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Mother Bear

By Jean Southworth

February 2000

She was a petite woman, with a Nordic complexion and a soft, soothing voice; a fragile woman. Appearances are often deceiving.

Lois Schutte Davenport bore five children, the last two as twins before there was such a thing as ultrasound to warn mothers of their fate. These two babes grew to full term and weight within their tiny mother; she could barely reach the steering wheel on her way home from the obstetrician’s office. Somehow, Lois made her way.

In the early 1960’s, Lois packed up her pink station wagon, sinking with the weight of her grand family and a garbage can full of yard tools tied to the back. The Schuttes were moving to Salem, Oregon where they knew no one, but Lois saw an opportunity to make friends through the local dental wives group. It was at a dental auxiliary meeting that my mom, Ruth Tyler, first spotted Lois.

Both women were new to town, had large families, and not a whole lot of interest in the elite social scene of Salem, such as it was. Instead, they detected in each other a sly sense of fun, a sensitivity and a love for life. This was the beginning of the Schutte and Tyler alliance, a relationship more like family than most families.

With grandparents and other relatives miles away, the Schuttes and Tylers settled into a course of spending holidays and other celebrations together. On Thanksgiving, we’d all head to Lincoln City with too many kids, dogs, and 28 pound turkeys. Mom would stir gravy with a crying baby on her hip, and older kids had to sit on a motel bed with their holiday plate in the crowded beach quarters. These trips are among my most cherished childhood memories, and I recall that through it all, Lois and Mom would be talking, non-stop, always.

Lois was an outstanding cook; even as kids, we knew to expect something special from her kitchen. She wasn’t afraid to experiment with food, creating her unique spin on a vegetable casserole or a huckleberry pie. Once, our families went on search for such huckleberries on a camping trip to the Jefferson Wilderness area. It was here that Lois was famously captured on film after a surprise encounter with a mother bear.

Lois wasn’t really much different from that mother bear. She was out to protect her young at all costs. Pity the threatening force who might be fooled by her small form and sweet voice.

Lois’ strength was further tested in later years with some painful episodes in her life, the greatest being her diagnosis with ovarian cancer 5 ˝ years ago. True to form, Lois fought her way from a six month prognosis to nearly six years of life. She packed a lot of living in those years with her husband, children and grandchildren, as well as more Thanksgiving trips to the beach. Lois outlasted others who fell ill years following her own diagnosis, and she did so while taking dune buggy rides on the Oregon coast with my mom seated next to her.

As tough as she was, Lois’s body ultimately starting giving out this past fall and she began a rapid decline. All those who loved her so dearly- her husband, her children and grandchildren, and yes, my mom, got to spend many of these precious days with her.

Lois often spoke of the angels who gave her strength and the Spirit who gave her life meaning. With husband, Ernie, and children, Ed, Jim, Dorie, Diane and Dana at her bedside, Lois breathed her last this past Friday. But the strength of the angels and the strength of this mother bear lives on in those of us whose lives she’s touched.

Goodbye, Lois. Be with the angels now, where you belong with your fair face and soft voice.