Once when I was complaining,"Why do we have to do all this homework," she replied, "Because it's more fun to know about things than it is to not know about things."
Julia Hettie Sayer Sherrod was 92. With the help of Community Hospice she slipped very gently from sleep into heaven.
In addition to the standing ovation I am sure she received from the angels, she was certainly greeted by her beloved Alan, my dad and her husband of nearly 63 years. He died in 2005.
This all happened rather quickly. On the 4th of July, we took her to the hospital with what turned out to be a blood clot in her leg.
Early in that stay she was in pretty good humor. Once when my brother Michael opened the blinds and the light was too bright, she borrowed his sunglasses. We all agreed it was a good look for her.
We got the blood clot and the resultant pneumonia resolved and she was moved to a rehab facility. But on Tuesday she had a stroke. She could not speak, her right side was very compromised and she began having several seizures.
She was barely conscious, but when I placed her rosary in her left hand, she immediately began fingering the beads. So I sat down beside her and began saying the rosary into her ear. As I did so, she began sliding the beads between her fingers.
Mom was born September 15, 1917, in Black River, New York. She graduated from Black River High School at age 16.
In 2007, she and I traveled to upstate New York for the Sayer Family Reunion so she could see all her siblings - Colin, Dot and Bill -- all of whom are still alive and well.
The Fab Four.
And with her sister Dot (Dorothy).
And her baby brother Bill.
We also visited the graves of her mother, Colice Sayer, and her grandmother, Frances Caulfield.
It is a beautiful swift running river containing more water than any river she saw for years in Texas.
Mom's life was a rich one. Following graduation from the Mercy Hospital School of Nursing in Albany in 1939, she was awarded a fellowship to St. Louis University where she received her Bachelor of Science Degree in nursing education in June 1942.
Mom and Dad at their graduations from medical and nursing school.
While she was in school, she managed a hospital and taught nursing at St. Louis University as well as at an African American nursing school. She was an excellent surgical nurse. One day in 1941 when a young surgeon named Vincent Alan Sherrod collapsed while preparing to do surgery, Judy rushed over to help him. It was the beginning of a lifelong romance. On September 8, 1942, they married.
The engagement announcement
Mom was the major wage earner while Dad completed a three-year residency in surgery at Missouri Pacific Hospital. He then joined the U.S. Army and was immediately diagnosed with tuberculosis. Unlike today, TB usually was a death sentence. Mom cared for him during his long convalescence and for the rest of his life, Dad often said it was her determination and support that kept him alive.
In 1949, Judy and Alan moved to Iraan, TX, at the request of his uncle, Frank Bascom, who worked for the Ohio Oil Company, later the Marathon Oil Company. Physicians were desperately needed in West Texas, and the oil company offered to pay for the move and set them up in practice if they would move their young family west.
Mom with her firstborn, Daniel Alan Sherrod.
And with her second son, Peter Stewart Sherrod.
And with me, her only daughter, Colice Kathryn Sherrod.
And finally with her baby, Michael Sayer Sherrod.
West Texas was in the midst of a several-year’s drought when they arrived. One can only imagine Mom’s reaction to the sere landscape after growing up in the lush beauty of upstate New York. She and Dad and the four of us lived through epic dust storms that took the paint off the side of cars and buildings.
Their first clinic in Iraan.
At the time, there were no physicians at all for three huge West Texas counties around Iraan. Mom and Dad worked as a team to deliver health care to the thousands of people in that isolated part of Texas. In 1957, they built a clinic in Iraan.
The clinic they built in 1957
Mom successfully wrote grants to establish a Well-Baby Clinic in Sheffield, TX, where she and Dad immunized the infants and children in these counties and taught young mothers to feed and care for their children. She also founded the Iraan Public Library. She and Dad were instrumental in establishing the Iraan Hospital.
Mom was a moving force in getting Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops established in Iraan. She was a member of the Iraan Garden Club, whose members were the embodiment of the triumph of hope over adversity, given the challenges of growing anything at all during the drought years. When three of us were in Catholic boarding schools in Austin and San Antonio, Mom drove 600 miles round trip to see us every weekend.
Mom, as the only other licensed health care practitioner in the area, often functioned as would a nurse practitioner today because Dad was so often away at the hospital in Fort Stockton or making house calls to remote ranches. While he was away, she ran the clinic and triaged the patients, taking the most seriously ill to Fort Stockton when necessary.
Once she had men secure an oil field worker with a broken back onto her ironing board and carefully load him into the back seat of her big car. Then she loaded us four kids into the car and drove us all to the hospital in Fort Stockton where my dad was doing surgery.
We saw this kind of thing all the time. People instinctively turned to Mom when they needed help. She exuded competence and calm.
M parents were devout Catholics, driving 30 miles to either McCamey or Rankin to attend Catholic Mass because there was no Catholic Church in Iraan. When they moved from Iraan to Odessa, they donated their clinic building to the Catholic Church, who turned it into St. Francis Catholic Church.
In Odessa, Mom continued to manage Dad's medical practice while also volunteering at Catholic Charities and serving as long-time treasurer at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
Mom and Dad and Mom's beloved Scottie, Ian.
She was a member of the Odessa Garden Club, continuing her interest in gardening – an interest she passed on to me. She read widely and voraciously and was a published poet.
After she and I traveled together to China in the early 1980s, she recorded her impressions of the trip in poetry.
Mom and me at the Registan in Samarkand.
We also traveled to Russia and Uzbekistan, because she had always wanted to go to Samarkand.
Here we are in the spice market in Samarkand.
Mom is survived by her children, Dan Sherrod of Richardson and his wife Patricia; Dr. Peter Sherrod of Plano; Katie Sherrod of Fort Worth, and her husband, the Rev. Gayland Pool; and Michael Sherrod of Fort Worth and his wife, Dr. Melissa McIntire Sherrod; two brothers, Colin and William Sayer; a sister, Dorothy Sayer Foltz; nine grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
And now, while we all rejoice that she is at peace, we know we will miss her every day of the rest of our lives.
Well done, Mom.
We love you.
Rest in peace.