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When I came back from California four years ago, I went to see my uncle Bob and aunt Audrey Moller right away.
As I walked through the door of their Kirkwood home, the first thing out of Audrey’s mouth was:
“David. You’re overweight!”
That was my aunt Audrey, who was never afraid to set you straight.
But as I was pondering her recent death at 92, I realized that when Audrey made one of her blunt pronouncements, it wasn’t malicious. It was her way of saying “I love you” and she simply wanted you to be healthy and do well in life.
While Audrey lacked tact at times, she had vast virtue. She was an absolutely terrific wife and mother and possessed an envious work ethic.
She married Bob during World War II and drove across the country with him to Puget Sound and his Navy aircraft carrier. It was indicative of Audrey’s inner strength and her penchant to always try and do the best thing for the family.
Audrey’s home was always immaculate and in order. When she was done cleaning for the day, she would spend countless hours keeping the books for uncle Bob’s business.
Audrey could be tight with a buck, but she spared no expense when it came to birthday and Christmas presents. It was her special way of saying she cared.
Audrey was a beautiful woman and always kept her figure. It was no surprise that all three of her daughters — Joyce, Kittie and Libby — were beautiful as well, and she taught them how to stay that way.
Audrey dressed in a conservative, yet tasteful manner. She ate the right things and never too much, unless it was one of her incredible holiday dinners.
Anyone who knew Audrey will tell you the woman could flat cook. She introduced our bland Midwestern palates to new and wonderful things and did it all out of a postage stamp-sized kitchen that was her culinary domain.
When you went to Audrey’s house, you didn’t just have steak, you had filet mignon. You didn’t have yet another baked chicken for Sunday dinner, you had cordon bleu.
The side dish wasn’t a few greens with cheap thousand island on it. It was a Waldorf salad.
For desert, she would make a fruit cobbler from scratch, or serve apple pie with a slice of cheddar cheese on it.
Even when you were at Audrey’s for a simple summer barbecue, the hamburgers had diced onion in them and the buns were adorned with sesame seeds.
That may not sound like much in these food conscious days, but you have to remember Audrey was doing all this at a time when many American women were cooking chop suey out of a can or TV dinners. How uncle Bob stayed skinny all these years is beyond me.
The way Audrey cooked was the way she lived her life, with attention to detail in the quest for a job well done. But she wasn’t just a gourmet.
When I was young in the early 1960s and my mother had to go to work to help the family finances, I often found myself on Audrey’s doorstep in the summer. She always had a kind word, a cool drink and a sandwich for me, realizing she was my surrogate mom.
As I said at the outset, my aunt Audrey wasn’t perfect. But she was a complex human being who always tried to do her best and set the correct example.
She did that for each member of the extended Moller family and we will all be forever grateful.