Friday, September 17, 2010

Helen Maxine Diltz (Maxwell) March 27, 1917 - September 2, 2010

Patsy and Alice - 1972
My grandmother, Helen Maxine Diltz - known as Pat or Patsy to family and friends, passed away two weeks ago at age 93. She grew up in Anadarko, Oklahoma, where her father (a Maxwell of the Maxwell House Maxwells) was the railroad station agent - and always considered herself an Oklahoman. I never had a chance to meet my great grandparents, but I am sure I would have liked my great-grandmother, Loula. She owned a gas station, loved to fish and had excellent taste, from what I understand. My grandmother must have inherited that from her - she was always impeccably dressed.
Patsy - Alliance, Nebraska
She met my grandfather, Donald C. Diltz (known to me as Grandy) when he spotted her through a window and bought a ticket to the dance she was attending just so he could meet her. He was 26 and she was 17. It was a little bit scandalous at the time, but it worked out well enough - they were married the following year and stayed married for 66 years, until his death in 2001. He was also 93. They lived through the great depression together, and even ran a bakery at one point with at least one of Grandy's brothers (what I'd give for a photograph of that.)
Patsy and Grandy -
In the thirties, they went on the road with the U.S. Geological Survey. My grandfather was a civil engineer with a degree in Geology from the University of Oklahoma, and spent his early career mapping the Western United States - taking the measurements by day, and doing all the calculations by slide rule in the evening. He was incredibly smart, funny and decent. Everyone who ever met him liked and admired him.
Patsy with Judy - 1941
My mother was born in 1941, and they more or less settled down in Colorado - living in Golden, Manitou and eventually Denver. Patsy had a degree from the University of Oklahoma and started teaching in Golden, then later in Denver, eventually spending 25 years in the Jefferson County Public Schools. She taught every grade and earned a Masters in Education from the University of Denver in 1965 and became an administrator and principal.
My parents met while my mother was in college at the Colorado College for Women (now part of the University of Denver) and my father was at the Air Force Academy. They married in 1962, and I was born in 1970, around the same time my father graduated from law school.
Wedding - June 6, 1962
My parents moved to San Diego in 1971 when my father took a job at the U.S. Attorney's Office here, and my  grandparents retired and moved out to be nearby. They lived in North County before it was fancy - building a house in Del Mar and later in La Costa. Having no siblings I was a much doted upon child, and I spent a lot of time at their house - all very fondly remembered. My grandmother told me stories her grandmother told her about the Civil War, cooked creamed corn and bacon for me for dinner and bought me Rose Milk and Irish Spring after I saw the commercials for them on the Lawrence Welk show. My grandfather teased me a lot - which I loved, and took me to the library in Rancho Santa Fe and shopping at Long's Drug Store. (It kills me that we could never get him to smile for a picture. You could never guess what kind of sense of humor he had from these photos.)
Grandy and Alice - 1972
They also took me to the horse races at Del Mar. They went almost daily when they lived across the street, and were pretty good at picking the horses too. I can hardly remember a day my grandfather didn't walk away from the track at least $100 richer. They also loved Vegas and let me tag along on several trips - usually to the Tropicana or the Sahara.
Patsy at Santa Anita 1969
I inherited my love of food and cooking from my grandmother (though to be fair, my dad does like to eat too.)  Being from the South originally she favored foods like fried chicken and mashed potatoes, served with sliced tomatoes and cucumber pickles. I am sure she served other things too, but that's what I remember most. Grandy always cooked breakfast, with lots of sliced Jimmy Dean sausage and Svenhard's sweet rolls.
My grandparents loved to travel - we have some great photos from a trip they took with my parents on the Queen Elizabeth in the early 60's.   They traveled all through my childhood, and brought back fun gifts for me that of course I took for granted at the time.  
It's funny, when people are alive, you think of them the way they are, but when they pass away, you remember them the way they were.   I remember my grandparents as the people they were when they were in their sixties and seventies, not their eighties and nineties.  And I think they would have liked it that way.  


  1. I'm so sorry to hear about your loss, Alice. Your grandmother is the picture of elegance. What a romantic way to meet your grandfather. I hope this and other fond thoughts about her life are giving you much comfort and peace. She must have been so proud of you. Please don't hesitate to call if you ever want to talk/cry about lost grandparents.

  2. My thoughts are with you Alice. What a wonderful tribute to your grandmother.

  3. Thank you for sharing. I lost my grandpa two years ago. It's kind of funny/interesting that I was thinking about him this morning. I still feel like he's around even though he's not. With that said, I still miss him terribly.

    My grandparents had the same age difference. So maybe it wasn't as scandalous as they would have us believe.

    I also think of my grandparents as younger than they are. They act very young, so I think that might be why. Or it could be because I still think I'm 15 years younger than I am ;)

  4. she sounds like a helluva broad. xoxo

  5. My grandparents died more than 30 years ago, yet there isn't a day that goes by without my thinking about them. I'd about kill to have grandparents again.
    I love this tribute.

  6. Sending hugs. Thank you for sharing this story with us. It is beautiful.

  7. It really is a wonderful life story. Thanks for sharing.

  8. bebo1101@sbcglobal.net9/18/10, 8:47 AM

    Alice, it was so special to see and read this about your grandparents. Aunt Pat and Uncle Don were, indeed, special and I am glad we are related. Sorry for the loss but I am glad they had such and interesting and long life and together. Love to you and your family. Betty Bob

  9. Alice--I have great memories of both your grandparents. Thanks for the lovely tribute.

  10. what a wonderful tribute to your grandmother. she seems like the kind of lady we would all aspire to be.

  11. I'm so sorry to hear about your grandmothers passing. She sure had amazing style!

  12. Alice, Norman sent this to me.
    I loved reading your stories. You have a real gift for putting words together and creating a sense of character and emotion. thank you so much. My Gram and I were soul mates and I never stop thinking about her and missing our weekly sunday morning calls.
    take care

  13. Thank you so much for all of your nice comments about my grandmother and about this post - it means a lot to me. Patsy was very social back in the day, but outlived most if not all of her close friends. An obituary wasn't quite right under the circumstances, so this was the best thing I could think to could do in terms of a tribute. Thank you so much for reading it - I am so glad you enjoyed it.

  14. Thanks so much for these wonderful memories of your grandparents and your family history. You are so lucky to have had a relationship with your grandparents. Mine were super stern, spoke a different dialect, etc. They seemed worlds apart from me. Your post was a real celebration!

  15. Such a nice post. So nice that you took an interest in their history. I can just imagine how proud your grandmother would be if she was able to read this post!
    I hope that I leave my nieces, nephews and daughter with memories like that. To me, that would be a life well lived!
    Thanks for reminding me what's important.
    Jody in Toronto

  16. what an amazing gift to have these memories of them as they were. i do the same with mine. i have such vivid, vivid memories of my grandparents when i was young. and now i'm flooded with them and nostalgic. thank you so much for sharing yours with us. i feel like i've somehow been gifted with them for a few minutes.

  17. Alice,
    Thank you for your tender remembrances. It made me remember my grandparents and eating their homegrown blackberries. It's true that you remember things differently after they're gone. I thought that my grandpa saved a few blackberries just for me to pick, and now I wonder if it had something to do with the inevitable thorns.