Happy Mother’s Day to my mother, Queen June

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June Marie Ritchey

Happy Mother’s Day.

Born in June. Named June.

My mother.

June Marie [Grant] Ritchey.

Raised in Mandan, North Dakota, the daughter of a teacher and a railroad man, mom lived on a farm on the Missouri River bottoms during the Great Depression when she was little, listening to her mother reading Zane Grey novels by log cabin firelight.

Mom hated the “zephyr,” the strong wind blowing hard and loud across the prairie. But she loved her pet chicken, the iridescent floss of the Cottonwood Tree floating in the air and a dog named Nippy.

Later, mother loved a cat named “She” who became “She/He” when she found out “She” was actually a “He.” She also loved Symphony Bars.

Later, my sisters Pat, Jac and Jo and I discovered we loved and knew her differently, each of us a repository of a special secret or unbeknownst fact.

“Never put in writing what you don’t want anyone to read,” she once told me.

And I became a journalist?

Parse that.


My mother was the hero of my young life: a confidante; a teacher, a traveling companion, a partner in crime, a sharer of secrets, a most favorite voice at the end of a phone line.

After her Alzheimer’s descent into death in 2006, I prayed her Rosary, recited her favorite poem “Little Orphant Annie” and bound every letter she ever wrote to me in pink ribbon — her favorite color. I think.

In my dreams, mother is always in the background, but she is always there — just as she was in life. Laughing at someone’s joke, but never having the nerve to tell one.

Acting like an intermediary, rather than the boss. Beige instead of red. But always true blue.

But once, when we were in Scotland, my “Irish Catholic mither” suddenly became “Queen June” and talked about a whispering of Scottish royalty in her family tree.

“Yes,” she said. “There is a whiff of descendancy from the Scottish kings. Something to do with the Clan Grant, I think.”

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of her. There isn’t a week that passes with me missing her terribly.

But if I could talk to her, I’d tell her I adored her . . . and I’d whisper this.

“Mom. You were right. Your daughter, Jo — who has been obsessed with tracing our genealogy for decades — now has traced your mother’s lineage directly to Robert I (The Bruce/Brus) King of Scotland [Stuart] 1274-1329 as a 21st great-grandfather . . . or something like that.

“So we can now officially dub you ‘Queen June.’

“And when I head to the Mandan Union Cemetery on your birthday, June 8, to honor your memory, I will tell you just that.

“As for Dad, who is buried near you, well, he always told us never to climb our family tree because we’d find ‘only pirates and brigands . . . and at least one murderer.’ ”

Well. Mom.

You wouldn’t believe what Jo found hanging from dad’s family tree!

But, then again, that’s another story better told on his birthday next April 6.

Stay tuned.

Sneedlings . . .

Saturday’s birthdays: Stevie Wonder, 67; Dennis Rodman, 56, and sisters Sue and Linda Pierscionek, 60. . . . Sunday’s birthdays: George Lucas, 73; Clay Matthews, 31, and Mark Zuckerberg, 33.

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