A Turtle’s Tribute:
Moroney, Lynn An obituary article appeared Saturday in the Dallas Morning News with a headline proclaiming that Lynn Moroney “made her own mark”. It laid out the facts and highlights of her life. Born in Tennessee in 1925. Graduated from Northwestern in 1947 with a degree in speech. Took the stage name Lynn Hoyt and toured the land as a big band singer with the Teddy Phillips Orchestra. Sang live on radio.
Moved to Dallas in 1951. Married James Moroney Jr. in 1954. Had four children. Served with many organizations, including most prominently Holy Trinity Catholic Church, The Junior League and The Dallas Summer Musicals. The quote from Buddy Macatee rightly summed her up: “She was a bright, precious personality…she had a great joy and zest for life”. She was an incredible person. She was our mother. She died this past Thursday, November 4th.
She was known by many names. Helen to those who knew her early, Willie to her college friends. Lynn to those who met her as an adult. Lynn-Lynn to the grandkids. Mom to us. Mr. Macatee often referred to her as “Loving Good”.
What the article kindly omitted was any reference to her later years. While it correctly listed the cause of death as pneumonia, the real culprit – no secret to those who knew her – was Alzheimer’s. Mom had the terrible misfortune to come from a line of long-lived women and then be stricken with early-onset dementia. Like a tide perpetually going out to sea, our mother slowly drifted away, the detritus of her person strewn upon the exposed sands of time. At first, it was perceptible only to those who knew her best, then slowly it revealed itself to all, and then came the final shuttered years of an incapacitated existence. We first noticed symptoms way back in 1988. She had dementia for 22 years, over one-quarter of her life. While a long haul for everyone, it was by far longest for our father (who art in Heaven).
Dad always thought he would go before Mom. Somehow, we all did. But there he was, cast in the unfamiliar role of caregiver. And give care he did, to the best of his abilities. As the laughs grew fewer and the sighs deeper, he stood steadfast by his ailing wife’s side.
To know Lynn and Jim Moroney in those final years was to learn – again, again and again – the meaning of bittersweet. But it wasn’t always that way, and we think that if Mom were given the choice she wouldn’t have traded any of the first three quarters of her life to rid her of the last. No way. She had a wonderful husband and four really, really wonderful children. She had a successful career when most women were secretaries and such.
A long-running family joke is that when Mom met Dad, she was making more money than he was. The really funny part is, it’s probably true. The Saturday article did a great job outlining the various “gigs” in Mom’s singing career.
What it lacked was any reference to her repertoire. What most people don’t know is that Lynn Hoyt was the first person ever to record, as demo recordings, “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman”.
But she never really sang them in public. If you were to ask her friends, most would cite “Moon River” and “Sentimental Journey” as her signature pieces. And indeed they were. But if you asked us children, the answers would be “I Didn’t Know The Gun Was Loaded”, “Momma, Momma, Momma” and (Scooter & Smudge’s favorite) “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?” Those three songs we all learned from vinyl recordings that Mom made in the early 1950’s. The platters and the songs they contained are among our earliest memories of Moroney family life at the Bordeaux house. 4425 Bordeaux was our address for nearly 50 years. Go there now and you’ll find a vacant lot.
The house died this year too, torn down about two months ago. It was a warm, wonderful home, full of great memories for so many people, so many friends. But that home would never have been what it was without the help of someone else who passed away earlier this year. Lena Brown was our family maid and second mother to us four kids. Lena Brown was our friend. Lena was family. She was Mom’s assistant, and in their prime, they made quite the dynamic team. It’s only fitting they left this earth in the same year, almost as if it were ordained. All who knew her would agree that Lynn Moroney was blessed with many fine qualities. Her looks, her personality, her singing – those are aspects everyone noticed.
But she had other, less-appreciated talents. For instance, she excelled in a discipline that is becoming – unfortunately – something of a lost art. It was her handwriting. Mom’s penmanship was simply exquisite, the kind of script that would make John Hancock jealous. And as you might expect from a speech major, she also had fine command of the Queen’s English. Spot on. To her lasting credit, we Moroney kids still gleefully correct me with I and who with whom, whenever opportunity rears its grammatical head. Yet perhaps as telling a strait as any shone through when Mom was part of an audience.
She was the kind of patron that all performers want. It was a pleasure to be with her at any sort of show and watch her enjoy the performance. She appreciated subtleties that slip by most of us. She was an easy laugh, a quick and enthusiastic clapper, and invariably the first to rise for a standing ovation. And while a part of her probably always missed being in the spotlight, it was a testament to her character that she became the best audience member possible, an example to us kids and whoever sat near
So in closing, we pose an eternal question – what do you think Heaven is like? While mulling the possibilities, we conjectured that maybe it’s so crowded up there, God has had to find ways to organize all the souls. Perhaps they are organized by birth year. Why not? If so, Mom’s gonna have some fine entertainers to hang with through eternity: Jack Lemmon, Richard Burton, Paul Newman. And before long, she’ll be joined by Dick van Dyke and B. B. King. And many others, too numerous to list here. (Try wikipedia, 1925 – it was a very good year.) Truth is, we prefer to picture Mom reunited with her one true love, our Dad. Lynn & Jim, together again, strong beyond the ravages of time. And Lena’s there, too. As are Puff the cat and Traveller the dog. God willing, one day (preferably later rather than sooner) we’ll be joining them.
In closing, we would like to thank some people who made the last few years much more bearable: Meleta Robinson, Shelley Lawler, Donna Wilson, Renee Stewart, Melinda Cottrel, Melena Litchford and Margie Davis. They started as caregivers and grew into friends, and we are in their debt. And our heartfelt thanks goes out to Dr. Amit Shah. He is a credit to his profession. He gave us kind, patient and informative attention and advice. Oh that everyone might do their jobs so well. Mom was in the best of hands, and now she is with God. A rosary for Helen Claire Wilhoit “Lynn” Moroney will be held Wednesday night, November 10th at 7pm at Sparkman Hillcrest on Northwest Highway. There will be a funeral mass the following day, Thursday the 11th, at 4pm at Holy Trinity Catholic Church on Oak Lawn Avenue. In lieu of flowers, please send contributions to the (www.alz.org) or The Turtle Creek Chorale