In Memoriam: Valerie Fons (1951-2022)

She became my sister-in-law when I was 21, my ex-sister-in-law when I divorced her brother at age 39.

She remained my friend, championed my pursuits, cheered my successes, told me (when I was my family of four’s sole financial support) that if she ever had kids she wanted to be a mother just like me.

She was an athlete, kayaking the Baja, the Mississippi, the Amazon, and other waterways, clocking over 30,000 miles in a boat.

She was a quilter.

She became an ordained Methodist minister. She and her final husband adopted six kids out of foster care and raised them to adulthood.

She was my writing partner, my thought-partner, my editor and believer.

On Washington Island, she was my neighbor.

She was my oldest friend.

Lying in semidarkness on my yoga mat months after Valerie’s death, I heard my teacher say she would read a poem titled CANOE. I heard my friend’s voice in every word. I tracked down the poet, corresponded with her, told her about Valerie’s amazing, adventurous life.

Recently, I was asked by Valerie’s children to speak at her memorial service. Luckily, I had CANOE.

CANOE by Joanne M. Clarkson 2021 (used with permission)

The waxing crescent casts a tiny canoe on the water.

She is empty, enlivened by breezy waves.

I swim out into the midnight lake and climb within her nacre.

I take up a paddle painted with images of fish and birds.

She carries me into a perfect shadow.

Mayflies or snowflakes in starlight surround us.

I face fear and joy in equal measure, my honest life.

And in a minute or a month, when I return to shore,

All that needs to heal lies behind me in a wake.

And she sails off toward wholeness carrying the weight of my dreams.


11 Responses

  1. Rita Parrish
    | Reply

    This is beautiful! A life well lived, and well remembered.

  2. Linda K Duff
    | Reply

    What an amazing tribute to someone who was obviously an amazing woman and one who meant to much to you. What a great friend and supporter she was to you through all the years. Remember, she’ll never be lost to you, Marianne; she’s in your heart and all your memories. May thoughts of her make you smile and bring you comfort.
    In sympathy and friendship …. Linda

  3. glendagai
    | Reply

    Such a word picture !

  4. Judith Reel
    | Reply

    So sorry for the loss of your beloved and talanted friend! Such a lovely bond you shared
    all the time together … great memories for sure. Loved the Poem, Canoe!

    Judy Reel

  5. Jim Graham
    | Reply

    Thank you for that perfect tribute to Valerie. We all need a Canoe (like that of the poem).

  6. Stephanie
    | Reply

    Best friends come along too seldom in life. Thanks for the beautiful share. Inspired to call my bestie this evening 🙂

  7. Liza Wiemer
    | Reply

    Such a beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing. Although I only met her a few times, she had an incredible presence, one that left its mark on those who had the opportunity to connect with her!

  8. Elizabeth Rivera
    | Reply

    I am so sorry for your loss, when theses things happen we need time to process and grieve. You have had many adventures and friends that will be with you forever.

  9. Diane
    | Reply

    So sorry for the lost of your friend. Savor the memories.

  10. Sue Schneider
    | Reply

    What a beautiful tribute!

  11. Patricia Steckman
    | Reply

    It seems I remember a saying from long ago about starting a journey in a canoe – “paddles up” – to start the journey/adventure. Very true in her case. Blessings.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *