For Lucerne

Lucerne-Wulf

Lucerne was born on April 15, 1923 in Lebanon, Oregon. She died on February 23, 2016 in Mesa, Arizona. 

So much happened in between those dates—someone should make a movie about this woman's incredible life. 

Lucerne came into my life and the life of my family when we moved next door in 1997 on my 12th birthday. Little did I know what a gift that would be. Lucerne has been a part of my life for the past 18 years and I'd like to share some of what I learned from her by the example she set. 

BACKYARD GIFTS

My first memories of her were walking to the fence dividing our backyards. Lucerne would tuck an incredible rock specimen into my hand. Each one was in its own plastic baggie—neatly labeled with a handwritten description with a name and location it was from. I was in awe. To this day, I have every stone she gifted me in a wooden chest given to me by my Godmother, now also deceased. From Lizard Tail Rock, to a raw Nickel deposit, to Rhodochrosite and Lapis Lazuli—she opened my eyes to things that were beneath the surface. She was generous with her knowledge, if you were open to learning. At that age, I spent many afternoons during the summer having a glass of milk in her kitchen asking questions about rocks and minerals, silver and metals, the items she had in her house and, of course—thimbles. I have a tendency to dive as deep as possible into whatever hobby or interest I've picked up. I know, without a doubt, I got it from Lucerne. I learned the difference between a hobby and a passion from this woman. 

THIMBLES

I'll say here that Lucerne was probably best known for her work in the world of thimbles. She is an internationally recognized thimble designer and collector. She supported other artists by commissioning them to make unique thimbles. And she, herself, could make an entire thimble from solid sterling silver, complete with ornate designs, inset gemstones and the tiniest of details. 

Lucerne made this thimble. She loved the butterfly.

Lucerne made this thimble. She loved the butterfly.

After that first year living next door, I turned 13. My gift was a sterling silver thimble with a cat that Lucerne made by hand. It's the only gift I remember from that milestone year. Today, it sits beneath a glass dome on display in my dining room.

HER EARLY YEARS + LOVE OF HER LIFE

In high school, I learned about Lucerne's early years. They were tough. Those years though, they shaped Lucerne and how she lived her life. She lived her life on her own terms, because, at those early points, she didn't have that option. Sometimes the hardest parts of life give us the gift of understanding that our own life is precious, and we only get one shot.

After the love of her life, Ed, died in 2002, I remember witnessing a shift in Lucerne. She had entered a new chapter in her life, and through her grief, moved to Mesa, Arizona. Lucerne was in a new chapter and she chose to flourish in that new chapter. I am married to the love of my life, and she taught me by example the value of independence within a deeply intertwined marriage. 

Oh, and our wedding gift from Lucerne was a wedding cake thimble. That is also on display in my dining room. 

This is a thimble made out of a carrot. It's in a carrot museum today. Lucerne labeled everything by hand, as pictured.

This is a thimble made out of a carrot. It's in a carrot museum today. Lucerne labeled everything by hand, as pictured.

BRANDY

Throughout my college years and 20s, I got to know more about Lucerne and her life, and some of the important people in it. Oh, and her and Ed's beloved dog Brandy. She told me a story about Brandy that is worth retelling. She and Ed would travel with Brandy often and this dog was extremely well behaved and trained. When they would leave the hotel room, they would tell the housekeeper to give a command to Brandy and she'd jump up on a chair and stay there while the room was cleaned. The housekeeper had to give the release command when she was done. After a day out and about, they returned to the hotel to find Brandy still in the chair....waiting......at this point very angrily.....to be released from sitting in that chair. The housekeeper had forgotten. Brandy was a special pup in Lucerne and Ed's life. Let's not forget all the friends from her travels, her neighborhood, her early years, the thimble community, the artist community, the rock and gem community and the Native American community, too. And, during this time, I followed her travels all over the world. Lucerne was a true citizen of the globe. She taught me by example that you get to decide where you go and what you do.....and it's up to you and you alone to actually do it. 

DON'T HAVE A PARTY, HAVE AN EXPERIENCE!

One of my favorite parts of Lucerne's life were her travels and parties. She shared with me some of her travel mementos from cruises and trips she and Ed took from the 60s, 70s, 80s and her more recent travels. I have menus from what they ate on board cruise ships of the 1970s, and photos of her dressed to the absolute 9s from the 1980s. Lucerne threw these incredibly detailed and put-together parties and she'd sew her own dress, and even make her own hat. I have a few pieces of her clothing and I had it tailored to fit me. Lucerne and Ed never had children, but I consider myself lucky because I got to grow up with her in my life. She taught me how to create an experience, rather than just a party. 

18 YEARS OF LETTERS

I should mention here that Lucerne and I wrote letters for all of those 18 years I knew her. She was like a grandmother to me. She was someone I was able to share parts of my life with as I grew up. And I grew up with her through our letters....no matter where she was or where I was. I am sad that I won't find a letter in my mailbox in a couple weeks from Lucerne. My last letter to her went out a week before she died. My Mom said she found the letter, opened, on her kitchen counter. 

When a pen pal dies, it's a bizarre feeling. I can't accurately describe what it feels like to know—for sure—that your pen pal got your last letter to them. I don't even remember what I wrote, I just know my girlfriends and I were planning a visit out to see her.

As Lucerne aged, as we all do, she began sharing her love of thimbles with others. I have a small collection in my house, with a photo of Lucerne right in the middle of it. It's important to me that the people I care about to know about this special person in my life that I cared so much about. 

Speaking of my house, when I bought my first house, our housewarming gift was a thimble shaped like a house. It's also on display in my dining room. 

STORIES

Lucerne came from simple roots and through her lifetime of learning and exploring, she became decorated in the rich experiences of her life, much like parts of her thimble collection. Each thimble Lucerne had told a story—a place it came from, a person who made it, materials that shaped it. Stories. 

Oh, that's what I think Lucerne lived, a life full of captivating and diverse stories.

Lucerne was originally from Oregon. And, there's this thing about pine trees. If they aren't exposed to storms, they won't grow up strong, and they won't be able to grow independently. This is Lucerne. The obstacles she navigated in life are part of what gave her the incredible independence and zeal for life she had....it's what gave her strength. She taught me that the downs in life make you stronger. 

My thimbles from Lucerne remind me that:

  • Difficulties make you stronger
  • You have one life to live, and it's up to you to decide what you're going to do with it.
  • It's one thing to have interests, but another to have passions. Find those passions in your life.
  • Even a thimble can tell a story. 

After Lucerne died, an entire collection of chicken thimbles ended up in my home. It's on display in my dining room.

Thank you Lucerne. I love and miss you, and am so glad I had you for 18 years of my life.