Eulogy for Linda Montgomery
June 22, 2020
by Pastor John Partridge
This is hard.
Being here is hard. Watching this family suffer… is hard. Losing a friend… is hard. Not being able to have the celebration of life that Linda deserves, is hard. All of this is hard.
Everyone that has ever met Linda Montgomery has a story that they remember, and they all want to tell about it. We have already heard several of those stories. And, most importantly, as I sat down with Linda’s family this week, they shared their stories with me for almost two hours. It wasn’t boring or even difficult, but much like it has always been whenever anyone has ever talked about Linda, the stories about her, the love that they had for her, and the joy that she brought into their lives, just flowed out of them. Everyone who met Linda, felt loved by her because she cared about everyone around her whether they were an old friend or a total stranger. And in Linda’s world, strangers became friends almost immediately.
The difficulty that I have, is that between the stories that I heard, and those that have been emailed to me, I could stand up here and share with you for hours, and if we opened this microphone and offered you the opportunity to share, we could double that again. But the reasons that everyone has great stories that they want to share, is because Linda cared about them. She genuinely cared about everyone around her, she loved them, and more often than not, she put their needs ahead of her own.
One of Linda’s great loves was Mary Poppins, and like Mary Poppins, Linda was “Practically perfect in every way.” She sang, she danced, and she made everything fun. Linda literally sang her way through life and made up songs about whatever she was doing regardless of how trivial the task. And, much like Mary Poppins, Linda brought a new and different energy to any room into which she would step. In Mary Poppins, Mary and the children stop in the park to feed the birds and to make the acquaintance of the bird lady. In Linda’s story, she was both Mary and the bird lady. She loved birds, she loved watching the birds, and feeding the birds, and teaching her children and grandchildren, and anyone else, about the birds. There was always a bird book near the window facing the bird feeder so that they could identify any unfamiliar birds that visited. And she got terribly excited when a goldfinch stopped to have a snack and say hello and she made sure that Owen had a good set of binoculars so that he could see the birds too.
And loving birds was only a small part of Linda’s love of nature. She loved the outdoors and was always happiest there. She grew up camping and anytime that she went missing, everyone knew that you could probably find her near the fire circle. And perhaps it was her time spent near the fire circle when she nurtured her ability to make the perfect smore. She could toast a marshmallow any way that you liked it, from golden brown to crispy, to burnt. Whatever was perfect for you, she could, and would, toast one just the way you liked it. She loved the water, but she loved being near the water and not on the water. Whenever she was in a boat, she had white knuckles from holding on much too tightly. But time on the shore had a much more relaxing and calming effect.
Linda’s father was a photography hobbyist and enthusiast and his love of photography infected her as well. While she didn’t care to have her own darkroom or develop her own pictures, she was rarely without two or three cameras so that, wherever they went, she could get the perfect shot.
Linda always wanted what was best for her family, she did whatever she had to do, so that her children never knew how tight their money was, and she knew that she could never afford to send Jessica to college so she got work at Mount Union as a housekeeper so that, as staff, she would get a discount. From there, she worked her way to the supply room, the key room, and the physical plant. Then she had a heart attack and afterwards the university moved her to a less active secretarial position. Somewhere along the line, she became “the duck lady” that could herd nesting ducks away from campus buildings and back to the lake. Later she split her time between the physical plant and the chaplain’s office, and then finally full time at the chapel where, everyone knew that her gifts seemed perfectly matched to her position. Mary Poppins, in the movie Mary Poppins Returns says, “Everything is possible, even the impossible.” And, Like Mary Poppins, Linda was known at UMU for doing the things that others thought were impossible.
One of things that often stood out, no matter where she went, was that Linda always put the needs of others ahead of her own. Although she was often critical of herself, no matter who came in her office, she loved them. Students who were far from home felt like they had a mom they could go to and no matter who she met, she liked to find the things that interested them. Even when she was undergoing chemo, she was so focused on caring for others, and the needs of others, that many people didn’t even know that she was sick. And even with all the things that she had on her mind, her friend Sarah Sherer told me that Linda agonized over whether she should retire or not because she didn’t want to leave anyone in the lurch. She resisted taking sick days or Family leave days even when all of her friends and coworkers were urging her to do so, and to take care of herself, because she wanted to be sure that everyone else was taken care of first.
