September 15, 1923 - June 15, 2019
Mildred G. Small
September 15, 1923 – June 15, 2019
On Saturday, July 15 at 2:21 p.m. in Gresham, Oregon, Mildred Small breathed her last going home to the God who has loved her the whole of her life and into the loving embrace of those who have gone before her. Even in her last weeks she could sing “I’m a beaver born and a beaver bred and when I die I will be a beaver dead,” As a proud graduate of Oregon State College as it was then called, she would remind her family that she was the first in her family to go to college and graduate. Mildred Gertrude Kingston was born on September 15, 1923 in Seattle, Washington to her beloved parents Anna Dee and James (Jim) Kingston. May, the oldest was the blonde. Mildred was the brunette and George the youngest was the redhead, but all three had their dad’s brown eyes. She and her siblings spent their childhood in Portland, Oregon. From the time when she was a little girl she was determined to attend college, working various jobs to pay for school because her parents didn’t have the money. She and her siblings attended and graduated from Jefferson High School.
With money in hand she began her studies at Oregon State the fall of 1941. According to her, she paid $35.00 for tuition and room and board. Thanks to the help of a great-aunt she found a home at KVK, Katherine Veach Kottage, where she met and made life-long friends. She began her studies to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Bacteriology. In one of her labs she met a handsome blond named Jay Small. He was a year older and a transfer student. When KVK sponsored a dance, Mid decided to ask Jay if he would be her date. He said he would have to check his appointment calendar, but he did say yes. That December, Mid was there at school when OSC found out that their football team was going to go to the Rose Bowl. She joined her classmates as they formed a serpentine dance line that emptied out all the classrooms on campus. The next Sunday she and friends were visiting a friend’s family farm laughing and talking as they entered the home only to be told to be quiet. The family was gathered around the radio listening to reports of an attack on Pearl Harbor. It was December 7. The reality of war shaded the rest of her time at Oregon State. She saw friends go off to war and her fiancé Jay go to the Merchant Marine Academy at Kingspoint, New York before he went to the South Pacific and served aboard a supply ship.
After graduating, Mildred worked at the state board of health as a lab technician. She and Jay married on March 15, 1946 at the chapel at the Merchant Marine Academy. They started married life in San Francisco where she worked for an allergist and he served in the Merchant Marines which would eventually lead him to the Korean War. They moved back to Portland in order to be closer to family. She soon gave birth to twins Mary and Michael and daughter Linda nineteen months later. Five years later she lost a set of twins due to an ectopic pregnancy.
She was told she wouldn’t be able to get pregnant again. A long-time sceptic of Christianity, Mid found herself drawn to the teachings of Jesus. She and her three children were baptized and she and Jay became members of Mt. Tabor Presbyterian Church. Finding it too hard to be away from his family so much Jay left the Merchant Marines and joined the Coast Guard so he could be a hands-on dad. After he finished training he was assigned to Toledo, Ohio where he inspected ships sailing on Lake Erie to ensure that they were seaworthy. Mid and their three children joined him there.
Mid returned to college to take courses on education. Instead, much to her surprise, she found herself pregnant and gave birth to her final surprise Anna Dee. This birth was bittersweet as the family soon officially discovered that Jay was terminally ill with an astrocytoma. The family left Toledo and moved to Seattle where there was a public health hospital where he could receive treatment. In his time left, this loving father of ours worked with Mary on her math, taught Linda how to use a slide rule, taught Michael how to tie a tie, and loved to change Dee Dee’s diapers, and to meet her when he came home from work. Towards the end of his life the family moved back to Portland, Oregon. Jay, her beloved husband and dad to their four kids, died in 1963 three days after his 41st birthday. She was about to turn 40. Thanks to his careful planning, the family he loved so much was well taken care of. Those were tough times, but Mildred, our mother, had a plan. The next summer the family went to California, Texas and Arkansas visiting family and friends traveling in their 1957 Chevy station wagon. She was the lone adult with four teenagers and a four year old. One of those teenagers was Steve Schultz, a family friend, who kept the car running, even when it broke down in the Mojave Desert.
As the older children finished college and moved out of the house Mildred took on the challenge of becoming one of two Christian Educators at Mt. Tabor Presbyterian Church where she worked for six years. She decided she never wanted to work in the church again until another Christian Educator told her about a job at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church. She became a fierce advocate for children, especially those who did not fit in anywhere else. She loved her work as a Christian Educator at St. Andrews and stayed there until her retirement. She became active in the work of the Presbytery of the Cascades and took on other roles of leadership within the church after retiring. She enjoyed retiring because that gave her time to be with her children more and their children around the country. But throughout her life she loved being with family and with children: razor clamming, huckleberry picking, going to the movies, playing cards and even going on rides with them at various theme parks, Disneyland in particular. The last several years have been hard on her as it became increasingly difficult for her to get around. But she kept up her sense of humor until the very end when she passed away peacefully from age related causes. She was the last of her generation in her family. Her sister May, brother
George and her beloved granddaughter Elizabeth all preceded her in death. She is survived by her children: Mary Laws and her husband Jim, Michael Small and his wife Sheila Hunter, Linda Small Christlieb and her husband Pete, Anna Small, grandchildren Amy Laws and her husband Emmett Hedblom, Micah Hunter Small and his fiancé Anna Blaskeg, and her great-granddaughters Evelyn and Caroline Hedblom, plus her nephew Ron Hillbury and his wife Marilyn and their children Tricia White and her husband Guy, Todd Hillbury and her great-great nephew Tavish White and great-great niece Mara White.
Services will be held at Willamette National Cemetery on August 2nd, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. All are welcome. Reception afterwards at Jim and Mary Laws’ home. In lieu of flowers, please donate to your favorite charity.
Written by Anna D. Small