Edith Fay Herndon

PictureEdith Fay Herndon was born on July 18, 1925. Her parents, Orville and Agnes McCauley, owned a five hundred acre farm in Nixa, Missouri, and Edith and her siblings, Alys Evelyn (‘Sis’ or ‘Dolly’), Gerald Dwight (‘Sonny’) and Jimmy Dale (‘Jim’), grew up milking cows and braving the wrath of over-protective roosters to collect the eggs each morning. Every day, she walked to and from school with Faye Keltner (née Sauter), one of her oldest friends. In her few spare moments, she enjoyed playing the piano and frequently accompanied services at Cassidy Methodist Church.


A child of the Great Depression, Edith was fiercely practical and hard working. She devoted her life to caring for others. From her childhood, she wanted to be a nurse. In pursuit of that goal, she attended Drury College in Springfield, Missouri, for two years, before transferring to Washington University in St. Louis. She graduated with her nursing Baccalaureate degrees in 1948.


While at Drury College, she met Kem Edwin Herndon. The two became engaged on August 6, 1946, and were married after Edith’s graduation on September 28, 1948. They honeymooned for five weeks, road tripping across the U.S. from the Grand Canyon to Key West, Florida. For the next two years, they lived in Springfield, where Edith nursed veterans of the Second World War at O’Reilly Veterans Hospital, a tuberculosis facility. One of her TB patients painted a delightful caricature of her in her nursing cap and uniform.


In 1950, the couple moved to Denver, Colorado, and not long after, Edith gave birth to two daughters: Janet LeeAnn (1954) and Beverly Kay (1958). She also worked at Presbyterian Hospital, first moving between wards, then, after much diligent study, obtaining a position in the Coronary Care Unit. In 1967, Kem and Edith joined “Mr. and Mrs. Club,” a monthly potluck gathering begun by their church, Trinity United Methodist. They attended these meetings faithfully for many years, and Edith developed lifelong friendships with Marian Griffin, Edith Martin, Bess Chandler and others.


In the summer of 1972, Edith took her daughters on a whirlwind three-week tour of Europe. She had saved for years for this adventure, and it was her first major international excursion. Travel was an important source of pleasure in her life, and she later took many exciting trips, including tours of Ireland, England, and France and a steamboat ride down the Mississippi river.


In the fall of 1972, she returned to Springfield and took up work at St. John’s Hospital. After both of her daughters had left home, she went back to school and earned her Masters in Nursing Education. This degree enabled her to teach at the Burge School of Nursing in Springfield, where she specialized in patient psychology.


She finally retired in 1991, when she moved to Mountlake Terrace, Washington, to live near LeeAnn and Bev. Two grandchildren, Sarah Elizabeth (1992) and William Ryan (1993) (Bev’s children), quickly arrived to keep her busy babysitting. She also found time to volunteer for a wide variety of organizations. She particularly enjoyed helping students at Mountlake Terrace Elementary learn to read. In addition, she made regular visits to the elderly for Snohomish County Senior Services—in fact, she continued these visits until she herself was 85 years old. She also loved photography, particularly sunrises, and baking cookies and brownies to deliver to friends and shut-ins. Sewing and tailoring clothes for her family, from matching Easter outfits and prom dresses to American Girl doll clothes, was a special skill.


In her free time, Edith continued to be interested in health-related issues, read medical journals and paid close attention to her own and friends’ well-being. She took regular walks around the local track to keep herself fit.  Following current events was also one of her passions. Each morning, she read the newspaper, and on Friday evenings she rarely missed the PBS television news analysis.


In the final decade of her life, she lived with Bev’s family in Brier, Washington. At that time, she moved from Edmonds Presbyterian Church to Brier Community Church, and made many new friends there. During the final years of her life, she attended Refuge Church with family. She also became involved with a Precept Ministry Bible Study at Alderwood Community Church, and she spent hours each week faithfully completing the homework. She also loved to help around the house by baking treats and doing the ironing.


One of Edith’s great joys was entertaining and going out to eat with friends and family. She loved to visit with friends over lunch and particularly liked to take her family out to breakfast on Saturday mornings. This became a weekly family tradition over the years.


Over the final year of her life, Edith experienced several bouts of illness and a frustrating loss of strength. She died on March 7, 2015, after a brief period of illness. Her last days were characterized by peace and trust in God. She said, with great confidence, “I am going to be with the Lord.”


She is survived by her daughters and sons-in-law (LeeAnn and Dan Stivers and Beverly and Anthony Carter), her grandchildren and grandson-in-law (Ryan Carter and Sarah and Jeremiah Coogan), brothers Dwight and Jim McCauley, and many beloved nieces and nephews.


We grieve her loss, but we thank God for her life, for her service and love for others, and we rejoice that she is, indeed, with the Lord.


A Note as I Say Goodbye to Mother

Many times my mother had mentioned that she hoped that she would die in her sleep. More specifically that she would die peacefully, but unexpectedly, limiting the amount of care needed to support her: she didn’t want to inconvenience anyone. I am so glad that she did not.

