On April 3, 2021, my grandmother Claudia Foster Archibald passed away at her home in North Ogden, Utah. She was a monumentally important figure in my life and in our family’s course. I’d like to share a bit more about what made her just quite so special.
My grandma was born, raised and spent much of her early life in the beautiful Teton Valley in southeastern Idaho. The communities there are sparsely populated but what they may lack in number of people, they make up for with geographical beauty and unwavering character of residents.
Her childhood was one similar to many rural Americans in the first half of the 20th century: living off the land and hard work with the type of physical challenges I can hardly comprehend.
She learned at an early age the value of industry and had tremendous skills in the traditional responsibilities of her time — caring for young siblings and other children, homemaking and cooking food for her family of 12 — but she also was able to handle a team of horses, care for the cattle herd and perform other tasks.
After the younger years of her life, she married my Grandpa Leland and moved to Ogden, Utah where they both labored as teachers for the majority of their life. Most of my memories of my grandma come from after Leland passed away in 1989 (hard to fathom that she was widowed for 32 years) and those are memories enriched by her character, values and steadfastness.
She had a large garden in her backyard, and she grew everything imaginable: peaches, raspberries, squash, tomatoes, strawberries, melons, pumpkins, apples, cherries, lettuce, peppers, pears and more.
Food and gardening were not side hobbies or recreation for her, they were the means to nutrition and represented her charity in the giving of these prized possessions to her family and friends.
In our visits with her each summer and on holidays, we would labor alongside her in the garden, trying to keep up, which was an impossible task. She was as strong as any woman I’ve ever met and as tough as anybody.
As important to me as those memories are, equally important is the legacy she left. It’s one of optimism, faith and perseverance mixed with an appropriate amount of tenacity for a person that endured what she did.
She had a philosophy about life that echoed in her daily actions. She cared so little about most of what drives our free time today. She never had cable television or internet or a cell phone. She cherished her family, her industriousness, and a simplicity of life.
She was my last living grandparent and while I am still heartbroken, I am grateful for the legacy and life lessons she (and my other grandparents) left. Each had an important role in my life.
As you may know, southeastern Idaho is perhaps the world’s most famous and productive potato-growing area and that was one crop and food source that my grandmother knew well. In honor of her, I share a life lesson about potatoes.
There are three kinds of people in the world, and each are relatable to the types of potatoes that one might pick.
There are agitators. Agitators have a habit of making other people uncomfortable and they often stir up trouble in whatever situation they find themselves in. Agitators are quite present in our community and throughout the world.
Next, there are spectators. Spectators have the ability to be either helpful or frustrating, depending on what action they take. Those who choose to sit on the sideline and watch the game may offer support and perspective, but they can also be critical of those more involved in the action.
Lastly, there are participatators. Participatators are folks who do their part, act within the systems and opportunities available to them and improve the lives of those around them. It makes little difference what the role is, participatators always do their best and care less about credit than they do about collaboration.
I’m incredibly grateful for the wonderful life and significant impact that Claudia Archibald had on me and countless others. I challenge each of you to act within your influence, participate and be a model of the characteristics she upheld.