Where, how does one begin the celebration of a life that has unfolded in the six months that have lasted 100 years?
Renee Julia Maddox knew how to live, followed the precepts of her heart and spent her adult life enjoying the pot of gold she found at the end of a rainbow of her own making. She grew up an only child, always knowing that she wanted a big family. She met and fell in love with George Maddox while attending the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago in the late 1930s.
Married in November 1942, the two went through the years of World War II, serving as an artillery officer in the South Pacific while she waited in Des Moines, Iowa, for the arrival of the first of what would ultimately be their five sons. The war marred the grandiose career plans of her voice major husband and his new wife. New and different plans evolved out of necessity after his safe return from New Guinea just after the Christmas holidays of 1944-45. Although their life together has always had music at the center of history as the 66 years of marriage that followed have passed, only the focus of family has remained unchanged. Postwar plans took them and their growing family from George’s home in Mayfield, Ky., Where the second son, Craig, was born, to what was quickly becoming the outskirts of the prosperous and rugged city. from Chicago. This is how the house became LaGrange Park, Illinois, and remained so until the late 1960s. There were born sons Todd, George and Peter, completing the quintet and the large family they planned.
Ironically, it was the threat of another Chicago winter that ultimately caused Renee, George, and their family to seek out southern California heat. Behind them, they left not only their charming two-story brick suburban home, but also Renee’s difficult position in a chic beauty salon that she ran for several years after those devoted exclusively to education. of five boys and during which her husband’s work frequently required long and extensive trips. periods away from home.
California offered a new and different environment. With their eldest son Steve, stationed in Vietnam, three others in college and the youngest still in high school, they bought a lovely hillside home in Laguna Beach, California, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was to be the home and “family center” for many years. Renee ran a yardage store while George continued the sales work. Ultimately, their five sons completed their respective and varied studies, found spouses, and helped transform raven-haired RenÃ©e into silver-haired “Granny,” a designation she proudly wore for the rest of her life. .
Eventually, the allure of California wore off, giving way to the beautiful and fascinating change of Midwestern seasons and a move to the Chicago suburb of Wheaton, where she and George have kept the home for the last few years. years of the twentieth century. At the urging of the eldest son, Stephen, and his wife, Karen, George and Renee moved to Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin in late 2004. Fill her hours like she had for years with music, crochet, housekeeping, Scrabble and taking care of her man, Renee went through her eighth decade, relishing family visits and reveling in the welcoming surroundings. Her life was to change abruptly in 2009 with the death of her husband. Still vital and fiercely independent, Renee turned 90 on Christmas Eve 2011. After George passed away, she moved to an assisted living facility. It served her well until she broke her leg in an unusual fall, necessitating a move to a rehab center in Bloomer to recover. She was their star resident and was only days away from being ready to go home when she fell again, breaking her other leg in pretty much the same place and the same way! Her second detox took a lot of her both physically and mentally. When she was finally able to return home, she was found unable to cope with the demands of life on her own, even with help.
Renee came to live with Stephen and Karen at their Lake Wissota home in 2017, less than a month before her 96th birthday. She remained both capable and generally independent with the help of Visiting Angels Weekday Morning for the next 3.5 years until another fall, progressive dementia and increasing physical disabilities necessitated hospitalization. week and a subsequent move to Lake Hallie Memory Care. Her long journey almost over, she passed away on D-Day, June 6, 2021. There is a slight irony in this particular date that marked the beginning of the end of the war that shaped the lives of her generation.
We started this celebratory column with the question of where to begin its nearly 100-year history. In our hearts, the story begins when this wonderfully wonderful, self-effacing, loving and generous woman brought us in and made us a part of her life and her world. The last âborrowed yearsâ (pandemic and all) have been years filled with sunshine and effort, happiness and upliftment in meeting life’s daunting challenges. To our great luck, these years have been shared and savored, full of love and accomplishment. RenÃ©e left no cards unplayed, nothing significant unspoken. When I think of her today, my mind returns to the countless times in my life where she has righted my hesitant ship with the unassuming question “Are you sure this is what you want to do?” Never intrusive, never intrusive, always there wholeheartedly for those she loved, Renee used her life and energy to forge a proud legacy. There will never be another like her.
With my deepest love and respect,
Pederson-Volker Funeral Chapel & Cremation Services, Chippewa Falls serves the family.