But as much as she cared for everyone, Linda’s family was everything to her. As much as she gave of herself as work or at church, she did so many times over at home. When she discovered that there was a Miami Dolphins playoff game being played while they were in Florida, despite the fact that she was not a Dolphins fan, and despite being undoubtedly expensive, and despite her dislike of driving in heavy traffic, Linda spent all day on the phone, found some available tickets, bought them, and drove to Miami so that Amanda, who was a fan, could have the once in a lifetime chance to see them in a playoff game.
Linda worried too much. She always knew what the weather was in Columbus before Amanda did and would call and warn her to take her umbrella, or to wear her galoshes, or a scarf, or whatever it is that mothers need to tell their children when the weather is bad. All our moms did that, but Linda made an artform out of doing it long distance. She worried about Amanda, and that created the need for Amanda to get an Instagram account and what she calls her “Amanda picture of the day.” Every morning, Amanda would take a picture of herself, and send it to her mom, to reassure her that she was still alive and was doing alright. This happened every morning, without fail, and if she was late, then Linda worried even more.
She was known for hot chicken sandwiches and cheesy potatoes, She and Sarah often made soup and salad for lunch for some of the faculty, staff, and students after chapel each week, and Linda always knew how to organize it and that chicken and rice certainly ought to be on the menu. She wasn’t into fancy recipes, but she was a master at comfort food. She, and her family, were obsessed with ice cream but she never drank alcohol. This, of course led to a crisis for Amanda when she discovered that Linda was eating Rum Raisin ice cream. In response to Amanda’s dismay at seeing her teetotaling mom “having alcohol,” Linda just explained that alcohol in ice cream “didn’t count.”
Linda was known for many things. She was always smiling, rarely angry, she always made sure that the toilet was clean before company came, she had bright shining eyes that everyone noticed and remembered, even strangers would comment that she just smelled good, and somehow she made her favorite Clinique perfumes “Happy” and “Happy Heart,” smell different than they did on anyone else. Her laugh, the “Linda cackle,” was well-known, could be heard from a considerable distance, often summoned friends who recognized it from around corners, and warmed the hearts of everyone withing earshot. She loved all things Irish and, whenever the church basement sale received Irish themed items, they generally found their way to Linda before the sale ever started. She was the favorite aunt that took them to the zoo and bought Evan his favorite dinosaurs and Ben said, “She was always comforting to me. She always made me feel calm and endlessly happy, like being a kid all over again. Being with her, and at her house, always relaxed me no matter what bad or stressful things were going on in the world. I can’t think of someone who is more genuinely happy for others, so proud and thankful for her family, and so strong despite those fears and “quirks” she inherited from Grandma!”
There is so much more.
I know that I can’t tell you all of the stories that I have been told by Lynn, Jessica, Craig (whom she adored), Amanda, various church folk, Sarah, Ben, and Drew. I apologize for not including them all. I will add all of them to the text of this eulogy when I post it on by blog, but we just don’t have the time to share them all here.
For you who are her family, I hope that you remember that Linda Montgomery loved Jesus, and loved others like Jesus. Linda loved others even at the expense of herself and her needs. But as much as she loved others, she loved you more. You were her reason to live and her reason to love. You were her passion. It was always your happiness that made her happiest. Mary Poppins said that when the wind changed, it was time to go, even though the children were never ready for her to leave. Like Mary Poppins, none of us were ready for Linda to leave. But perhaps, it was just time. Hold on to the love that Linda had for you. Remember her laugh, her joy, her smell, her smile, her eyes, her love for others, and her love for you. It was you who made her happy. Hold on to the joy, the happiness, and the love that she gave to you.
And, because much of Linda lives on through you, I hope that you will share her love, her joy, and her happiness with the world around you.
Because life is hard, and all of us need more Mary Poppins-es and Linda Montgomerys in our lives.
Linda was indeed, “practically perfect in every way.”
Rev. Chris Martin
“Precious memories how they linger; how they ever flood my soul. In the stillness, of the midnight, precious sacred scenes unfold.”
