Washington Evening Journal
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Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 14, 2017

Honoring Mrs. Horsey

August 10, 2015
Ankeny, Iowa

To the Editor:
When I arrived home after spending the afternoon with my neighbor, Mrs. Horsey, my mother informed me she h ad called and asked that I come right back. I wondered on my way out the back door what I had done wrong. In a more hopeful light I thought she might give me another quarter for the tasks I had completed.
When I was 10, Mrs. Thelma Horsey hired me to help her with odd jobs around her house such as washing windows, painting, raking leaves, and hoeing weeds, tasks that I never imagined I could complete, even though she worked beside me when she could and gave encouragement, helping a young boy learn about the value of work done well.
I was also hoping she had no more jobs, as I had a Little League baseball game to play and was anxious to get dressed in my uniform and head off to the baseball field. She was standing at the back door when I arrived, cleaning the mud off her boots, having just left her garden where weeds did not have a chance of survival.
“Did you see what you forgot?” Mrs. Horsey asked as she pointed to an object in the yard. The hoe lay low in the grass as if suffering from humiliation for not being in its proper place. I was the last one to use it and forgot to put it away. “You know,” she said, “putting away tools and taking care of them is just as important as using the tool for the job. Also, the next person to use it should not have to guess its location.” I listened patiently as she reminded me of the importance of tool care and thinking about others. I apologized and returned the hoe to its rightful place in the garage.
She gave me a hug as I walked out the garage door and wished me good luck on my baseball game. Thelma Horsey anchored our neighborhood on East Van Buren during the 1950s with her values and hospitality, as her house was positioned right in the middle of our block. She provided land for a spacious garden which fed our family of seven at that time. Her huge apple orchard offered after-school treats to those Lincoln School students who dared to enter and sneak out with an apple, as well as pies and sauce for those of us privileged to live close by.
I attended this 106-year-old’s funeral on Aug. 8 and noticed her hoe was displayed with other memorabilia, and I wondered if this was the hoe which was almost stepped on and broken because a young boy forgot to put it away 60 years ago. I am glad the hoe was presented as a laudable artifact of her life, there to remind me of honest work and this wonderful neighbor who took the time for a teachable moment. I do not remember how my then-significant Little League game turned out that evening, but I still remember this centenarian’s wisdom.

The Rev. Denny Coon