Let Me Tell You
About My Mom...
It would take an
entire book to really tell you all about Mom's amazing life, but here is an
abbreviated version. Scroll your mouse over
underlined words below to see a picture!
||Floris June Wishmeyer
My Mom, Flo Wishmeyer --- the "Before Me" Years
Floris "Flo" June Wishmeyer was born Floris June Roath
on May 11, 1922 in
Mace Idaho to Parents
June Lauretta Stewart Roath and
Lloyd Elmer Roath.
She spent the first 6 years of her life in Idaho where grandpa worked as a coal
miner. At age 6 the family moved to Butte, Montana. When Mom was eight years
baby brother Lynn Richard was born. The family lived until in
Butte until The
Great Depression hit. Mom was 13 years old when Grandpa moved the family to
Grass Valley, Calif., where they finally put down permanent roots. Mom recalls
that even during the Depression, Grandpa "always managed to keep a roof over our
heads and food on the table."
Mom has been an avid reader since she was 6 years old. Attending school in a 1
room schoolhouse in Montana, she skipped the second grade and went directly to
fourth grade in large part because of her reading and spelling skills. As a new
fourth-grader, she was given the "task" of reading a chapter of Brier Rabbit to
the fifth graders every day after lunch. She was always first in reading and
spelling bees, and her best friend Dorothy "bohinks" was first in math.
After both girls took first in a country-wide competition --- mom in spelling
and Dorothy in math --- against schools with more than a single room, their
oh-so-proud young teacher took both girls to lunch to celebrate their
accomplishments. Mom still remembers how exciting this was to be taken to lunch
by her teacher, and both girls were fascinated with a pink sauce that adorned
their desert cakes. This was a thrilling moment Mom still cherishes nearly eighty
It was was apparent from a very early age that Mom had a fascination with hair.
Mom made a valentine for the same young teacher, Adele Rich, who always wore her
hair in a large bun. Then Mom asked if she would let her hair down so the class
could see it, and when Adele consented, her lovely thick locks fell all the way
to her hips.
Not shy even from a tender age, Mom asked "Can we come up and touch it"? "It was
so soft!" Mom recalls. One might have predicted her future professional career
as a beautician.
Mom graduated from Grass Valley High School in 1940
and was married that same
year to William "Bill" Castleberry. She gave birth to a son,
Don "Donnie" Castleberry
, in 1941. Don, by the way, is still alive and well and living in Jal, NM.
In 1942 they moved to the Bay Area where Mom worked for two years as a arc
welder on the Liberty ships in support of the war effort. Although Rosie the
Riveter had a better press agent, Mom was considered one of the best arc welders
by her superiors.
Apparently there's a special technique to getting the molten metal "vertical
meets horizontal" at just the right speed, letting the slag form and then
knocking off the silver ribbon. When the next "pass" is started, the seam is
supposed to be subtle.
The male inspectors couldn't find where the slag started and stopped --- no seam
--- "the most perfect bead they'd ever seen" was how Mom's
welding was described. (Grandma June told me this and other stories of the
"before me" years).
Widowed during the war, Mom next began Beauty College in Marysville, CA., a 35
mile drive from Grass Valley. She boarded in Marysville during the week and went
home to Grass Valley on weekends, where Grandma June and Grandpa took care of
Donnie. It turned out that being a beautician was really Mom's calling, and she
spent more than 35 years practicing professionally, though she is still known to
turn a curl or give a trim to this day. I know because she is one of the few
people I trust to trim my hair!
The "After Me" Years
Mom remarried in 1958 and had a daughter --- me! ---
Dana in 1959.
Widowed a second time, she raised
me and Donnie
as a solo parent until 1962 when
friends introduced her to
Raymond Virgil "Wish" Wishmeyer,
a retired U.S.
Navy Lt. Commander.
They met at a square dance in December 1962 and were married on March 10, 1963.
It sounds from stories they both tell that it was "love at first sight," and
their theme song has always been "Some Enchanted Evening" from South Pacific
because they first laid eyes on each
other "across a crowded room" at the dance.
After Mom and Dad's first date, Ray (not-yet-Dad), came a-courtin' to our home.
