then in the nursing room. As Alzheimers slowly took her from us, her kids showed the same dedication she had instilled in them—they loved her deeply.

Extended family was also important. I have many fond memories of Miller picnics with Nana laughing with her brothers, sisters and their kids and grandkids. When Nana and Aunt Judi were together, I saw what my sister and I would be like when we got older – silly, loving and kindred spirits.

Nana also respected family legacy. We have dozens of heirloom family photos and documents that she kept – even her mother’s birth certificate, written in German more than 100 years ago. I wish we had found many of those sooner, so I could have asked her to tell me stories of the people who had loved her before we were around.

Nana found family history so important that she spent $200 to have Gustav Roghan and Salvatore LoCoco’s names inscribed on the Wall of Remembrance at Ellis Island. I visited Ellis Island this year and it was profound to see their names on that wall. That gift is something Nana invested in that will be there for generations to come.

As the oldest granddaughter, I have many fond memories of Nana. Nana loved being a grandmother. She loved each of her five granddaughters from the moment we were born. She kissed us often, hugged us tight and laughed big.

My mom, me, Nana and my sister, Melissa

Some memories are silly – Like my sister and I always saying to Nana, I remember you when you were this big, and she would laugh and say, No, I remember YOU when you were THAT big.

Some memories remind me of her strength – like when she went through her second brain surgery. As a sixth grader, I was so nervous for my Nana, but she pulled through.

She never did anything half-way – from the time she was born, she defied the odds. She would pray for strength and healing and God always answered those prayers. And though her life was filled with many trials, I never remember Nana complaining.


As she got older and Alzheimers began to steal that strength, she continued to be a fighter. Her strength never ceased to amaze and inspire me.

Some memories remind me of her hobbies – Nana could do a word search puzzle faster than anyone I have ever known. I remember as a little girl looking at the puzzle magazines in the bathroom, flipping through the pages in awe of all the circled words.

She also loved to knit. Soon after I was born, Nana sewed me that pink and white afghan I mentioned.

But she didn’t stop there.

Soon my playpen was filled with knit chinchillas, balls and other toys.

This turtle was always my favorite. Me at 9 months.

Though the last years of her life were especially challenging – both for her and for her family, the love and dedication that this family has always had continued to be its strength. And as alzheimers slowly took Nana from us, I could always count on getting a glimpse of the old Nana when we visited her with my son, Elias.

Nana with Elias, November 2010

Every time he visited, her face lit up.

Her eyes sparkled.

And her smile was the same bright smile I remember shining at me throughout my life.

I’m four months pregnant (as if you can’t tell). When I saw Nana in November, I told her that if this baby was a girl, her name would be Adelyne, after her mother.

She immediately threw her head back and laughed, saying, “Adelyne?! Really?? Oh my mother would have loved that.”

I could tell she loved it too.

My favorite photo of my great-grandmother, Adelyne.

Early ultrasounds tell us that the baby is a girl. We’ll know for sure on February 3, the day after Nana’s birthday.

I have a feeling that Nana and Adelyne will be cheering from heaven.

And you can bet that when my little Adelyne arrives in June, she will be wrapped in that pink and white afghan Nana knit 28 years ago.

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