My mom, Mary Geraldyne Severance Rivard, was born April 7th, 1925, in Casper, Wyoming. She died July 13th, 2015, and today would be ninety-seven years old. Her Memorial Service took place August 15, 2015 in Glenwood City, Wisconsin and was attended by many friends and relatives, whom I hadn’t seen for years.
My mom was smart, very smart. Valedictorian of her high school class from Turtle Lake, Wisconsin, she got a music scholarship to Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, but didn’t complete her degree because she fell in love with my dad, married and moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he finished his law degree. They soon settled in the town where they raised seven children, and where my father practiced law.
When my mom was unable to have anymore children she decided to return to college at the University of Wisconsin River Falls UWRF. She pursued a degree in Art Making and Education and eventually got a teaching position at New Richmond, Wisconsin. She was an accomplished artist in all mediums, and a highly admired teacher. Her students loved her so much they called her Ma Art which was shortened to Mart. When I was in the first grade she returned to college. Having a working mom meant I had to make my own lunch, which didn’t always happen. In spite of the hardship, I was proud of her effort to pick up the pieces and go back to school and to work. She got up every morning and drove one half hour in the ice and snow to New Richmond High School. An accomplished teacher, she set up a student teacher program through UWRF and mentored many young artists and budding teachers. Not only that, the variety and creativity that flowed from her own students was astounding.
Mary continued to love music. My cousin John heard her sing Silent Night at St. Anne’s in Turtle Lake, and said she sounded like an angel. As a member of the community she served as choir master of the St. John’s congregation in Glenwood, as well as artist of the church creating banners to be hung on the main altar for the liturgical seasons. A multitalented person, we have in our possession today, many paintings and objects of art she made.
As a person Mary advocated for people who suffered due to a lack of opportunities. She abhorred racism and any forms of injustice committed against people who weren’t part of the in-crowd, so to speak. A free spirit, one of her favorite poems was the following by Robert Frost.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in the wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
My mom will be remembered for her loving and generous spirit, for her gifted hands and clarity of mind, and above all for her undying patience in the midst of the storm. And though she isn’t physically on this earth, her presence is felt in every footstep I take, for she is the one who taught me to walk.