The Cactus Patch
Volume 15       May 2012      Number 05

Karen Mary: 1946-2012
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

My sister Karen had been treated for cancer and had been in remission for ten years, so we were all hopeful, but last year the cancer came back and proved untreatable. We went to Sacramento just before last Christmas so that Alice could see her. At that time she was alert and smiling. When Polly and I returned at the beginning of March she was unresponsive and she died on the 16th.

We will miss her as she was always the most “normal” member of our abnormal family. She was born in Stockton on the third of July, 1946. As she had red hair, we always joked she was a firecracker that went off too soon. We grew up in Stockton, but when she was ten we moved to Bakersfield. She is the only one in our family who returned to Stockton, earning a bachelor’s degree in music at the University of the Pacific. She carried music beyond the level of the rest of us, excelling in organ as well as piano.

After college she married Marvin Hanley and they moved to the Sacramento area where she lived the rest of her life. She raised two children, Peter and Debby, and leaves behind two grand children, Aubrey and Heidi (both by Debby). She served as a substitute teacher much of her life.

After Marvin retired they traveled around the western U.S., visiting National Parks. This culminated in a trip to Alaska where they drove all the way up to the Arctic Ocean.

On the 30th of March most of the relatives in Bakersfield drove up to Sacramento in two cars. We stopped at Ceres (birthplace of Alice) and had supper with Alice’s cousin Pat Cousins (who is a couple of years younger than me!) We also visited with the assorted livestock, including Llora the Llama.

On the 31st we joined many other friends and relatives at the American River Community Church in Carmichael. The Handbell Choir played Amazing Grace with a pair of empty gloves where Karen would have stood. Among other tributes, Anne read a letter from her son Daniel who was surprised to learn how sick she had been since she had continued to send homemade items for his neighborhood mission in South Dakota.

Lora read a Christmas poem which Karen had written in 1985. It begins:

If I could find the box it fits,
I’d wrap up peace this night;
And pin a bow of kindness on,
Its Christmas wrappings bright.

We will all miss her annual Christmas pfefferneusse and jam (which she sent to us even in Botswana).

On the 5th of April we heard Maynard speak in Fresno. We expected a repeat of what we had heard in Bakersfield, but were pleasantly surprised to find it was a revised version with double helixes and comparisons of matching DNAs to explain shifting groupings in plants. The question still remains, however, where do you draw dividing (or including) lines?

On the 10th, of course, we were back in Bakersfield and heard Gregg De Chirico’s talk on Peru. It was amazing how different his presentation was since he was on the same trip as our previous speaker, Mark Maradian. Incidentally, I’m glad he gave us the talk he did rather than the Tillandsia one. I like Tillandsias, but the number in the talk he gave was more than enough for me.

Incidentally, I would like to apologize for usurping so much time. I do get carried away sometimes and will try not to do so in the future. I’m especially apologetic for talking when the speaker was being introduced. It is no excuse, but I was in the middle of an anecdote which I was trying to finish. For those who didn’t hear it, here is what I was saying:

I was explaining how I got healers to tell their trade secrets when others failed. It is a matter of humility (if I may say so myself). When the head of the Traditional Mediciners of Central Africa gave a party for me when I left Malawi in 1981, he said, “This man treats everyone alike.” (My immediate thought was that I don’t discriminate between Black and White.) I was really complimented when he went on to say, instead, “He treats the villager like the city man.”

I will also repeat here what I should have left for this letter, but which I threw into the brag table report. The plant Euphorbia clavarioides was reported on by D. Russel Wagner in the national Cactus and Succulent Journal of January-February. The same exact article then appeared in the March issue of Euphorbia World, a journal published in Great Britain. Wagner is a former editor of the American journal and should have at least had the note “reprinted from” added. (I will admit I have had a number of articles reprinted in journals, but always with this caveat.)

I took further umbrage since he was reporting on usage as he interpreted what he had found in the Johannesburg muthi or medicine market. (He spelled it muti, but the T is hard.) He did not show an appreciation for the value of traditional medicine, and so it is not surprising that his inquiries were not well answered. (Although 27 years of research have taught me there is much of value in African medicine, I will agree that there are some bogus cures. An example I gave was a piece of a fossil ammonite which was from the muthi market in Johannesburg. I doubt it will cure much.)

Wagner was eventually told one use which he interpreted as being for “genital warts” based on the look of the plant. I’m not sure this is valid, even though he bases it on the doctrine of signatures, which is indeed widespread, even in African medicine. I reported many other uses in the Euphorbia Journal Vol. 8 (1992).

Alice & Karen, Dec. 2011

Granddaughter Heidi with Marvin

Karen with Lora reading the poem.

Maynard speaking in Fresno

PREVIOUS LETTER               Bruce's Letters               NEXT LETTER