My dear mother, Katherine Eileen (Hovorka) Hauck, was born in June of 1931 to Earl and Katherine in Topeka (pronounced toe-peek-a) — the capital city of Kansas. As a child she was referred to as Eileen by her family members but at school she preferred to be called Katie. She graduated from Topeka High School and excelled academically and swam on the Topeka High swim team. My mom’s older siblings were Don and Jack. Don was a nuclear engineer and resided his adult life in Washington State putting his engineering skills to work. Jack was a fighter pilot in the Air Force and then transitioned into sales working out of the Oklahoma City territory. My mom graduated from Washburn University with a degree in psychology and worked part-time while attending college for the once famous psychiatric institute, the Menninger Foundation.
She met my father while attending classes at Washburn. My mom was the intellectual, my dad was the jock. The two Ichabod alums married after they both graduated in 1953 and quickly started a family. Mom followed Dad around with his jobs in the Air Force (stationed in Japan for 2 years), and hatched kids as they traipsed around western Kansas as Dad pursued teaching and coaching positions. Mom and Dad settled in Medicine Lodge, Kansas, for nearly 20 years. While living in Medicine Lodge and raising her four children, Mom worked part-time jobs at the local 5&10 store and helped out in the middle school cafeteria. She also studied to earn her social work license and was soon able to acquire a higher paying full-time position working for Barber County as the County Welfare Director. She provided services to families in need including administering food stamp programs, Medicaid, and mental health services. She loved her job and “her people”. I was so proud of her “working mother status” and visited her often in her office in the county courthouse just a few blocks from my school. I would walk over just to give her a hug and then ask for a few coins to buy a green river or root beer float at Probst Rexall Drugstore. She was always willing to help someone out (even her thirsty kid) especially those that were really down on their luck or just not able to cope with life challenges.
Later, my family relocated to Holton, Kansas, near Topeka and Mom was back in her elements again. She never really liked living so isolated out in western Kansas. While working on the sixth floor of the State Office Building in Topeka she accepted increasingly more responsible positions over a long tenure administering various state medical programs. As an empty-nester, Mom worked and completed her master’s degree from the University of Kansas in 1982. Mom was a granola girl or a “bohemian” as she liked to refer to herself. The descriptor fit her perfectly as she was a bohemian — a term denoting Czech people which is where her dad was born. But the term more currently refers to an uncoventional person, especially someone involved in the arts. She loved live theatre, musicals, and the creative process. She was a bit of a health nut as well and made her own yogurt from scratch and tried to disguise it as frozen ice cream. She exercised to Jack Lalanne on TV, rode bicycles with my dad exploring cities and towns across the U.S. and made me laugh out loud when we took aerobics classes together when I was 20 and she was on the other side of 50. She loved gardening, home decorating, traveling, cooking, visiting with friends and reading. She would stay up all night reading a book and then take care of all of us and work the next day. It was “worth it” she would say. Mom passed away in 1996 at the age of 64 after a six-year battle with cancer. She was a true native Kansan who lived her life with dignity, humor and purpose. Her legacy is six granddaughters and four grandsons and now three great grandchildren since the recent birth of twins, Levi and Maggie.
Here are some sweet memories of mi Madre:
- Making homemade cinnamon rolls and huge vats of chili for the hungry Hauck kids on Friday game night.
- Telling me about the birds and bees in third grade because she thought it was important I understand what was about to happen to my body. Maybe a tad early but it was cool to have her share with me these intimate details – something we could share as two females living in a male dominated household.
- Encouraging me to join 4-H so I could learn to sew, knit, bake, sing, and garden as well as learn how to speak in public and participate in group projects.
- Making most of my clothes so that I looked nice at school.
- Planning awesome parties especially Halloween Parties and Open Houses for family and friends.
- Buying a new red Maverick for less than $5,000 and letting me ride around in it with her– too bad she couldn’t afford to purchase air conditioning back then.
- Winning a brand new bike for me by guessing in a local business contest the correct number of penny candies in the jar.
- Cutting six hot dogs into two pieces each to feed two unexpected guests. We never went hungry with the supplement of our fresh produce from her garden as well as important connections to Midwestern farmers.
- Watching her refurbish old pieces of scrap furniture and turning them into works of art.
- Seeing her face a stage 4 ovarian cancer diagnosis with courage, resolution and grace.
- Watching her dance with my father.
- Seeing her create a dollhouse for her grandchild out of old cardboard boxes.
- The list could go on and on and on….Here’s to you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day!