Grace Mary Fuqua (1932-2011): A Eulogy

The following is the euology delivered by my wife Kay at her Mom’s memorial service August 27, 2011

My Mom

a Eulogy by

Kay Fuqua Sawyer

We are here to celebrate! My Mom and is having a grand homecoming celebration in heaven…and if it were up to me, I would say that heaven is the richer for her being there. And probably all the angels are now wearing corsages! She was a wonderful Mom in every phase of my life.

Mom chose to serve her Lord first and foremost with her life. Because of that Mom’s life was a grand adventure! Such a grand adventure it has been. When I was a child life in the Amazon jungle was just everyday normal: going barefoot despite poisonous snakes & large insects, swimming with the piranhas, riding bikes all over, climbing banyan trees and mango trees. As I have been an adult in the US raising my own family, my parents’ chosen life has become amazing to me.

Mom was born February 27, 1930 and grew up in Southern California with her mom, dad and older sister. She never did like earthquakes much and I used to tease her when we would have our frequent rockers in the jungle. You see, her dad worked for Pacific Telephone company and when she was only 3 there was a 6.4 earthquake in Long Beach that caused extensive damage and 120 deaths. Her dad had to be away from the family for three days in the aftermath of the quake, getting the phone lines back up and working. A pretty scary experience for a 3 yr old!

Her parents frequently had  missionaries into their home, and Mom knew that was what she wanted to do with her life. To go to a foreign country where they had never heard about Jesus and share the good news of God’s love with them. She attended Biola to get the preliminary training in Bible that she would need. Mom’s family’s home church was Calvary Church of Santa Ana, CA where she has been a member since she was 7 years old. The church had an outreach ministry to the servicemen of El Toro Marine Base. They would invite the servicemen on leave to spent the night on Saturday at the church and have a free breakfast, if they would attend  services in the morning. Well a handsome man named Herb was one of those young Marines. At church Herb met a young lady named Flora Margaret who invited him home for lunch after church. Flora Margaret had a sister named Grace. It soon became evident, after more lunches after church, that Herb was more interested in Grace than Flora Margaret.

Grace & Herb (Mom & Dad) were married in 1950 and joined Wycliffe Bible Translators. Going to Jungle Camp training in Mexico was Mom’s first trip outside of the US, but it certainly would not be the last. 1953 saw them arriving in Yarinacocha, a tiny settlement of a few buildings on the bank of a lake in the middle of the Amazon jungle. The courage, faith and trust in the almighty God that it took for Grace to venture into the middle of the nowhere when she was 7 months pregnant with her first child, is mind-boggling to me! The birth of that first child was another one of those scary moments in Mom’s life. It looked like the baby would be born placentia previa, so Dr. Altig had several volunteers lined up in the hall way to give blood if necessary…one small problem, however,  there was no way to type the blood and match it to Mom’s.  The delivery went better than expected…and here I am!

Then 2 years later David joined our family.

When I was 3 years old, the 5 missionaries were killed by the Aucas in Ecuador. At the time my dad was visiting Mr. Reifsnyder  another missionary that lived several hours travel away. The plan was for him to be gone just a few days. Well the time stretched to a week then a week and a half, and no word from Dad. Then two weeks..we were not able to raise them on the radio. It was a nervous time for everyone because of what had just happened in Ecuador, but there was no way to get in touch with Dad. Finally a small plane was sent out to see if everyone was OK. Sure enough all was well. Mr. Reifsnyder had become  ill so Dad had stayed to help until he got better. But the radio was not working so they could not contact anyone.  Thinking back, Mom must have been worried to death, but turning to God for strength and help in fearful times became second nature for me because Mom always led us there.

Mom’s first assignment in Peru was Kindergarten teacher to students like Jeanie Goodall, Elainadell Townsend and David Nichol. Then for several years she was the Clinic Administrator, keeping everything running smoothly. About that time Verna joined our family.

Becoming the Radio Tower operator was a new challenge for Mom, which she relished, and did wonderfully. Her voice carried well on the radio and she loved serving the translators in the tribes and the pilots in any way that she could. One of the most exciting things she ever did was to be on the radio when contact was made with the Mayoruna people group for the very first time!

When I was in high school she was the publications coordinator for the school books, scriptures, and dictionaries that where being written in the various languages. The first books ever in these languages that had never been written down before! Whatever her assignment was she was always a integral part of the team to get the Word of God to the people. That was her attitude, whatever God gave her to do, she did it with all her might. No job was insignificant. Remembering people’s birthdays, playing the piano for church services and other meetings in the auditorium, playing her accordion for evangelistic outreaches in the Tushmo and other places, singing, making coursages and flower arrangements were all contributions to the work in Mom’s mind.  She was wonderful at keeping in touch with the people back in the US, and memories of her clicking away on the typewriter much faster than was humanly possible will always pop up when I think of Mom. Not to mention the beloved “Peruite” letters that kept many of us connected after we left Peru.


