Irma Jean Appleman

In Appreciation

For Valentine's Day Mom used to make small paper valentines that folded up into the shape of a heart, each painted red.  It was nice to receive these in the mail; and unfolding the heart revealed a design and message inside.  Mom was very much an artist,.  You could see it in her distinctive signature.  She took after her mother Irma E. Webber, who
wrote and illustrated six books for children.  Mom came up with many creative ideas and projects.  She made spider webs of fine wire to decorate the Christmas Tree.  Also for Christmas, before photo cards came into widespread use, she designed and made the annual Christmas cards, writing a note in each.  One year when we were kids there was a Halloween themed birthday party in the front drive.  For a while Mom worked on a series of very detailed paintings of cactus plants in a brown book.  She did a large painting of ceropegias that hangs in the dining room.  For Dad she produced illustrations for a USCience brochure.  She put together a collection of her photos of outhouses of different sorts and in different settings.  One time she made an Indian-style basket, and she knitted several sweaters.

Mom was very much an adventurer.  At Berkeley she was a member of the hiking club.  When we were growing up we went camping fairly frequently.  Mom would pack the VW van, dad drove, and we went camping in the mountains and the desert, including the Sierras, Arizona and Indian Country, and more recently quite a few times to Anza Borrego in Southern California.  On one trip, there were Pinyon Pines and we gathered the nuts, which were very tasty, but it was also very cold so we huddled in the van.  In Yosemite we enjoyed trips to places such as Tuolumne Meadows and Tenaya Lake.  Closer to home, we hiked in the Santa Monica Mountains quite a bit.

Then there were the overseas trips.  Mom and Dad went to Argentina in 1964 (+).  In 1973 they took us to Dunedin, NZ on sabbatical.  I was around 10, so this was a big adventure and it had a big impact on me.  Would people even speak English over there?  They did.  After looking at several places Mom and Dad settled on a brick house at 7 Trent Avenue by the Leith River.  It was a simple lifestyle.  Dad walked to work.  We had no TV, just radio.  On weekends we went in the blue Morris to area beaches.  On some evenings Dad walked us to the port to see the ships.  The container terminal at Port Chalmers had not yet come onstream so there was a fair bit of traffic from all sorts of ships.  Security had not yet become  a concern so one could walk right alongside the ships.  We returned to the United States on a journey, mapped by Mom, that took us around the world.  This was long before the Internet in the era of guide books and  travel agents.  A later trip took us to Central America where we climbed pyramids at Tikal and went snorkeling in Belize.  At one stop the travel agent had booked us for a hotel that was no longer in business, as we found out when we arrived there with our suitcases after a bit of a trek.  In 1980-81 we went to Canberra, Australia on dad's next sabbatical.  We were fortunate to live in a house at ANU overlooking Lake Burley Griffin.  In the distance across the Lake one could see the new High Court building (not the U.S. Embassy as I first supposed).  One time Mom and I biked all the way to Mt. Stromlo, where there is an observatory.  Later Mom and Dad went on quite a few other overseas trips including to South Africa, Tasmania and Costa Rica.

Mom was also an educator.  When we went on hikes during camping trips, she would always get one of the trail guides and read us the blurbs about landscape features, flora and fauna, and other points of interest.  At home there was a butterfly box, where we put in caterpillars and leaves for them to eat.  Eventually they turned into chrysallises and then hatched into butterflies or moths.  Other times we raised tadpoles that eventually transformed into frogs.  At one point we had a kangaroo rat.  We had an aquarium for quite some time, and a terrarium.  Mom helped put together stamp albums for each of us.  I can remember as far back as the 1972 when she sought out campaign buttons from the presidential election, helping to inspire my interest in campaigns.  Even in junior high school Mom helped me learn vocabulary words for Latin.  Mom also helped educate others as a volunteer with the PTA at Palisades Elementary.

Mom was perhaps most at home in the garden.  Her parents were clearly an influence; her mother, Irma E. Webber, worked as a botanist, and her father worked in plant sciences including at UC Berkeley and earlier in Riverside (+).  Over the course of four decades Mom transformed the garden at our home.  When we first moved in there was lots of English Ivy and lawns in the front and in the back.  Mom put in a number of fruit trees to join the two avocado trees that were already there.  An apricot tree and a white peach tree proved prolific, providing the base for many pies.  For a time there were some blackberry bushes which were good in the pie department.  A couple of tangerine trees also produced a lot of fruit.  A concord grape vine down below still produces a bountiful crop.  Mom also had a row of rose bushes out front.  She turned more and more to cacti and succulents, and over the years the front yard evolved into a xeriscape that is much admired by passersby.  Mom and Dad made frequent visits to nurseries and cactus and succulent sales.  Trips to the desert included stops by the roadside to pick up granite rocks for the yard.  Meanwhile, in the back and on the side yard mom put in bromeliads.  There was always some pruning or potting or planting to do.

Of course there were chores and work.  Mom worked from June 1981 to July 1998 running the stockroom for the Chemistry Department at U.S.C.  At home she wrote out the checks to pay the bills, and did the laundry and the ironing.  She knitted holes in socks and gave us haircuts.  While Dad most often did the cooking, mom did cook sometimes, making for example an eggplant dish or a pizza from scratch or chili rellenos.  She was more into baking desserts, including cookies, ranging from chocolate chip to peanut butter cookies with the fork pattern on top to holiday cookies done in shapes with icing.  Mom also made pies, Easter bread, monkey bread, and birthday cakes with thick bark frosting. During renovations of the kitchen, bathrooms and bedroom, she tended to details including selecting furnishings and fixtures and finishing ceiling boards and doing the painting.  Mom and Dad used to entertain a fair bit, bringing over people from U.S.C. for dinner and sometimes slide shows.  Later Mom and Dad took up square dancing.  For a number of elections she helped as a poll worker.  She donated to and helped out a number of charities.  Mom did not seem to be into music that much, but she was always up for "Country Gardens" played on the piano by Lex.  She was a fan of the actor Gregory Peck, of Prince Charles and liked to watch ice skating as well.

Meanwhile it took me a decade to get through university, including stops at four or five schools.  Thanks to Mom and Dad's patience and support, however, I was able to get to Washington, DC and finished school at GWU.  Mom and Dad gave me the freedom to concentrate on a subject of interest to me, presidential campaigns, for over two decades, working under my Democracy in Action label.  In turn I put every bit of effort into doing the best possible job. 

The last few years were very difficult for Mom, as Dad suffered from the effects of Alzheimer's.  Mom kept things going at home, not letting us see how hard things were.  As Dad's condition progressed, Mom stayed close, accompanying him when the caregivers took him out, visiting with him and bringing flowers.  We were very fortunate to have a tip-top team of caregivers.  Over the last two years Mom's  condition worsened, but there glimpses of her good nature still showed through from time to time right up to the end.

Thank you, Mom.

May 2011 - An outing to Mt. Wilson.
Working in the garden.
April 2016 - Always pleased to have Lex play "Country Gardens."
July 2013 - With plastic shovels from Eric's brilliant/hare-brained beach shovel art project.
June 5, 2012 - Helping out at the polling place.

Cactus Paintings
Australia Plant Paintings
Valentine's Cards
Christmas Cards