Linda Montgomery was indeed a precious person. Regardless of the situation in which she found herself, Linda always wore a smile on her face. She showed kindness and compassion to everyone she met, always seeing the goodness in others, choosing to overlook anything less. Her relaxed laughter made strangers into friends the moment she met them. Linda was an easy person to love because she had the gift of putting people at ease in her presence. While she was involved in so many things at Christ United Methodist Church, much of what she did was accomplished behind the scenes. She never sought recognition for what she did for others, preferring instead to work alongside others to share her talents and abilities. Many of us at Christ Church knew her as the “reception” lady. Often when there was a reception after a special program at church, Linda would not only solicit home-baked cookies from others, she would bake dozens-upon-dozens herself. Her emphasis was always on home-baked.
When the “Threads of Love” group formed to make prayer shawls for members and friends of the church who needed some additional love and concern, Linda took an active interest in this ministry. She was also instrumental in selecting and procuring a cabinet in which to store the prayer shawls until they were distributed.
When Lynn took over the responsibility of maintaining the church building and property, Linda was right there with him sharing in keeping everything clean and polished. Lynn and Linda had fun working together, often laughing as they completed their tasks. Most of the conversations I shared with Linda were when I would stop at the church on Saturdays and she would be helping Lynn put the finishing touches on things so all would be ready for Sunday morning. Those were truly precious times as Linda would talk about her daughters, Jessica and Amanda, and, of course, Owen. I also remember Linda holding baby Owen in the back of the sanctuary during worship. What joy he brought to her heart. Jessica, Amanda and not-so-little-anymore Owen, your mom and Oma loved you more than life itself and still does as she watches over you now from her place in heaven. Lynn and Linda loved and cared for each other in such a beautiful way, especially in the last months of Linda’s illness, when Lynn did everything he could to comfort and care for her. Indeed, “Precious memories how they linger; how they ever flood my soul. In the stillness, of the midnight, precious sacred scenes unfold.” Amen.
Pastor of Visitation
Christ United Methodist Church
Subject: Aunt Linda
I don’t have a particular story, but I did want to say that I will miss her laugh and her kind heart. She had the kind of laugh that always made me laugh. I will miss hearing her laugh at our family gatherings especially at Christmas when we always have such fun playing games and doing funny gift exchanges as a family. She loved all of us kids so much and she always made sure we knew it. Evan also wanted to say that she bought him his favorite dinosaurs when they were out together at the zoo and he will always think of her when he is playing with them.
Subject: My Aunt Linda remembrance
I just know that my mom and Grandma’s friends would always joke how Aunt Linda reminded them of Grandma Rickard — there was no mistaking she was Grandma’s daughter. When I was a boy I loved going to Grandma’s house of course! I always felt so at home there, a home away from my home. Grandma would laugh and sit and watch us boys go crazy, say funny things, with love and happiness written all over face.
When Grandma passed, and as I grew up, and it became “Aunt Linda’s house” — every time I’d go visit I would think “wow, she really is looking more and more like grandma!” Her laugh more like grandma’s, the way she’d sit and watch and laugh at us being silly adults. And she became an Oma herself and it was official! She was the new “Grandma.”
Since my dad passed away and we moved away, I’ve always felt so uncomfortable in Alliance — but not at that house on Glenwood, and not with Aunt Linda. She was always comforting to me. She always made me feel calm and endlessly happy, like being a kid all over again. Being with her and at her house always relaxed me no matter what bad or stressful things were going on out in the world. I can’t think of someone who is more genuinely happy for others, so proud and thankful for her family, and so strong despite those fears and “quirks” she inherited from Grandma!
I’ll keep remembering her like I remember my childhood — happy, laughing, joking, peaceful. And I’ll plan to teach Alex what she taught us — that no matter how tall the odds or what fears we might have, you face them strong and you fight as best you can because your family loves you and will support you no matter what.
We love you Aunt Linda aka Oma!
UMU Director of Residence Life
Thoughts about Linda
Before actual “stories” I will say that the things that stood out to me most about Linda were how much she loved to laugh… and she had a great laugh. She had a servant’s heart – she worried about other people working too hard, but she never stopped. She loved her family and worried about them, but she was so proud of her girls, and her nephews and sister. But, she just cared about people and was a great listener. She was an awesome co-worker. She always found a way to get things done, even when other people told you they couldn’t happen.
- When I first started working at Mount Union, I didn’t know my own office phone number… I thought I did, but I didn’t. I had never lived anywhere where there were 2 exchanges in the same city… so I thought all Alliance phone numbers began with 823…. but my office line didn’t. So, one time Linda called my office and told me that she called a friend and realized that the last 4 digits were the same as a co-workers… and her friend asked, is your co-worker Sara? Can you tell her to stop giving out my number??
