She taught us how to age gracefully Print
Written by Mary Uhler   
Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015 -- 12:00 AM
Audrey Fixmer

Audrey Mettel Fixmer died on January 22, surrounded by her family. She touched many lives in her 86 years of life and made significant contributions to the Catholic Herald as author of the “Grand Mom” column for 23 years.

Twenty-three years ago out of the blue, I got a phone call from Audrey Mettel Fixmer.

She told me she had retired from teaching English and was interested in writing for the Catholic Herald. We chatted for awhile, and I found out that she was a member of St. Joseph Parish in Fort Atkinson and seemed very devoted to her faith.

Besides that, she told me she had 11 children (one died as an infant). Wow, I thought. That was amazing!

I told Audrey that we didn’t have a regular column in our paper dedicated to senior citizens. Since she was 65 years old at the time, I thought she was qualified to write about that age group.

Aging gracefully

So the “Grand Mom” column was born. Audrey’s intention was to write about aging gracefully. That had two meanings.

One was referring to the aging part, that is, coping with the challenges of growing older, including dealing with health issues, adult children, and grandchildren.

The other focused on the “gracefully” part, which meant not only dealing with aging in a positive way, but also talking about the graces we receive from our faith in God.

Audrey certainly accomplished all those aspects of aging gracefully in her column — and often with a delightful sense of humor.

A special love affair

Her first column published on January 16, 1992, carried the headline: “A special love affair.” You might think she was talking about her husband, Bob, whom she married in 1947. He preceded her in death in 2010. Besides their 11 children, they had 19 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

But back to the column. Audrey’s “special love affair” was a love of learning accompanied by a love of reading.

She said that she was asked when she was pregnant with their 10th child “how two people who obviously valued education could bring so many children into the world. How do you think you can provide for their education? Don’t you want them to go to college?”

Audrey’s answer was, “Of course we wanted each and every one of them to achieve their full potential, and yes, of course, that was our responsibility, but that did not necessarily mean a fat bank account. Our responsibility was to provide them with a love of learning. They could take it from there.”

And take it they did. Most of their children went to college and some have advanced degrees. They put themselves through school, Audrey said, and she believed they valued their education more because of it.

Gospel according to Audrey

In that first column, Audrey said that the Gospel according to Audrey was that parents should teach their children to love God, love one another, and love reading. She asked: “Can anyone think of a better legacy?”

I can’t. Audrey shared her wisdom and strong faith with her family and with the readers of the Catholic Herald. We will miss her, but we treasure the years we had with her.
We will carry with us the insights she shared with us on the importance of loving God, loving each other, and loving reading — and aging gracefully.