I was four years old. Mom tells me that the front screen door was open and I
went to the door when the bell rang. Handsome Raymond Wishmeyer said something
like "well you little Dolly," and I
reached up as he bent down to greet me, putting my arms around his neck like I
was never going to let him go.
He picked me up and carried me to the kitchen where Mom was fixing dinner,
and when she said hello to him, I firmly announced that "I saw him first"!
(Knowing nothing about their previous "love at first sight" date). So there's
been a long-standing joke between Mom and I
about who "saw him first." No matter, I'm glad we found Him. Mom deserves
nothing less than the Man who is Dad.
I was four years old when Mom and Dad were married, and Dad officially adopted
me, so he's "mine," too. Mom and Dad celebrated 46 years of marriage March 2009.
In 1964, the house Dad had designed and built himself --- a beautiful, sprawling
ranch called "Suits Us" in the tree-covered foothills outside Grass Valley ----
burned to the ground while Mom, Dad and I were away for the day. I was only 5
years old at the time, but I still clearly remember standing next to Mom and Dad
as we watched Dad's many years of hard work, decorated with treasures collected
from around the world during his Navy career, go up in flames.
"Suits Us" burned to the ground with nothing left behind but three brick
fireplaces and some Corningware™ dishes. (Yes, they really ARE fireproof). We
lived in a tiny trailer behind Grandma's house and wore clothes donated to us
from our church until finding a new place to
After this misfortune, Mom and Dad purchased a piece of property back in Grass
Valley proper where Mom designed and Dad built her the town's showpiece beauty
"The Red Carpet."
The property had a huge duplex --- 2,000 square feet
each side with full basement --- and we lived in one side and rented out the
other. The Red Carpet was elegant, with six stations for operators, a
snack and beverage bar, sauna and massage area in the back and --- you might
have guessed it --- red carpet. It really was "The" beauty salon in Grass Valley.
This property had an apple orchard --- a good sized one --- beyond the salon,
and walnut, cherry, plum trees and holly bushes to boot. I would pick and
sell each in it's season, sometimes door-to-door and other times from a stand
out in front of the Red Carpet. Mom
helped me think up clever signs for my selling adventures, like "Life is Just a
Bowl of Cherries" when I was selling cherries for 25¢
a bag. At age 7, I made a tidy sum selling the bounty of our property's harvest,
but what I remember most is the fun I had with Mom helping me make signs and
think up slogans.
During these "Grass Valley years," Mom joined a start-up theatre troup and
convinced Dad and I try out for "Our Town." Mom played the role of
Mrs. Webb, Dad was
Sam Craig and I was Rebecca Gibbs. The
local paper billed us as
"Wishmeyer Family of Grass Valley Rivals Barrymores of Old".
Mom went on to perform in other local plays, most
notably as Mrs. Dalton in "Curse You, Jack Dalton."
We lived in Grass Valley for four years with Mom happily managing
The Red Carpet and Dad working for Litton Engineering as a machinist. (Litton
Engineering is best known as the first company to produce commercial microwave
ovens). Meanwhile, I
was attending Catholic school,
enjoying my tree fort and apple orchard, my Awesomely Great Parents and life in
general. Life was good and we (Mom, Dad and me) seemed to have recovered, for
the most part, from the shock and loss of Suits Us.
Mr. Litton decided that he wanted to move his operation from Grass Valley to
Nevada in order to save money on taxes. Because Dad was his "main man," we made
the move to Nevada, first living North of Reno at the old Stead Airforce base
and soon after (mercifully) moving to
Nevada's capital, Carson City. I was in 4th grade at the time.
In Carson City, we lived in a rented mansion, literally, the old
across the street from the Governor's mansion. It was a beautiful
neighborhood and our house had a huge veranda that overlooked a big grassy front
During "The Carson City Years," Mom was Chairperson of
The Episcopal Churchwomen's Group,
The Presbyterian Churchwomen,
an officer in
Church Women's United, and
President of her PEO Chapter.
Mom has been a member of P.E.O. for 39 years. (P.E.O. is an elite, philanthropic
sisterhood whose acronym is secret, but outsiders believe it stands for "Phoning Every One").
