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The Happy Saint

My mother Barbara Ann Storrs Bennett Ulrich,

passed away peacefully on February 12, 2022 at the age of 85.


And she 

was the closest thing 

to a Happy Saint 

as I have ever seen.


She was pleasant and resourceful, 

always rallying her friends and family for some cause or another, 

and she knew how to say thank you in the best of ways.


She was the kind of person who 

if you, say, went to a restaurant with her,

by the time you left you would know the names and life stories

of the hostess, the server, the chef, the owner, the busboy,

and the people sitting at nearby tables.


And she could be so understanding too,

like, if you made a mistake,

and she knew it was an accident,

then she could be incredibly forgiving.


If you did something wrong on purpose, however,

well, that might not go by without remark

or corrective steps taken.

For she was also vigilant.


I, myself, ran afoul of her a few times,

and I can still taste the soap 

she washed my mouth out with.

And, as I was a bit of a handful as a youth, 

--a foul-mouthed troublemaker, to be plain--

that displayed incredible restraint on her part.


And she wasn’t just nice to talk to and genuinely interested in other people,

she also loved introducing them to each other,

to give them a chance to meet 

incredibly interesting people too.


She had friends from her childhood, 

friends from her neighborhood, 

from her town, 

from her clubs and societies,

and also people she randomly met in line at the bank.




Many is the time she started sentences with

“I have to tell you about this interesting person I just met…”

and that meeting 

typically occurred in the most random of places.


And those chance meetings, 

and little acts of random kindness,

sometimes developed into lifelong connections.


She was on the Town Welcome Wagon committee when we were kids,

and she welcomed a family from Pakistan, the Khans,

who had just moved there.


They had to rent a small apartment while they went house hunting

and as they has no bedding, dishes or utensils yet

my mom called around to make sure she could 

get enough of everything to supply them.

No one else on the Welcome Wagon

had bothered to so much as talk to the Khans,

but since my mother was so great with them,

and my dad liked them too, which was a bit more rare,

they became my second set of godparents.


My first set lived overseas

but, apparently, Mom felt I needed a local one too.


Oh, and the home my new godparents wound up buying 

was a 

nice, little, nine-bedroom mansion

with a garage bigger than my house!


They had a swimming pool, a dog kennel, 

multiple TV rooms, visitors from all over the world,

six kids of various ages,

and a seemingly endless supply of ice cream.

They became our extended family and I could 

invite anyone up there I wished.


Mom made friends so easily, I think, 

because, as dad would say, 

she was completely 




She was exactly who she seemed to be,

friendly, inquisitive, genuinely interested,

and fiercely loyal.


Her friends appreciated her so much, 

they invited the rest of us to their 

clubs, societies, and special events-- 

often because Mom had been the one 

who introduced most of them 

to those

clubs, societies and special events

in the first place.


If she could get a ne’er-do-well 

such as I had been

to canvass voters door to door 

as a teenager, 

then she could get anyone to do anything.


She never missed a chance to remember someone’s birthday,

anniversary or life event, with a card or a care package.

She insisted we never show up at someone’s house without a gift,

and that we send a thank you note afterwards.


Picture her getting a teenager to pick out a housewarming gift

and then handwriting a thank you card on multiple occasions

and you will see that the moniker of The Happy Saint

carries with it both a force of will 

as well as a tranquility of spirit.


She always wanted to make sure everyone got along,

and she loved that everyone wasn’t the same,

as she often used to say to me when I was a kid,

“if everyone was the same then the world would be borrrr-rrring.”


She was the best of us,

she taught me how to be kind, 


and resourceful,

and of the importance of keeping my elbows off the table, 

and I taught her 

how to be silly.


For I wouldn’t consider a conversation complete 

if I couldn’t make her laugh by the end of it.


And laugh she did.



Geoffrey Bennett Ulrich, 

her youngest

Audio recording by author available online:

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