Note from Dorothy Wilhelm: I met Margaret Bofenkamp-Hampson in August of 1981 when our husbands died within three days of each other. Father Matt, at St John Bosco in Lakewood thought these two young widows with small children could be comfort and help for each other and he introduced us. For three years, Margaret and I were closer than any sisters. Then she found the joy of love again, and I found my career. Life moved us in different directions. On November 14 I was overjoyed to be reunited with her beautiful family at her celebration of life. Margaret’s daughter Jan gave a beautiful and moving eulogy that captured this wonderfully gifted wife, mother, teacher so perfectly that her old friends will find her again for a few moments. When Jan rang the school bell at the end of her presentation, we cried. Good tears.
“Do It Like You Mean It” and Other Lessons My Mother Taught Me
Eulogy for Margaret Bofenkamp-Hampson on November 14, 2022 given by daughter, Jan
I have spent some time wondering how to encapsulate everything about my mother into a speech. However, it’s not possible. So, I decided to find one aspect of her life that could be explored. In the two months leading up to her passing, I spent a lot of time in my childhood bedroom in Lakewood. One evening I came across this book, All I Really Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten. It was written in 1986 by Robert Fulghum. It was quite popular at the time and contained good advice, however, I believe the true authority on the matter was my mother. My mom taught mostly kindergarten for over 45 years to more than 1,500 students. She taught in California and then in the Clover Park School District primarily at Parkgate and Tillicum until retiring in 2001 at the age of 68.
As the daughter of a kindergarten teacher, I re-lived kindergarten at home year, after year, after year in what was like an odd version of the Groundhog Day movie. As a result, I hope I am qualified enough to dispense some of her valued lessons. She often taught her lessons by repeating certain sayings throughout my upbringing. I will share some of these sayings and include some her life stories along the way. So, without further ado, class is now in session.
Lesson # 1 was about the importance of doing things with intention and purpose: She would always say, “Do it like you mean it!” – and it had to be said with vigor, “Do It Like You Mean it!” Anything worth doing is worth doing right. My mother lead by example.
In 1956 in California my mother pioneered remote early childhood education by teaching kindergarten on live TV! This was ground-breaking at the time and occurred 13 years before Sesame Street was widely credited for the idea. It was wildly successful, but, as the story goes, apparently the teachers union shut it down because they were scared that remote learning might take off and that was not the direction they wanted to see. So, it was cancelled.
Lesson # 2 was about time management: There were several sayings Mom used to teach this important lesson. These included: “Don’t dilly dally,” “You are pokey!” “Get moving,” “Stop lolly-gagging” and “You are going to be late for your own funeral.”
If anyone was good at time management, it was my mother. She worked full time, raised two kids, did all the cooking, house cleaning, yard work, tended to our cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, put on large holiday celebrations, and regularly hosted family and friends for extended stays at our house.
Lesson # 3 pertained to timeliness: As a young child I would see the golden hills of California and observe controlled burning. I would ask my mom, “Why do they burn the hills?” and she would reply, “So they don’t catch on fire.” This was a confusing concept for a child, but I came to understand the importance of timelines. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and a stitch in time, saves nine.
Lesson # 4 was about safety: Every time we were at the beach my mom would say, “Never turn your back on the ocean!” My own children, Braxton and Dane, have heard me say this many times.
Mom grew up in the coastal town of Crescent City, California where this advice was a way of life. During the Second World War, her family had to drive with their headlights off at night so that enemy ships could not identify the town. The community was required to take shifts standing watch over the ocean. They never turned their back on the ocean.
Her father would warn her never to walk on the jetty that led out over the ocean as people had been swept away. In 1964, the Crescent City tsunami grabbed their family home on Second Street, tore it off its foundation and sucked it right into the middle of the street.
In my life, I have known two people that turned their backs on the ocean. Neither of them ever walked again. “Never turn your back on the ocean.”
