On Sunday, she was fine, cheerful if a bit addled from Alzheimer's. On Monday, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. On Friday, she was gone.
Lover of jazz, hater of fish, devotee of family, Grace Irene Kellogg ended a remarkable life on Feb. 1, 2008, just three days shy of her 86th birthday.
She knew her limits. The world was safer when she surrendered her driver’s license, never getting, but richly deserving, any number of tickets. When caught driving the wrong way on one-way streets, police stopped traffic and directed her to safety. Have a nice day, ma’am, and who could blame them? Grace had a smile and yes, a grace that was impossible to defeat. She laughed at most anything, but never as earnestly as she laughed at herself.
We are all still waiting for our cakes of the month she promised at Christmas but never got around to baking. She didn’t finish the muscular dystrophy walk-a-thon either, but she gave it a shot, dropping out at the 12-mile mark. And she was there at the finish line to take us home.
She was a poet of middling ability and a Scrabble player to be reckoned with. Her heroes were Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Charles Barkley and Larry Bird. She loved Kurt Vonnegut, Woody Allen, Ella Fitzgerald and Chicago (the band, not the city). She filched raw hamburger while cooking and never worried about e coli. She always remembered how good the lettuce tasted eaten, but probably not paid for, in the long-ago-paved-over fields of Auburn where she grew up. She didn’t care much for cocktails, but beer was her friend.
She traveled many places -- Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C. -- but her fondest memories were of the Chilcotin in the interior of British Columbia, where she and her then-husband Bruce ran a hunting and fishing lodge in the 1950s. With no passable roads in the wintertime, do-it-yourself running water and only as much electrical as a generator and Depression-instilled thinking could accommodate, it was perfect for a woman who preferred stick shifts and would rather shop rummage sales than Nordstrom. No one likes mosquitoes, and she didn't fancy trout--or salmon, for that matter. But she never complained.
In her only known brush with public service, she assumed postmistress duties pursuant to popular draft -- and after she pointed out that an American citizen could hardly be trusted to handle Canadian mail. Bookkeeping duties were accomplished by flashing stray cash when the rare postal inspector asked if the books were balanced. She was never prosecuted.
She eventually returned to the United States, becoming a licensed practical nurse and working for many years in geriatrics at Western State Hospital, where she brought her grandchildren to sing for patients at Christmas time. After watching One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, she wondered whether she was anything like Nurse Ratched. She needn’t have worried.
She blossomed in the Age of Aquarius, dabbling in tie dye -- batik, mostly -- and wearing out Ramsey Lewis eight-tracks in her Ford Torino when KTAC wasn’t to her liking. Upon retirement, she did a better job of cleaning her house, throwing out countless Raleigh cigarette coupons and giving away her antiques and record albums. She didn’t always recognize people in her final years, but she still smiled, and she still laughed. She left this world with no real estate, no stock portfolio and no bank account worth mentioning. But she was richer than most of us will ever be.