We were inconvenienced many times.   Thus we had the privilege of witnessing how distinctly and repeatedly God interacts with us through those inconvenient times. The following paragraphs are examples of miracle after miracle of perfect, subtle timing that only God can provide.


I had the unusual opportunity to open a restaurant beginning over a year ago. It was very demanding and time consuming. The timing seems odd when placed in relation to Mother’s end of life, but caring for her and working at the restaurant balanced me in such a way that I could support Mother without burning out.


The same week that I started my job, God provided Annie Mize to care for Mother. She was a perfect blend of patience and structure. Over the year and a quarter that she cared for Mother she enabled good communication between Mother, LeeAnn and I, not easy as we were all juggling schedules and agendas, helped Mother organize her affairs, rewrote Mother’s address book so that we have correct addresses of her friends, cleaned her apartment, made sure that she ate, and encouraged Mother in numerous ways. Perfect.


I had scheduled two weeks off in June for surgery and rehab. Mother broke her hip two days into it. Inconvenient, yet perfect. I had the time that I otherwise would not have to sit with her in the hospital and rehab.


Mother recovered well from the surgery and learned to walk comfortably with a walker and did so for many months, a miracle in itself.   However in mid-November she developed a severe pain in her spine, stenosis, leading to an inability to stand even with a walker. She could only use a wheelchair. Tony’s job ended November 28th. He had the time to check on her, take her out to eat, take her for drives, “banter” with her throughout the day. Mother had lived with us, for twelve years, but with this new situation her needs increased. Having an open schedule freed Tony up to focus on her at a time when she needed extra encouragement and more constant support.


Over the last few years, Mother and I developed the habit of daily having breakfast together in which I would make her eggs, toast and coffee. We would continue our breakfast/coffee times even when she was in rehab or assisted living (a failed, month long attempt to enhance her living situation). On her deathbed, even up to the next to the last day, she wanted coffee, or a bit of egg, or a tiny bit of toast. It was a sweet, shared experience.


After a couple weeks of decreasing health and two stays in the hospital, we took Mother home for the final time. She was too sick to return to assisted living and the rehab facility was less than optimal. We had no other choice but to bring her home. It was scary, but we did it. And I am so glad we did. No longer were other people taking care of her, we were. LeeAnn, Tony, Annie and I took care of her, people that knew her and loved her. Two additional friends offered to sit with her too. In combination we were able to give her 24-hour care without using hired help. What a huge gift to her and all of us.


The last two weeks were such a precious time. We would sit with her, chit chat, pray (she would just break into prayer, praising God for every little thing), look at pictures, bathe her, massage her back, feed her, and reminisce. She was able to speak and remain coherent up to the day she passed. Perfect.


During this time, people, many people, were praying. We could feel it. Numerous folks made us meals. We received many cards of encouragement for Mother. Many friends stopped by, some repeatedly, to sit with Mother and say goodbye. Mother would give each a blessing and say goodbye.   She received so many flowers that we were able to keep a large variety of fresh blooms in her window the whole time. It was so beautiful. We were showered with demonstrations of love from every direction.


We do not know of what Mother died. She had no distinct illness; she was just ready to die. She was comfortable, virtually pain free, at peace, alert and aware of her circumstances. She knew where she would go upon death, heaven, and she knew why, Jesus. She desired to live longer, to see spring, to see great grandkids, but she was also ready. She was at peace. Perfect.


There was time to say goodbye. There was time for friends to visit, there was time for each of us to sort out our feelings, share our thoughts, ponder this time in life, and to say what was on our hearts.


It is possible to go on and on with “coincidences.”


I wanted to share this with all of you. I know that I have been encouraged and humbled to experience in detail how God, the creator of the universe, willingly, lovingly interacts with us. This encourages me in the short term as I sort through her things and grieve and in the long term as I plan the years ahead.



For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. Jeremiah 9:11


For the LORD is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation. Psalm 100:5





Bev Carter

3 Responses to “Edith Fay Herndon”

  • Alice McLean Barnes says:

    What a wonderful testimony of God’s love and faithfulness. You are so blessed to have had such a mother. For generations to come the blessings will continue. My prayers are with you for your loss as you miss your loving mom.

  • Kathleen says:

    Dear Bev,
    I do not know you or your family. I “happened” upon your mother’s obituary online in the Springfield News-leader when I was looking for something else. I think the growing up on a farm caught my attention, so I clicked on it and it said you could read more about her life here. I read it a couple weeks ago and was most touched. I just wanted to share that. I think it means a lot to know that our loved ones’ stories touched another’s. I was especially moved by your note at the end. It reminded me of a precious week I spent with my grandmother before she died a couple years ago. Nothing gave me more joy than to serve her in every way. It was a blessing I would never give back. I also sent it to my dad to read, and he too found it very moving. The obituary/story was beautiful, as was your mother’s life. Thank you for sharing it with me.
    Ozark, MO

  • melissa says:

    beautifully said about a beautiful life. …….perfect. Love melissa and Randy

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