On the Corner

by Robert Docter – 

Some people impact lives in significant ways. Sometimes, it’s a noisy, crashing, forceful experience. Sometimes, it’s quiet, patient and caring. One who impacted me in gentle, persevering ways has died. She taught me much. I’d like to share some of it with you.

She was born as the 19th century faded into history, to be eclipsed by the exciting new hope of the 20th. She was given the name Victoria, a name she shared with the reigning British monarch whose life and values dominated the 19th century and titled an era. Like her namesake, she had a strong, positive moral outlook, was highly industrious, fearless in the face of conflict, decisive, patient and tactful. I can’t remember her ever telling someone what to do. She led by example. She gave advice when asked. She helped people explore alternatives. She made suggestions. She modeled quality behavior. She never imposed help. She seemed to have confidence in people–a positive expectation.

She was a Parkhouse–the eldest in a family with two daughters and five sons. She helped raise them all. Her parents were officers, so her “hometown” was the “current appointment.” They came west in the ’30s and settled in Los Angeles where they joined the Citadel corps–“old #2”–later to become “the Tabernacle” with varying prefixes.

I called her “Vic.” Our lives and families have intertwined for more than 50 years. I wish I had paid more attention to her style.

The important lessons of life are taught by those who have lived them. Teaching is the responsibility of the teacher. Learning is the responsibility of the learner. What we learn depends on many different factors: our awareness of our need to know, our motivation for learning, our readiness to understand and apply the material learned, our willingness to push toward mastery and our continual evaluation of our progress.

In a remarkable way, Vic demonstrated one of the most important ingredients in teaching and living–consistency. She was a SALVATIONIST–in bold-faced caps. If there was a meeting–she got there. She was in shape–physically and spiritually. To her remarkable consistency she added dependability and responsibility. She knew how to finish projects. She never left anything unfinished. She was there when things were easy and when they were difficult.

Good teachers don’t give up on students–ever! Vic was my Corps Cadet Guardian. She made me work even though my reason for membership pertained primarily to the fact that Corps Cadets were scheduled at the same time as open air. The bandmaster, however, soon got that schedule changed. Vic never gave up on me–ever!

She knew how to pick a husband. She met and married an energetic, intelligent young man–one of the friendliest guys I ever met. His name was Josiah Nottle, and everyone called him Cy. Together, they had three children, each of whom has captured the remarkable qualities brought them by their parents. These three children have given her 11 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. What a heritage they have.

In the late ’40s and ’50s my brother and I grew up with her children. We have a remarkable closeness to each of them still. During this time, our mothers worked together at the Army Family Service Department in downtown Los Angeles. In the ’60s, each was widowed. As they began this new stage of life, they became neighbors in apartments just across a small courtyard. Kitchen windows faced, and each morning they would signal each other by a slight adjustment to the kitchen blinds. “I’m up and well. C’mon over for coffee,” the blinds seemed to say.

Vic left on a cruise in late October with her entire family. It was to be a momentous occasion, a capstone event in a family’s life together, a way to celebrate Vic’s 98 years. The night before the cruise ended, she died. No lingering. No pain. Life’s tasks completed. The course finished. She even taught us how to die.

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