This was a different kind of family trip. No water skiing on a blue-to-the bottom lake. No food hanging from a Sugar pine to keep the bears away. No on a lot of things but yes on meaningful, magical and memorable.
At the beginning of June, retired court reporter Jenny Buss traveled to Lexington, Ky., with her brother, Doug, sister, Becky, and their three spouses — Terry, Shelly and John — in order to take their mother home.
“Mother” was Rosemary Schultz, who died in Bakersfield at 83 in 2016 and “home” was Kentucky and the Hillcrest Memorial Park in Lexington.
Rosemary had asked to be cremated, no funeral and her ashes spread where her children wanted. Fair enough, but turned out that all roads led to Kentucky.
The last thing Rosemary wanted — in life or death —was to be high maintenance. She told her children to have a wonderful meal together and she would see them in heaven. Don’t worry about where you spread my ashes.
Rosemary’s obit talked about her beautiful singing voice, her enthusiasm for making any Halloween costume her grandchildren desired, having no reservations about asserting her opinion, like it or not, and telling her grandchildren “I love you, not as much as Jesus does, but almost.”
Her children wanted to know more about her, especially the more that happened before she moved to California in 1960 from Kentucky (she was born in Michigan). “More” included her first husband, Kaye Don Francis, who was killed in the Korean War on June 12, 1953, two years and two months after they had gotten married.
They knew about Rosemary’s life in Porterville where they had been raised. Rosemary had had a challenging 18-year-marriage to their father which had ended in divorce. She was a graphic artist for Jostens, designing class rings and diplomas for many Bakersfield high schools, had done graphic art for the 1984 Olympics and she was a talented writer who had written articles and published stories. They also knew that she was a selfless mom who put her children’s interests above theirs.
Rosemary and Kaye had been high school sweethearts in Farmington, Mich. In 1951, when Kaye’s father, a horse trainer, moved the family to Crown Crest Farm in Lexington, Kaye and Rosemary drove to Indiana where there was no waiting period and were married in the home of a judge, “a beautiful home with a white front porch and a lovely doily on a fancy table.”
She was 17 and he was 18. After getting married, they returned to the farm. Kaye was drafted and killed in the battle of Outpost Harry.
Two years ago, Jenny and her “patient husband” Terry started digging and learned that Kaye had been buried at Hillcrest Memorial Park in Lexington. That was enough for them to pack the car and head toward Kentucky in the summer of 2017.
“We are avid road-trippers and figured on one of our adventures we would stop by Kaye’s grave and pay our respects,” Jenny said.
Jenny was in for two surprises.
“When I got out of the car and approached the grave, the first thing I noticed on Kaye’s military marker was that he and I shared a birthday. Then I saw that mom had her name cut in the headstone along with Kaye’s back in 1953.”
During the trip, Jenny and Terry visited the approximate location of Crown Crest Farm (now, part of the Equine Research Facility for the University of Kentucky)where Rosemary and Kaye had spent many happy days together. They also located Jim Fields, one of the men Kaye had served with in Korea.
Fields told them that Kaye was an honorable man, a good soldier and a person of faith. He had looked forward to returning to Rosemary and the farm after the war.
“Jim gave me a list of items that had been in Kaye’s belongings when he died,” Jenny said.”This included 231 love letters from Rosemary.”
Three weeks ago, Jenny, her sister Becky, brother Doug and the three spouses flew to Kentucky for a different kind of vacation. Becky was carrying her mother’s ashes and after she and John’s flights were rerouted, waylaid and canceled, Becky pulled out the box with Rosemary’s ashes and said quite emphatically, “Listen! This is my mom and she can’t be late!”
The travel gods intervened and on June 6, their mother’s birthday, they buried Rosemary Fay Schultz next to Kaye Don Francis in the beautiful, rolling slopes of Kentucky green.
Rosemary was next to her one great love, near the place where she had spent some of the happiest days of her life.
“We were waltzing that night in Kentucky
“Beneath the beautiful harvest moon
“And I was the boy that was lucky
“But it all ended too soon
“As I sit here alone in the moonlight
“I see your smiling face
“And I long once more for your embrace
“In that beautiful Kentucky waltz.”