A eulogy for Auntie Vi
After a prayer, stifled cries are the only sounds that interrupt the silence in the chapel at Christ Lutheran Church on Saturday, Aug. 25. When the congregation takes their seats, Wendy Gordon stands up. She slowly makes her way from the front row to the stage. She takes her place behind the lectern and takes a deep breath.
Wendy Gordon has done several eulogies over the past few years for family members. But this time, she’s honoring Aunt Violet Gordon, who died on July 18. Where do you start when someone accomplished so much in her 101 years of life?
Violet Gordon received a bachelor’s degree from Howard University and a master’s degree in social work from Catholic University.
She was a soldier.
In 1942, Violet Gordon was part of the first black Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps in World War II. She held the rank of first lieutenant and was a captain when she was discharged in 1946.
She was a wife.
Violet Gordon married Lester Gordon in 1954. The couple lived in Brooklyn, New York, where Lester died in 1982.
She was a lover of the arts.
Violet Gordon frequently attended ballets, plays, symphonies and operas with her husband. And when she moved to Florida, she became a member of the Northeast Florida Jazz Society.
She was a servant.
For 30 years, Violet Gordon worked as a supervisor and school social worker. When she moved to Palm Coast in 1986, she became an active member of the African American Caribbean Heritage Organization, the Flagler County Public Library, the African American Cultural Society, St. Mark’s Day School, the Reading Women’s Group, and others.
And, she was a believer.
Violet Gordon was one of the founding members of Christ Lutheran Church in Bunnell, built in 2006, where her niece currently stands, trying with every word to help the audience grasp the essence of who her Auntie Vi was.
“I’ve done several eulogies,” Wendy Gordon says afterward, sitting in the company of a few close friends in a dark, now-empty chapel. “None broke me up like this one did. Some you crack a little bit. But at certain points, I didn’t know if I was going to make it through it. That’s never happened to me before. It’s a lot of emotion.”
‘SHE WAS A TITAN’
Vivian Richardson moved to Palm Coast from New York nearly 20 years ago. Her first job was at the Flagler County Library, where Violet Gordon volunteered.
"She was quiet. But she carried a velvet mallet. She could give orders, but you didn’t even know you were given an order. She was just wonderful. ... She was a woman for the century. She was a titan.”
Vivian Richardson, AACHO president
“She was small of stature, but she towered over me,” said Richardson, now the president of AACHO. “She was such a dynamic person.”
In her time with AACHO, Violet Gordon fought in the struggle against domestic violence. She served as president of the board for Safe House, where she was recognized for her support for the abused women and children of Flagler County.
“Vi was always there to help,” Richardson said. “She was quiet. But she carried a velvet mallet. She could give orders, but you didn’t even know you were given an order. She was just wonderful. Very soft spoken, non-assuming, never had her feathers ruffled. She was a woman for the century.
“She was a titan.”
‘THE SWEETEST WOMAN’
Maureen Hauck worked as the activities director at Brookdale, an assisted living facility in Palm Coast, for 10 years. Brookdale was where Violet Gordon spent the last seven years of her life.
The impression she made on Hauck was immediate.
“If she didn’t want to do something, she would dig her heels in and glare at you,” Hauck said with a laugh. “She was stubborn, but she was the sweetest woman you’d ever meet. She was willing to help out everybody.”
‘SHE’S WITH ME MORE NOW’
Violet Gordon — Auntie Vi, to Wendy—was a confidante. She taught Wendy to appreciate opera, the ballet, the symphony. And above all, how to love others.
“Her love was always so tangible,” Wendy recalled. “You could feel her love. That’s what was unique about her. All the things she is, I strive to be. All things I saw her as are things I try to be in my own life.”
A fall at home eventually led Auntie Vi to the decision to move into Brookdale. By then, she had ceased her volunteering activities. In the following years, she began to require more assistance. Wendy Gordon, who lives in Seminole County, over an hour away from Palm Coast, served Auntie Vi by helping pay bills, buying whatever was needed and visiting her at Brookdale.
Since May, Wendy Gordon knew Auntie Vi wasn’t doing well. A respiratory incident that month was the first sign. Then three more such incidents in the following months. In the last week of her life, Auntie Vi was on 24-hour hospice.
“I knew there was going to be a call at some point,” Wendy said. “And then it came, and I was in a daze.”
It’s been over a month since her death. Life without her Auntie Vi is starting to set in.
She still remembers a voice mail that Auntie Vi left for her years ago. The message ended with Auntie Vi saying,“I love you. Always.”
Wendy still feels that love.
“I feel like she’s with me more now than when she was at Brookdale,” Wendy said. “Then, I only had her when I would go there to spend time with her. But now, I feel like she’s with me 24/7.”