Mom was also a member of the
and a volunteer with local Hospice, where she became known as an "Angel"
because there were times --- quite a few of
them, in fact --- when Mom would be asked to sit with comatose patients
while the spouse or family had a few hours
off. Sometimes the dying person had been in said coma for weeks, in one case
Mom would sing, hold their hand, tell them everything was alright and in more
than a couple of cases, the person would wake up! And talk! One man "woke up"
and looked startled asking "Where am I?" as Mom sang "Amazing Grace." Seems his
mother used to sing that song to him as
a child and he must have thought he had died and gone to Heaven to see his Momma!
Families were always so grateful for the miracle of having their dying loved one
"back" and talking to them one last time.
At Church, Mom was "Deacon Supreme." Her talent for cooking, decorating,
letter-writing and just knowing how to "do the right thing" made her popular
among the other deacons who were enthusiastic but sometimes lacked for ideas or
good direction. Those who know Mom know how good she is at writing an
encouraging word, card, thank-you, whatever.
One might think that Mom was so busy with volunteer work that she didn't have
time for family, but that wasn't the case. In fact, I don't know how Mom had
time for all her volunteer work because she was so involved in all of MY stuff.
When I joined the Girl Scouts, Mom was a Scout Leader. When I was in Job's
Daughters, Mom was an adult leader, the Director of Epochs. When I was in the
Carson City ski program, Mom and Dad were chaperones and we all skied together.
Mom attended every play, speech tournament, pageant, NJROTC drill team
performance, choir, color guard -- you name it. If I was in something, she was
there. She usually attended most of the rehearsals, too. (Dad was no slouch in
attending my performances, but Mom is the one who even came to rehearsals).
I remember Mom sat poolside one Summer when I took a SCUBA diving class. I still
feel kind of bad about that. I surfaced from my swimming pool dive, ripped off
my face mask and yelled "shark!", which got Mom on her feet with a panicked
look. Everyone had a good belly laugh at that, even Mom after she determined
that there was no shark in the community swimming pool.
Dad left Litton and went on to become the Chief Engineer at the new hotel and
casino, The Ormsby House, built by the state's ex-governor Paul Laxalt and his
brother. When the Pozzi Mansion sold, Mom and Dad built a new home in a small
subdivision on the outskirts of town where they proceeded to make changes,
additions and landscaping that
put the rest of the neighborhood to shame.
Mom and Dad still lived in Carson City when I started college in Reno (30 miles
away). I needed a part-time job to help make things work. I saw that a dozen
selling in the grocery store for less per dozen than from the florists, and "singing telegrams" were all the rage. I ran the
idea past Mom and together we came up
with "Love Lyrics," a singing telegram service with me dressed up like Peter Pan, delivering roses
from my quiver and singing songs with custom lyrics.
Mom and I wrote a clever classified ad, placed it in the local paper and --- BOOM! --- I was in business. We
created my outfit and started writing silly / funny / cute lyrics to popular
songs. I delivered flowers with the songs Mom and I wrote, saving more than a few love relationships. Seriously.
One lawyer called and said "you have to help me convince my wife not to leave
me." I suggested, and delivered, roses, champagne, chocolates and songs that Mom and I
wrote together. Relationship saved. It was fun. I make a tidy income. It was
"me," but, like so many other things in my life, it was really "Mom and Me" that
made it work.
If you ask Mom what she was doing during these years, she'll brag about Dad
moving from Litton Engineering to becoming the Chief Engineer at the then-new
Ormsby House Hotel and Casino and me growing up with good grades, bicycling
around the country after pre-med and before med school yada yada.
Mom was doing an incredible amount of important work --- all volunteer -- during
those years. She was also taking care of an extremely busy husband and
incredibly active daughter (grade 4 through high school) and we always had hot
meals on the table, a perfectly maintained house and garden and a wife/mother
who was completely "there" for us. In spite of her humongous commitment to
volunteer work, our family was never slighted. Never. Mom was truly one of the
original "Super Moms."