Lesson # 5 was about planning and preparedness: She always wanted my bother, Mark, and me to think before we acted. She would say, “Think, Think, Think!” This lesson was usually dispensed at times when my Mark and I were making poor choices as children or when she wanted us to think ahead.
Growing up, we were never allowed to rip the wrapping paper from our gifts because she planned to eventually use it for art projects for school. Still to this day, I do not rip my wrapping paper.
I remember one time as a child my family was travelling on a lone highway and we passed a turkey farm. She insisted that we pull over so that we could all collect turkey feathers at the side of the road so she could be ready for her kindergarten Thanksgiving unit. She taught us to think in advance, plan, then act.
Lesson # 6 was about the importance of chocolate
As a child my brother and I always wanted my mom to try whatever candies or ice cream we had. No matter what she tried, her reply was always the same, “It’s good, but I still like chocolate better.” I heard this saying all my life. Over the last decade her love of chocolate eventually helped fuel my decision to join the burgeoning craft chocolate community. I am now a judge for several international chocolate award competitions and make my own craft chocolate from scratch starting with roasting cocoa beans I import.
Lesson # 7 was about kindness: My mom was always so kind to others.
Mom and her Steilacoom quilting group donated numerous handmade quilts which they wrapped around stuffed animals and donated to local Christmas charities for children.
She was always sensitive to her students’ needs. She sometimes worked in dangerous areas where some of her students were the children of gang members. Every child was treated with kindness. The parents who belonged to local gangs were so thankful for her kindness toward their children that they put out a protection order for her and my Dad, Mel. No one was allowed to bring her harm. She never had to worry.
She was completely selfless and giving, particularly during the holidays. She would do all the planning, gift sourcing, wrapping, and cooking sometimes for up to 20 people. She worked tirelessly. Mom gave up her own opportunities for rest and family time to cook and prepare so that everyone else could have good family memories.
After her passing, the most frequently used word to describe my mother was “kind”. She devoted her life to helping and serving others.
Lastly, lesson # 8 was about the importance of family: All my life my mom would say, “Children are the best gift you can give yourself.”
After having my brother, Mom had difficulty getting pregnant again. She believed so strongly that children are the best gift that in 1965 she was selected to be one of five women to try experimental 1960s fertility drugs in an attempt to have me. Thankfully, I was not quintuplets…or born with three arms!
Early this year, Mom’s doctor asked, “What makes you happy, Margaret?” She responded with strong conviction, “I am happy when I am with my family.” That said it all.
She loved how her family grew over the years. First, she had her own children, then there was the blending with the Hampson family which brought her devoted husband, Mel, and his children, Rachael and Ben. The next phase was the addition of sons and daughters-in-law: Dave, Pete, Ann, Kerry, and Blair. Then, there was the great joy – grandchildren: Charles, Miranda, Matthew, Wren, Braxton and Dane. I know she would have been thrilled to see her first great-granddaughter who will be arriving this February. She loved you all.
There were many more lessons she taught, but they all boiled down to four main concepts: be prepared, give your best effort, be safe and most importantly, family first.
Mom, thank you for your love and teachings. You have positively impacted the lives thousands of people and I was one of the biggest beneficiaries. As it turns out, everything I learned from a kindergarten teacher was, in fact, all I needed to know.
How does someone say good-bye to the one person who has loved you since before you were born? You can’t!
So, with that in mind, I will say, “Mom, job well done. A++. Margaret Louise Molini Bofenkamp-Hampson, class dismissed!”
Ring the old-fashioned teachers’ dismissal bell
Susanne Bacon says
Thank you, Dorothy, for sharing this beautiful eulogy. Words of wisdom are always timely. If they are new to us, they teach us. If we have heard them before, they confirm what we hope to embody. This article brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful lady she must have been.
Marianne Bull says
Thanks for sharing Dorothy – that was lovely.
Cindy Duhamel says
Beautiful…words of wisdom…Thank You!