Louise Weydell, 72, of Salinas, died on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2007, from lung cancer and peripheral vascular disease.
She was born Myrtle Louise Powell on March 5, 1935, in Comanche, Oklahoma, a descendant of the earliest European pioneers in America and a direct descendant of Hannah Cole (1762-1843), the pioneer mother of Missouri. She was related to Daniel Boone, and her great great grandmother and uncles were portrayed in the John Wayne movie “The Sons of Katie Elder.”
An only child, she was raised on farms in the towns of Waurika and Comanche in southwestern Oklahoma, where she and her parents did all the labor necessary for operating the 320-acre family farm, on which they raised pigs, turkeys, chickens, horses, cattle, fish, greyhound racing dogs, and many different kinds of crops. She grew up without running water or electricity and attended a one-room school. She was baptized by sprinkling at the Corum Oklahoma Methodist Church by Pastor Grover C. Hensley on August 25, 1948 and was baptized by immersion by Pastor Richard E. Brown on July 9, 1961, at First Christian Church in Fresno.
She was captain of the debate team and remained 16 years old for most of her senior year, graduating from Comanche High School in Stephens County just after turning 17, having completed two years of study during a single scholastic year. Her parents put her on a Greyhound bus to Oklahoma City, where she supported herself by working as a live-in nanny to the Kueffer family’s three children (Gary, Sterling, and Cindy), whom she loved and kept in touch with all her life.
She studied at Oklahoma City University (a Methodist college), from 1954 to 1957, excelling in language arts. At age 22, she answered California’s call for teachers and moved 1500 miles across country by Greyhound bus, stowing all her worldly possessions in the luggage compartment. She began teaching third grade at McCabe Elementary School in Mendota while continuing her Education major at Fresno State University. She also tutored students who had special needs and could not attend public school.
Her dream was to eventually go further west to teach in Alaska. However, her plans were waylaid by fellow student and only child Walter Theodore “Ted” Weydell after his car with a purple roof caught her eye. They dated at the local St. Agnes Hospital because the chef there made the best inexpensive pie in town. Falling in love over strawberry pie, they eloped on April 2, 1962. In 1968, they moved to Ted’s childhood town of Salinas, to care for his mother, Eunice Katherine Weydell, who was well-known in Salinas for her many years as a deputy probation officer, the first female to hold the position in Monterey County.
In order to stay at home to raise her daughter, Louise operated a licensed daycare out of her home from 1969-1974, often caring for as many as 13 children per day, including the 7-week-old twins of one single mother, and the five elementary school-aged children of another. Louise only charged what each mom felt she could afford. In spite of never possessing a driver’s license, Louise took the children all over Salinas via public transportation to participate in fun activities, field trips, and picnics.
In 1970, Louise began working at First Christian Church as Sunday school teacher for preschool through junior high-aged children, Sunday school superintendent, and youth leader. From 1975 to 1988, Louise was also employed as the church secretary and managed many administrative duties as well as providing counseling and advice to parents and assisting many others who came to the church seeking a helping hand or a listening ear.
At age 53, Louise began a whole new career at AB Ingham School, working in the classroom with the most severely handicapped children in Monterey County. She was chosen from over 50 applicants for the position. She loved the children very much and although it was stressful work, she often said she enjoyed every minute of her 19 years employed there. Parents specifically requested that she work with their children when they had especially difficult challenges.
She also worked with her husband, Ted, as a paper carrier for The Salinas Californian. Louise crocheted many beautiful afghans and baby blankets as gifts; she loved to cook, and she was an avid gardener who shared her tomatoes with friends every fall. She had a million stories to tell, read voraciously, and remained a lifelong learner who continued to take classes and expand her knowledge.
She continued her education through Hartnell Community College and San Jose State extension courses. She earned her certification at age 58 in the Orton-Gillingham techniques for aiding children with specific symbolic language processing disorders from the Chartwell School in Marina. She enjoyed tutoring children and would ride the bus to their homes to work with them one on one where they would be most comfortable. She never cared how much she was earning, only that she enjoyed what she was doing as she made a positive difference for others.
Louise may have raised only one biological child, but she loved all the children of the world as if they were hers. She improved the lives of literally hundreds of children. To those who needed her, even those who couldn’t see or hear or respond in conventional ways, her touch conveyed love. She always said they could tell who cared about them, no matter how handicapped they might be. To those who needed her, her gentle and patient work enabled them to do things of which no one thought them capable, whether it be to take their first steps or to be able to eat solid food for the first time after being tube-fed. In her mind, she was just doing what she was always meant to do as she conveyed her empathy, love, and deepest understanding to children.
Of all the people she helped, her friend Marlene benefited most. Louise worked with her for many hours daily as she struggled with schizophrenia and numerous attempts to commit suicide. Louise enabled her to overcome many obstacles and to become more independent. She never failed to go to her rescue, sometimes chasing her down the street and talking her into coming back to the group home where she lived or getting her to the hospital for treatment. She made the difference in Marlene’s life when Marlene had no one else. Louise’s commitment to Marlene lasted a lifetime, and even after Marlene no longer needed psychiatric help, Louise still assisted her with finances, talked to her caregivers, acted as her power of attorney, and either saw or talked with her everyday on the phone for over 30 years, never asking for anything in return. When Marlene died recently, Louise insisted on attending the funeral service by wheelchair, in spite of being in a lot of pain.
Louise courageously faced many disappointments these past 15 months as she battled breast cancer, diabetes, congestive heart failure, vascular disease, Vasculitis (a painful condition in her feet), and lung cancer. Through it all, she kept a positive attitude and remained more concerned for others than for herself. Even in the hospital as she was nearing death, she was comforting her roommates and sharing whatever she had, including her snacks and Mentholatum.
Louise gave unconditional love and compassion to everyone she came into contact with and constantly tried to help those around her to find the good in each other. She was known for her often-repeated phrase, “It could be worse.” She literally loved everyone unconditionally and lived the gospel message to “love your neighbor as yourself” until the very end of her life, always putting the needs of others above her own.
Louise and Ted were married for 38 years, until Ted passed away on Nov. 15, 2000.
Louise is survived by Katherine “Kat” Elaine Teraji and her son-in-law, Stephen Teraji, of whom she liked to say, “I couldn’t have gotten a better son-in-law had I taken out an ad in the newspaper and held interviews to find just the right one.”
For those who wish to give in memory of Louise, she requests that you make donations to feed low income children, help seniors with transportation, and job-train the homeless through St. Joseph’s Family Center (see http://www.stjosephsgilroy.org or call 408-842-6662). Please send donations to 7950 Church St., Suite A, Gilroy, Calif. 95020 and note “Louise Weydell” on the check.