Thursday, December 31, 2020

#52Stories 51/52: A Difficult Month in an Already Difficult Year

 #52Stories is my attempt to write 52 stories from my life during the year 2020. At least one story a week, in no particular order, to remember and document some of the memories and moments of my life.

I spent Tuesday writing my oldest sister's obituary. It's not an easy post to share, but it certainly belongs in my #52Stories project. I want to honor her through the words I wrote for her obituary and the memories I shared from our brother (who died on December 7) and my own memories.


Velma Ann Scifres McKee, age 79, died at home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee on December 27, 2020 after an extended battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Born in Lawton, Oklahoma to Lillian Estell Duff Scifres and Ellis Scifres on December 25, 1941, Velma was preceded in death by her brother, Karl Ellis Scifres, granddaughter, Elizabeth Tatum Barajas, and son-in-law, Scott Waite. She is survived by two sisters, Martha Kay Johanson (Ben) and Ramona Behnke (Lance), and sister-in-law, Kathy Scifres.

Shortly after graduating from high school, she married the love of her life, Tommy (“Tom”) Gordon McKee, and shared 61 joy-filled years together. She is survived by her husband, Tom, six children, Thomas, Susan Waite, Shaun (Jenny), Daniel (Jenn), Zachary, and Tim (Brittany), seventeen grandchildren, and six great grandchildren. She is also survived by many nieces and nephews and a host of cousins.

As the mother of six children, Velma’s life revolved around her family. She was a beloved mother and a devoted grandmother. A lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she served in many capacities in her church community. But her real passion was volunteering at the Family History Center where she served as director for over twenty years and helped countless people with their genealogical research.

Velma’s ability to serve others and love deeply brought grace and light to all within her circle of influence. Her gentle laughter made us feel kindness and warmth just being in her presence. Her talent for listening with an understanding heart blessed all who knew her. We will miss her. 


Memories shared at the Roselawn Funeral Home site:

Ramona Behnke

December 30, 2020

Our brother, Karl, died on December 7, 2020. But I know he would want to be represented. 

Here's a FB post he wrote on Christmas Day 2019 to our sister, Velma:
"Happy Birthday today to my "eldest" sister Velma Scifres McKee. She has always been loving and supportive to me and my other two sisters. Since our birthdays are two days apart, we used to celebrate our birthdays together on Christmas Eve. But we haven't been together for a joint celebration in many years. I wish we could have shared a birthday cake yesterday. I love you Velma and hope you had a great day."

I like to think of the belated birthday celebration going on in heaven this year.

In a comment on that same birthday post, Karl shared a favorite pic of the four of us on the couch and these words: "She has always been our 'big' sister who watched over us."

Martha Kay, Velma Ann, Karl Ellis and Ramona Ella (the chubby baby in Velma's lap)

Ramona Behnke

December 30, 2020

I can't think of my sis, Velma, without acknowledging the light that she brought to our world and our family from the time of her birth on Christmas Day in 1941.

She's big sis to three of us and I'm privileged to be the youngest in our family. I have always looked up to her, learned from her, and been loved by her. Her death does not change that. Now we have another angel looking over us and loving us.

I will continue to reflect on the lessons she taught me. Some of those I shared as part of a blog post that I wrote in May as part of my #52Stories project for 2020.

One of my favorite stories about Velma as a Mama came when I was visiting her in Murfreesboro and Danny, Zach, and Tim were still young boys. They had to empty the trash from every room in the house every day which seemed totally unnecessary to me. When I shared my opinion, Velma responded with these words: "I'm raising boys, not emptying trash."

I've developed a keen interest in family history which I like to think she passed on to me. I remember being with her in the genealogical library in Houston. She shared one of her favorite reasons she loved this work: "Dead people don't talk back!"

Even though she's left this realm, I know she's alive in the spirit world and we'll feel her presence and light and love from time to time. She was that kind of a sister, one who's always watched over us and I know she'll continue doing just that from her heavenly home.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Ramona, what a beautiful tribute to your sister. You certainly have had a rough month, and I am so sorry for your loss. I am sure this makes your 52 stories even more special.

    Also, I have a sister who lives in Murfreesboro, too!