Other snapshots of Mom in my mind are her sitting in the rocking chair her reading her Bible & praying (she was a real prayer warrior—praying for us kids and our families, and people she knew all over the world), encouraging my culinary experiments (pie dough, catsup and marshmellows?), teaching  me to love music by her example, Sitting for hours with Mom putting together puzzles and talking about life,  always having an open home, having people over for meals whether dignitaries, other missionaries, indians, they were all enjoyed and treated with respect. One time two men were coming to Yarina from the Mayoruna tribe with Harriet Fields. They had never been out of their jungle village before. At that point this people group was very primitive and had had almost no contact with the outside world. We had arranged with Harriet that they would come to our home for dinner. As soon as the small single engine plane landed and they got off, the three of them came directly to our house. The two men were full of wonder as they entered the first house they had ever seen…touching strange things, pointing at a chair wondering what it was, chattering excitedly in their own language. Mom had prepared chicken for dinner thinking it would be similar to birds they would have eaten before, and something they could eat with their hands. We sat down to dinner (after we showed them how to use a chair), and everyone began to eat. The two men were smacking loudly, showing their appreciation and enjoyment of the meal. When one of them finished his piece of chicken he tossed the bone out the window…but the bone bounced back at him. What? He and his friend got up to see why the bone did not go out the window. There was something on the window they had never seen…screen. They rubbed their hands on it in wonder and then laughed heartily.

Mom was always open to us having our friends over, having parties and game nights. In fact Mom & Dad built a recreation room built beside our house with a ping-pong table and snack bar, so that the teenagers would have a place to go and something to do. Mom would bake brownies and cookies for all of us.

Mom made our home a safe, welcoming, growing place.

From the time I was very young we had a  worker in our home named Lucia. Lucia helped us with the household chores. Mom spent an hour or so in the mornings with Lucia teaching her how to read, and studying the scriptures with her. Lucia was still in our home until my parents left Peru.

Another favorite memory of Mom is story time. David, Verna & I would all get ready for bed, then snuggle together on the couch while Mom read us chapter books of wonderful stories. Dad would be at his desk “working” just a few feet away, and we would hear him chuckle at appropriate places in the story. (come to think of it, since our windows were just screen, I wonder if the Powlisons or Jacksons next door were listening too!) My own children also loved to hear stories read by Nani (as they called her). Since she was in Peru and her grandkids were in the US, she recorded several cassette tapes of stories for them. My boys listened to those tapes for years and it  brought them close to their grandmother even though they were far apart.

In 1987 Mom and Dad finished their part of the work in Peru, and moved on to Colombia, where Mom served as the school administrator for the missionary kids for another 8 years. The entire 8 years they lived in Loma Linda Colombia, they had to have a packed suitcase ready to go in case they had to be evacuated because of the terrorist activity. Their colleague Ray Rising was kidnapped on the road that Dad had traveled everyday to go to the farm. Then everyone else was promptly evacuated.

Mom & Dad came to Dallas to be a part of the work here at the International Linguistic Center. Mom worked in admissions at Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics. She loved meeting all the new students and getting to know them as she helped them with all their paperwork. She kept in touch with many of them as they went on to assignments in various countries. Inviting the Wycliffe Associates into their home in Cedar Hill was something Mom did every year when they would arrive in the fall.

After Dad went on to heaven 4 years ago, Mom moved to the Cowan apartments here on this center. Still wanting to contribute, she worked at the welcome desk. During her time at Cowan apartments she began to develop a strong friendship with Wes Thiesen, who with his family had also served in Peru as translators for the Bora tribe. Our families had always been good friends and quite often spent Christmas or thanksgiving together.  We were so happy when Wes and Mom decided to embark on yet another adventure, and get married last September. They had a short time together, but developed a strong bond. We are thankful for this extra bonus from our gracious Father God.

I am so thankful and blessed to be the daughter of Grace Mary Howland Fuqua Thiesen. She is my Mom…always will be. Prov. 20:7 says the godly walk with integrity; blessed are the children after them.

Mom (and Dad) your life of adventure and faith is a heritage so rich and full that words cannot express my gratitude.

Now I have a gift for you from Mom… (video of Mom playing “How can I say thanks for the things you have done for me…to God be the Glory” on the piano.)