Janet Hommel Mangas: God save the Queen

It was an hour after our last walleye shore lunch in Northwest Ontario that our son-in-law Michael checked his phone and informed us: “The Queen has died.”

My initial reaction was sadness accompanied by a verbal, “Aww.”

Her death made me somber, not because I’d ever met or had tea with Queen Elizabeth — although as I sat on a rock awaiting our Cessna Caravan floatplane, I immediately envisioned enjoying a spot of her favorite Twinings Earl Grey tea with her.

Watching the waves come in from Trout Lake, I imagined her relaxing and inviting me to just call her Lilibet, her childhood nickname lovingly adopted by her grandparents, parents and later by husband of 73 years, Prince Philip. I would laugh at our informality, and equally invite her to call me “Janny” as my grandparents, father and my aunts and uncles referred to me.

I was a bit sad because she was beloved and served steadily as Queen for 70 years — not an easy gig to be steadfast. I was a bit mournful for the family because her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were losing their matriarch. Her death reminded me of how quick life passes — it reminded me of my grandparents.

Ima Florene (Florence) or “Grandma Hommel on the farm,” as my daughter’s always added to their great-grandmother’s nickname, passed away on Easter morning, Sunday, March 31, 2002, the day after Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother died. My grandma was 87. The Queen Mother was 101. Our Johnson County Queen, who we called Grandma, loved us with magnificent hugs and kisses every time we walked through the slamming screen door, nourished us with her handmade chicken and noodles, and the sweetest tea in the county.

When Grandpa Ralph Steven Hommel passed Oct. 18, 2009, at the age of 97, having been preceded in death by his five brothers and five sisters, he was surrounded by most of his 11 children — a herd of us grandchildren overflowed into the hallway. When word of his passing trickled to the hallway, I remember my cousin Joe whispering, “It’s like our King has died.” Our King modeled a strong work ethic, discipline and a love of family, music and sports.

By the time our float plane dropped us off and we began driving headed south, the flags were lowered to half-mast in respect to the Queen.

In Queen Elizabeth’s 2002 Christmas address she noted, “I know just how much I rely on my faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. Each day is a new beginning. I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God … I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian gospel.”

Well done, Queen Elizabeth, well done.

Janet Hommel Mangas grew up on the east side of Greenwood. The Center Grove area resident and her husband are the parents of three daughters. Send comments to [email protected]