Melba Easterday

Melba Easterday

I attended Melba Easterday’s funeral yesterday. She passed away at 101 years old last week. She was the last of the 2nd generation at Easterday Construction Co., Inc. She was my Great Aunt and the “Great” was not just a casual title. She was my favorite Great Aunt and very deserving of the title. For those of you that follow me here, I’ve written about her before.

As long as I can remember, she lived next door to Easterday Construction and for a time when I was growing up, she was our next door neighbor on the other side. Her home was built for her and Edward Lee by Easterday Construction too. She only left that home in the last couple of years when she had to move into the nursing home. I would occasionally take my lunch next door and eat while she shared stories about the past. Things such as, during World War II, Easterday Construction was responsible for a portion of the buildings needed at the Kingsbury Ordinance Plant. Melba worked with her sister-in-law, Sue, preparing payroll for the 100’s of men working for Easterday Construction on that project. My great grandfather oversaw the project. Melba and Sue’s husbands were serving oversees at the time.

As so often happens at funerals, I learned even more about Aunt Melba. One of those interesting tidbits was her first job (at 9 years old!) serving as a nanny for the Newman family on their farm. There was also a humorous story about when she prepared a flower arrangement and unwittingly included Marijuana in the arrangement. There were also many stories about the lives she touched in the community and through her Church.

To share one of my favorite personal memories that really sums Melba up – She would make homemade candy every Christmas and she would also bring an assorted plate back to us here at Easterday Construction. There was white peppermint bark, green mint chocolate bark, chocolate covered toffee, chocolate fudge, peanut butter fudge and maraschino cherry fudge.

There’s an additional story about the maraschino cherry fudge… All of her candy was rich, but the maraschino cherry fudge was always so rich that it made your teeth hurt! It was a family recipe that was made by my great grandmother, my grandmother and then by Melba (and probably other Easterday family members). Despite that, I don’t think I ever heard anyone in the family make it and claim it was good. There was always a sigh and a comment along the lines of, “I just didn’t get it right this year.” or “It’s just not as good as it used to be.” In Melba’s case, it was always good and when she found out it was Dad’s favorite, she always made a small amount that was set aside “for Larry”.

Anyway, a few years ago, she was just not able to do the candy anymore. She sent us a card with an apology(!), written in her meticulous script, telling us how sorry she was that she couldn’t bring us candy anymore. That was Melba… apologizing for not going above and beyond for us when she no longer could.

Melba lived a long and interesting life. There were no doubt trying times, but she met them with a smile and a laugh that left a lasting impression. In her own words at the end, she was ready to go. That’s probably the best any of us can hope for…

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