Stirring up memories
Lovely and Loved
November 23, 2005
year’s Thanksgiving story starts in San Francisco,
in an art gallery on Polk Street
between Knob Hill and Pacific
Heights. It’s 1989. A charming, beautifully dressed and
groomed older woman strolls into the gallery and strikes up a
conversation. When she learns that
one of the owners was once a banker, things pick up.
few days, she drops by for a chat and to make a small purchase—a print, a
frame, once even a fine watercolor.
She keeps her distance from Samantha, the German Shepherd, who was also
a part-owner. The woman explains
that she is a “cat person.”
October of that year, disaster strikes San
An earthquake shakes the city and the gallery. In January of the new year the gallery
moves a few blocks down Polk
Street and reopens. It’s now right in the
woman’s neighborhood. She
becomes a daily visitor. By now the
gallery owner’s know her name, Muriel Warren, and they know that Muriel
is not only a customer. She’s
now a friend.
even becomes Samantha’s pal, sharing half of her lunch sandwich every day
and giggling when Sam leans against her as a thank-you.
we know the gallery’s name—Immendorf Gallery owned, with Samantha, by
Bainbridge’s own Pam and Bob Immendorf. Pam loves sharing Muriel’s story.
(“Be sure to tell her about the white gloves and chocolate,” Bob
called out as he passed through the room.”)
adopted each other,” Pam declares.
“That was all there was to it.”
Muriel began to share the story of her life with Pam and Bob. She told about her birthday. The birth certificate said July
5—but she knew it was wrong!
She was born in St. Paul,
Minnesota on July 4. She knew because her mother always told
her that the fireworks were for her.
Muriel lived life on her own terms.
of those terms was not telling the year on that birth certificate. Every time someone asked her age, she
gave a different answer. Pam
guessed that maybe she was in her seventies.
lost her dad when she was only seven and lived alone with her mom until long
after she was grown. Mom did
everything, the cooking, the cleaning, the washing, the ironing—even
after Muriel grew up and starting working at a series of interesting jobs,
including being a fashion model.
love struck. Muriel married Dick Warren, and they
moved to San Francisco. During the war, Muriel did her
part. She told about standing in
the window of Macy’s looking glamorous and selling war bonds. She also joined a mounted civil defense
group and patrolled the city on horseback wearing a snappy uniform.
she didn’t learn to cook. Pam
figured this out when, as the friendship developed, she began to do
Muriel’s grocery shopping. It
wasn’t hard. Pam was amazed
by what Muriel ate, or didn’t eat.
a miracle she was able to live on her diet--Ball Park Franks, canned tuna,
canned green beans, Lay’s sour cream and onion potato chips,” Pam
exclaimed. And chocolate, always
lots of chocolate, usually M&Ms.
Sometimes she had Pam bring her Hamburger Helper, but she made it
without the hamburger. She
hadn’t read the directions on the box.
asked Muriel what she had prepared for Dick during their quarter-century
marriage. “He liked prepared
foods—you know, like Spam and hot dogs!” She went on to explain that usually when
Dick arrived home from his long day as an insurance broker, he’d find his
bride seated outside of their apartment in the proper San Francisco hat and
Muriel. We’re eating out
tonight!” Dick didn’t
seem to mind. He enjoyed his elegant
wife. In those 25 years of
marriage, she once confided to Pam, Dick never saw her, not once, without her
was his “little dress-up doll,” Pam said.
1996, the Immendorfs decided it was time to think about leaving San Francisco. They purchased their current home on Shotwell Street
here in Bainbridge and began to make plans moving plans. “It seemed the natural
thing,” Pam told me.
“We didn’t discuss it much.” They ask Muriel if, when the time to
move rolled around, she would come with them.
did the natural thing. She
agreed. Although she was a little
puzzled about why they’d want to do a silly thing like buy a house when they
could live in a nice apartment.
Meanwhile she continued to live in her own cozy place.
things changed. One Sunday morning,
(Muriel called every morning at 7:30 to let Pam and Bob know she was okay) she
was in pain. She had fallen. Pam and Bob rushed to her third floor
apartment. Bob thought ahead and
brought a game-table chair with wheels so he could get her downstairs.
the hospital there was bad news.
Her pelvis was broken in three places. But that was not what upset Muriel. No.
What had her flaming mad was they insisted on telling Pam her birth
year. 1901! Muriel was 95 years old. The Immendorfs were astonished.
a few days, Muriel was ready to leave the hospital, but not to go home. The doctor told her and her adopted
family she’d need to go to a nursing home.
it. She went home with Pam and Bob,
no waiting around for the move to Bainbridge.
April of 1998 the Immedorfs made that move—with Muriel and also with
Pam’s parents. Muriel moved
right into what is now the front parlor where she could keep an eye on the Shotwell Street
and Mandy, German Shepherd puppies, joined the family and became Muriel’s
special pals. There’s a
no-food-from-the-table rule at the Immendorf home, but Muriel acted like she
didn’t know about it. Whenever
she sat down to eat, a puppy sat down on either side. As the dogs got bigger Pam and Bob put a
“doggie gate” across Muriel’s door so the dogs would not
accidentally topple her.
She’d sit on her side and flip jelly beans across to her two
2002, Muriel began to fail. She did
not leave her room and softly drifted away. Pam stayed by her side. When Muriel did not respond to the dogs
licking her hand, Pam knew that she was gone.
was lovely and loved,” Pam told me, agreeing that this is a great
“We’re grateful we knew her.”
around your table tomorrow and remember to be thankful for your friends.
thankful that Pam and Bob live in Bainbridge!
about a recipe to honor a woman who never learned to cook? Here’s one even Muriel could have
mastered, and that Dick would have loved.
Elegant Potato SPAM Casserole
1 (10-3/4-ounce) can condensed
cream of potato soup
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese,
2 tablespoons sherry
4 cups hot, prepared mashed
Nonstick cooking spray
1 (12-ounce) can SPAM luncheon
meat, cut into small pieces
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Directions: Heat oven to 425°F. Combine soup, 2
tablespoons cheese, and sherry; stir until smooth. Spoon mashed potatoes into
1-1/2-quart casserole coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle SPAM on top of
potatoes. Spread soup mixture over SPAM. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons
cheese and paprika over soup mixture. Bake 20 minutes or until thoroughly
know, this would be a good way to use up the leftover potatoes and turkey this
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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network