Our father, Don Mercer, and his two brothers –Bud (father to Rob and Will) and Rick–had the joy of having 5 exuberant, fun, intelligent aunts — the “Sharp Sisters”. Our grandmother, Carma, was one of 6 sisters – Nelda, Vera, Opal, Carma, Vergie and Dawn. Our father peppered his stories with “Aunt Vergie” or “Aunt Opal”, so on and so forth. Our family home was decorated with paintings by Nelda and Opal. Our parents have one very, uh, abstract, written ‘word’, art piece by Opal that she gave to our father telling him “when you meet the right person, they’ll know what it says”. We have yet to meet the right person. Most were great cooks, well good cooks–a few were great (Vera, Vergie and Dawn), and family recipes have been passed down and shared. We have a book of poetry from Aunt Vergie (one just published on 1 June 2016, Aunt Vergie in her ’90s). They also partook in being morbid comics (the best kind), sending chain letters to each other that included epitaphs for each other–and all their new husbands. Christopher Hitchens clearly never met any of the Sharp sisters.
We have them to thank for helping to inherit my father and his brothers with the idea that women are not only smart and hard workers, but are funny, lively and adventurous. We might’ve grumbled at being young girls helping our father move and install equipment or working long days in the vineyards, but we look back, fondly, realizing there were no limitations to what we might accomplish (or help with) in his eyes, and I’m sure these strong women had much to do with it.
One of the sisters, Aunt Dawn, the youngest, and closest in age to our father, was the one that may have inspired him the most in this sense. They were great friends, and later, business partners (for a short-lived venture, read on).
Aunt Dawn would visit frequently. She lived in Tacoma. Was friends with important people. She lived in a gilded “high-rise” in Tacoma (mirrors, gold furnishings–I’m sure in my mind’s eye it’s far more extravagant than it was in reality, but I picture it like a mini, modern, Versailles on the 12th floor of a condo building overlooking Tacoma). She dressed with style. She traveled. Her second husband was a diamond dealer (kinda)!
She was fantastic.
Aunt Dawn passed away in mid-June. She was known as the “Grande Dame of Tacoma“–for championing a city many had turned their backs on. She helped revitalize downtown Tacoma. That business venture with our father? They started an espresso shop in Tacoma the ’50’s–serving everything from pulled shots to Turkish style coffee. More than a a few years ahead of the curve, I’ve (Rachel) been gifted with the bone-white Lenox china used in the shop (including tiny tea-cups meant for espresso drinking) and our mother still uses one of the copper Turkish coffee pots for a maple syrup dispenser. One to continue to think big, Aunt Dawn spent her entire life improving the city around her and the people she met.
Though some consider it passe to close with a poem, we will do just that, pulling from Aunt Vergie’s recent publication, because nothing could be more appropriate
Oh, the joy of having sisters
Loving, sharing all we can,
Helping, trusting, corresponding
Keeping in touch with each one.
Wishing, hoping, praying, caring
Sending blessings on their way,
Remembering all our special meetings
Fondly, sweetly, everyday.
Rest in peace, Aunt Dawn. We already miss you.
–Rachel Mercer and Liz Elliot (also sisters)
Consumer Support Manager and Prosser Tasting Room Manager, respectively