- Similarly – I used to re-record my voicemail message every week. We had to, to update who was the emergency contact on campus. I hated it recording it and often it took several “takes” before I got all the way through the long message without saying something wrong. Well, one day, I got a voicemail from Linda and she was just laughing so hard. When I recorded my voicemail, I thought I was starting over with each of my do-overs, but Linda told me that each and everyone of them were recorded, back to back… and that it had taken me 8 attempts that time and she had listened to every single one, laughing harder with each of my attempts.
- Then there was the time that I donated a coat to the church basement sale and in the coat pocket was a campus key! Thank goodness Linda recognized the key and figured out it was mine (I was pretty new to church at that time) and got it back to me! That would have been an expensive loss!
- I think that it may have been Susan Diser who originally invited me to come to choir… but it was sitting with Linda and Lucinda and Diane in the alto section that made it so much fun. The altos always got into trouble with Lanny, the director. I’ve missed all of them in choir! (although the altos still probably are the most unruly section!) The biggest problem I had, besides getting in trouble with the altos, was that we sat beside the tenors, so often I would find myself singing tenor along with Lynn instead of the alto part!
- Linda was the first person that Ian and I ever visited (outside of family). I was on maternity leave (and living on campus) and Linda was at home recovering from a heart-attack, so I loaded Ian up in his stroller and we walked to visit Linda.
- Similarly – I think that Linda was one of the first people to ever meet Mark… the week after he was born was VBS at church (combined with St. Joe’s that year) and Linda and Lynn agreed to pick up Ian and take him to bible school every night. When she came the first night, she came in to meet Mark, but made a big fuss over Ian becoming a big brother and brought him a stuffed animal dog – of the golden-retriever variety. Ian immediately named him Sandy and he was the precious stuffy that had to go on everywhere with us. I was pretty certain Sandy would end up going to college with Ian.
- For the last couple of years, Linda and I have planned and provided light lunches, often soup and salad, for a small group of students/faculty/staff after chapel service most weeks. She was a great partner! I needed a decision maker. At the beginning of a semester I sent a whole list of fancy soups that I could make… and the one that Linda requested first was chicken and rice! It was such an “old standby” that I almost didn’t put it on the list.
- She agonized about whether or not to retire. She didn’t want to leave anyone in a lurch. She fought against taking sick days and eventually FMLA even when we were all urging her to take the time off and take care of herself. She wanted to make sure that we were all taken care of first.
Obituary for Linda Montgomery
Linda Rickard Montgomery, age 59, of Alliance, passed away on June 18, 2020 at the Cleveland Clinic due to complications after courageously fighting leukemia and lymphoma.
She was born June 25, 1960 in Alliance, Ohio to Kenneth and Marjorie Rickard. A graduate of Alliance High School, class of 1978, Linda worked at the University of Mount Union since 1995 where she held many positions, but finally finding her perfect niche in the Dewald Chapel. She was planning to retire this month.
Linda was a member of Christ United Methodist Church where she spent many years as part of the choir and Threads of Love. She also served as the head of the reception committee and a member of the Friendship II Sunday School class. Linda was also a long-time member of Rainbow Girls and the Eastern Star.
Linda loved camping and being outdoors, spending time with her family, Christmas, bird watching. She was always smiling and bringing joy to others, especially with her famous laugh, the “Linda cackle”.
Survivors include her longtime partner, Lynn Goldrick; daughters, Jessica (Craig) Crider of Salem, OH, and Amanda Montgomery of Columbus, OH; grandson, Owen Crider; sister, Susan (Dieter) Kahle of Solon, OH; nephews, Drew (Erin) Shuster of North Ridgeville, OH, and Ben (Erin) Shuster of Arlington, VA; great nephews, Evan, Isaac, and Alexander.
She was preceded in death by her parents.
A private funeral service will held. She will be laid to rest beside her parents at Alliance City Cemetery.
Memorial contributions can be made in her name to American Red Cross (monetary or blood donations) http://www.redcross.org or Christ United Methodist Church 470 Broadway St. Alliance, OH 44601.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Linda Montgomery, please visit our floral store.