Joan Aunger – 1929-2014 – my mother has gone

by planetmitchLeave a Comment

I hope you'll forgive me this little off topic indulgence as you see, my mother passed away on January 1st and I would like you to know a little bit about her as she will be missed by many.

It is hard to believe it has been a month already… it seems like it happened just yesterday and I'm constantly missing her.

Joan Aunger - 1929-2014 - photo by Mitch Aunger

Joan Aunger – 1929-2014 – photo by Mitch Aunger

Joan Aunger was born in St. Cloud, Florida. Brought up in this small rural town, there were only 27 people in her graduating high school class. She loved to tell how of the 27, only 3 of them were female, so she had plenty of attention from the boys in her class!

Many years ago, I made it a point to talk with her about many of her memories from her childhood and growing up. Here are just a couple:

My mother tells this story about one of her early birthday parties. She says: “My mother and father wanted to teach me some ‘manners' and wanted to do it at one of my birthdays. The idea was to invite some of my friends over and I was to be the ‘hostess' and my mother was going to be the waitress. I was to lead all conversations and do those other hostess things. Near the time for the party to start, I started wondering where my father had gone. Just as the guests started arriving, he showed up at the front door wearing his white linen suit to play the role of the butler. I was very embarrassed! All I could think of was the stories the gals would be telling at school the next day about my father being a butler!”

My mother and grandmother told a story about my mother and her friend (Bobby) walking down to the lake (East Lake Tahopakaliga – North of St. Cloud) during a hurricane. They walked all the way out to the end of the pier. On the way out, they hopped over the boards that were missing. When it came time to get off the pier, the waves were so high, they couldn't see the missing boards. Mom said she had never been so afraid. Grandma chimed in that every time a storm blew in, there was Bobby waiting at the door with his raincoat on looking for mom.

Another story about the ‘lake':
“Our family home was three blocks from Main Street, actually two boulevards that were about a block and a half long and ended at a nice lake that provided acceptable fishing if an angler was willing to go out far enough out on it in a small boat. The lake had an Indian name and people came from all over central Florida swim and fish in it. “Most of us from the area call it “Lake To Ho” but others preferred “Lake Hope-To-Hell-You-Like-It””

Mom when she was little

Mom when she was little

From one of her story sessions with me:

“I have many memories of the farm that my grandparents (Mama & Papa) owned in Mayo, Florida, and where my Mother, her brother and sisters grew up – It was 2 miles from town and in those days it seemed like it was way out of town!!!!

It would take us all day to drive from St. Cloud up to Mayo cause we couldn't go over 45 miles per hour.

On Saturday, just about everyone went to town. We would park the car perpendicular to the street and wander around town. Mama would buy the things that we needed and the rest of us would “people watch” from the car when we got tired of wandering.

When it got dark, a big white cloth would be strung between two poles in a vacant lot and a picture show would be played, usually a Western movie. We would sit on the ground on blankets or, if lucky, Papa would park the car close to where the movie would be shown.”

Mom's school picture from 1947

Mom's school picture from 1947

As a young woman, mom avidly played piano. She went to Florida State University, graduating in Education, and then taught high school in Calahan, northern Florida until she married Robert Aunger, an accountant from North Dakota. Together, we lived in a number of states, including California, Florida, and Georgia.


My mom and dad on a hillside near San Francisco, CA – somewhere around 1963-4

I could go on and on about her… but as many of her friends and relatives have relayed to me in the past month, she had a wonderful impact on so many many people and she will be fondly remembered as well as missed.

I think that's about all we can ask for isn't it?

Donations – the Ituri project

Those wishing to make donations in her memory are directed toward the Ituri Forest People’s Fund, which provides medical services and education to Central African rainforest hunter-gatherers whose living conditions have been decimated by warfare. This is the group with whom her son Robert, an anthropologist, works. You can read about the situation of this population at, and make donations directly to (please mention ‘Ituri Forest People’s Fund’).’

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