After more than a decade in Carson City (I was long-gone --- in college and
married), Dad retired at age 64 and Mom and Dad moved to Tucson, AZ., where they
proceeded to take one of those "plain jane" houses and turn it into something
beautiful. They lived in Tucson in "retirement" (yeah, right) for several years until Mom got homesick for Grass
Valley. (Uncle Dick --- mom's "baby brother" --- and nephews and old friends
were/are still in G.V.). So back they moved to Grass Valley in 1985, buying
a house on Oak Drive with 3
wooded hillside acres, and preceeding to turn it into a showplace. They lived in
the Oak Drive home
for 12 years.
By age 75 (dad was 79), 3 acres of yard and garden plus a large house became
more work than fun. Dad was also wanting to get away to someplace warmer than
Grass Valley in deference to the "old bones." This time they down-scaled to a
still-large but more manageable senior
community in Yuma Arizona. Mom and Dad bought the land and built their new home
in Desert Lakes, where they still live happily today.
Mom's Many Talents
Mom's hobbies have included gardening, cooking, singing, acting, decorating and
helping dad with numerous remodeling projects over the years. Together they have
purchased, remodeled and lived in homes in Grass Valley, Tucson, AZ and Carson
City, NV. Their idea of a "remodel" isn't putting in new carpet and painting the
walls. It's usually more about moving walls, raising ceilings, installing
skylights and adding rooms. The two of them together --- mom the idea gal, dad the "how
to" guy and both working together side-by-side --- have turned several plain old houses into
Although Mom's voice cracks occasionally when she changes ranges now, in younger
years she had an incredibly good alto voice and could also give any soprano a
run for her money. She was a valued part of several church choirs and also sang
in a Women's Octet. Mom and I both
love to sing and we spent many an hour
harmonizing together at the player piano
and sometimes singing duets at church.
Now about her cooking. If you've ever been on the receiving end of Mom's
cooking, well, you understand why I've had to struggle with my weight most of my
life! Even when she "throws together" something simple, it's usually a "no
leftovers" kind of dish. Although her enthusiasm for cooking has waned in recent
years --- "doesn't thrill me like it used to" -- she can still whip up a darned
tasty meal. (Gotta' mention that Dad is no slouch in the kitchen, either, so he
appreciates good cooking).
My Mom is amazing. She has endured much (I left out 85% of her travails or she'd
spank me, even though I'm 50). She doesn't dwell on the travails, she focuses on
the good memories, like memories of
--- (I think
about her every day) --- finding her knight in shining armor "some Enchanted
Evening" in Dad, and raising a daughter who, dare I say it, turned out OK.
Mom's brother Lynn Roath Sr. and sister-in-law Joyce live in Grass
Valley. Mom's two nephews, Lynn Roath Jr. "Skooter" and Roger Roath also reside
in the area with their wives, children and grandchildren.
Dad is alive and kickin'
and also celebrates a birthday this May, his
91st. And Mom's got me,
Dana, and hubby Mark Ziemann.
Mom Today --- and Why I Give Thanks
Mom turns 87 this month (May 11, 2009). She still volunteers as the "Good
Committee of One" for Desert Lakes community where she sent out 150 birthday, get well,
and sympathy cards last year alone.
Mom is still an avid reader and she works the daily crossword puzzle usually
in under 10 minutes and typically in pen.
She enjoys time with friends and family, plays a wicked game of "Hand
and Foot," can shop 'till she makes me cry "Uncle!" and still believes that her
biggest accomplishment in life is Me and Dad. I'm not sure she knows how special
she is in her own right, but Dad and I know we are where we are because of Mom's
incredible love and support.
I'm sure by now you know why I feel so incredibly blessed. I am blessed because
Floris June Roath Wishmeyer is My Mom. I am blessed because I am writing this as
a tribute to my still-living Mother, not as an obituary. I am blessed because
she's either gonna' clean my clock at Hand-and-Foot (opposing team) or help me
clean someone else's clock (my team) when we visit this month. I am blessed because I will be in
Yuma, same gracious God willing, May 2009 to celebrate Mother's Day and Mom's
birthday --- and Dad's birthday, too -- with both of my incredible parents.
(Thanks, Mom, for finding and scoring us Dad). And thanks for being my
God has been so very good to me: Floris "Flo" June Roath Wishmeyer is My
Madonna, My Mom. ♥