My aunt, Lieutenant Colonel (Ret) Geneva Gotsch, died yesterday, She was 84 years old. And she changed my life.
Aunt Neva served in the Air Force for 20+ years. As a nurse, she flew Air Evac missions from Vietnam, transporting wounded soldiers to Hawaii. She was stationed in the Philippines at the time, but also served in Germany and Spain - and when she came back from these long overseas posts, she would take her nephews and niece on trips most Iowa farm kids only dreamed of - like Disneyland.
She was stationed state-side in Philadelphia while working on a college degree, Oklahoma, and St. Louis. My siblings and I got to visit her in each of these places. I owe it her my love of travel.
After retiring from the military, she began working for ARAMCO oil company as a nurse in Abqaiq and Al Hofuf clinics. On a visit home one Christmas, she said to me, "Doug, if you are going to be a damn fool and be a teacher, you may as well be a damn fool making money. ARAMCO hires teachers and they pay." I took her advice and applied for a Saudi teaching job and in 1984 my teaching salary went from $18,000 to $55,000 and I got to see the world as an ARAMCO teacher.
She and I lived in or near each other for five years and was "grandma" to my son who was born while I was in Saudi. I came home in 1989 and she was going to come back in 1990 - but extended her stay so she could provide aid to the soldiers in the Desert Storm conflict - opening her home in Abaiq for much appreciated showers and hot meals. I have never know anyone as generous with her time or money.
In her will, she asked for no obituary, no funeral service, no memorial, no burial service. She wanted to leave life as modestly as she lived it.
As a culture, we celebrate stars in sports and entertainment and business, folks whose photos and words pop up on a regular basis on the news and in tabloids But it is our unsung heroes who truly change the world - or at least change the worlds of individuals. Aunt Neva changed my life as I am sure she changed - and saved - the lives of many around her.
As far as I know, she never garnered headline. But she will long and lovingly remembered.