17 February 2010

A great woman and genealogist has passed away -- Marsha Hoffman Rising, CG, FASG

If you never had the chance to interact with Marsha, you have missed out on some special genealogical education from an awesome person. Marsha passed away peacefully early this morning at her home in Springfield, Missouri. Even though I have known for the last month and especially the last few days that her death was imminent, it still hit hard. For the last thirteen years, Marsha has been living with ovarian cancer, harsh treatments, spreading cancer, and with a determination to live live fully at every moment she could. The news came to me just after a woman I know told me she was pregnant with her first child. The varied faces of life.

Marsha and her husband, Dean, took many trips to all parts of the world. Their retirement came a bit early due to Marsha's diagnosis, but they still took advantage of all that they could. Marsha provided support and guidance to other women receiving and living with the same diagnosis of ovarian cancer, including two other friends of mine.

I (along with my ex-husband, Jim) was with Marsha just days before her first major surgery after the diagnosis. Where were we? At the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. As she told us what was going on, we were stunned, scared, and thankful for being able to spend time with her. During the research days,
she found out that our laptop computer was on its last legs. She knew that a new one was not in our budget and told us that she had one at home she didn't use any more. Would we like it? Oh, it had a problem -- it beeped whenever you used the 8 or *. We said no problem, but no rush, and we would appreciate it. We figured that with the surgery and recovery it was not going to be a priority and she might forget. Well, Marsha returned home for the surgery but right away asked her husband, Dean, to pack up the computer and ship it to us. Wow! It lasted a couple years.

In September of 2003, Marsha and I had many telephone conversations. She was a great support to me during a very trying time in my life. She is the one who named my newly reinvented genealogical business, PSW Research. I don't know if I have shared that with anybody else.

Off and on over the years since, we have had some telephone and email conversations. I will cherish the email that I saved. We were last together about three years ago -- where else, the Family History Library. We had a long talk and shared some frustrations about life and people.

My first interaction with Marsha was back in the mid-1980s. I listened to lectures of hers at FGS and NGS conferences. I learned about teaching genealogy to adults. She co-taught these sessions with Sandra Hargreaves Luebking. They taught me about the hearing differences and the need for visuals for adult learners. They had come to genealogy from other careers where they had training in teaching adults.

One memory of Marsha makes me laugh. To share this is telling a tale on myself. In the 1990s Marsha was coming to the Minnesota Genealogical Society to do a seminar. My husband and I were her hosts for the weekend. My youngest son had a soccer game that Friday. Marsha wanted to do some research on her own family at the Minnesota Historical Society. When my husband picked her up at MHS, I told him that in no way was he to bring her to the soccer game. I had heard horror stories of seminar speakers having to stop at reunions, birthday parties, and other events with their hosts. Imagine my own horror when I saw her walking towards me on the soccer sidelines. I laughed and told her she was not supposed to be there. She said it was her idea because she just couldn't wait to tell me what she had found. It was the obituary for a relative she found on the front page of a small local paper. It was the obituary I had totally missed when I was doing the search for her a year before that. Now, my horror was justified. Ouch. She thoroughly enjoyed that!

In the 1980s, Marsha was a President of the Federation of Genealogical Societies. When funding was needed for something, Marsha took out her checkbook. Not all of us can do that, but thankfully she could, and did. She wasn't the only one, but I hope she won't mind me telling her involvement.

Yesterday, the New England Historic Genealogical Societies' Winter 2010 issue of American Ancestors magazine arrived. The lead story is by Marsha. It is about her multi-year project about 1000 early landowners in the Missouri Ozarks. Her project did identify the origins of 854 of those pioneers and it resulted in the 4 volume Opening the Ozarks: First Families of Southwest Missouri 1835-1839 (Derry, NH: The American Society of Genealogists, 2005). The volumes total a mere 2,963 pages. You can read more about it in the magazine. Marsha has many other publications and articles in the field of genealogy.

Marsha was a strong woman in many ways. Her convictions were strong and sometimes were not accepted by others. She would listen to reason but she was true to her beliefs. At times we didn't agree on things, but I always appreciated what she taught me. I am a better genealogist because of what I learned from her. She has left us far too early.

Addition from the obituary shared by her family:
"She leaves to mourn her husband Dean, her sister Carol, and her step-daughter Amy and Amy’s husband Brian Brown, all of whom want to thank St. John’s Hospice for their care in the final days of Marsha’s illness.

Her body has been cremated and at her request there will be no service. There will be a visitation at Gorman-Scharpf Funeral Home Friday, February nineteenth, 7:00-9:00pm. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to: FGS, 1812 Fund - Rising Tribute, P.O. Box 200940 Austin, TX 78720-0940."

The 1812 Fund - Rising Tribute will contribute to the digitization of the War of 1812 Bounty Land/Pension records that currently are only in original paper format at the U.S. National Archives.

Click here for the full obituary in the Springfield News-Leader.


Becky Jamison said...

I'm sorry you lost such a good friend, Paula. You've written a very nice tribute to her.

J. Mark Lowe said...

Thanks Paula. Marsha would like to be remembered for her hard work and her exuberant fun. She did both very well. Marsha, you will be missed but not forgotten.

Nettie's Genbits said...

Thanks for sharing, Marsha was a good speaker and I learned a lot from her and her books.

Jane said...

Well said, Paula! I remember my introduction to Marsha when she spoke at the Fairfax GS seminar some years back. I was intrigued and amazed at her Missouti settlers project - it (and much more) will stand for her.