Christmas Letter 2023

2507 Briargrove Dr.
Austin, TX 78704
December, 2023

Dear Family and Friends,

Christmas is a time for joy and celebration, both much needed in these challenging times.  We hope that you and yours are doing well and finding joy and celebration in your lives.

We started out 2023 with both of us getting COVID for the second time—a gift brought to us by a wonderful former student of Mel’s coming for lunch with his wife.  Fortunately, it was not severe for either of us as we were both fully vaccinated, of course.
We have had some travels this year and some visitors.  In February, Mel and I flew to D.C. to visit with Sarah and Joe—looking for places close to them where Pat could live if something happened to Mel. We found several good choices and are hoping we don’t have to implement that plan, but it feels good to have a plan.  We were able to visit some good friends while there.  In February, Pat’s brother Robert came to Austin for a wonderful several day visit—and in March, Mardie was here for 6 great days.  In May, we flew to San Francisco where we housesat for our dear friends, the Richmonds, while they were traveling—and during that 2 week period Mel celebrated his 87th birthday, grandson Durham celebrated his 11th, Mardie and Pat celebrated Mother’s Day, and the two of us celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary—fun!.  We also saw several cousins and heard grandson Ethan playing the sax at the Stanford coffee house Monday jazz session—great fun!  Our nephew Stuart Oakes and his husband, Jay Ruffner, came to Austin for a wonderful visit.  Sarah was here for almost a week in June around Pat’s birthday. In July, we had a very special surprise from our church—2 medallions in 2 adjacent stained-glass windows in our church honored the two of us and our dear friends Nodie and Dennis Murphy (Dennis died very suddenly in early December of last year).  In September, we drove to Vicksburg for the wedding of our great-niece Olivia Oakes to Justin Early.  We had not been home since before the pandemic, so the wedding was a wonderful opportunity to see many family members and friends. Our biggest disappointment was that Mel’s brother Floyd and his wife Betty were not able to come from Louisiana as Floyd was still recuperating from a hip replacement.
The unrelenting heat of the summer made it virtually impossible for Mel to play tennis, but we did manage to walk 5 mornings a week with Pat’s longtime women friends in the neighborhood.  Now that it is finally cooler Mel is enjoying playing doubles tennis again 2 mornings a week. He continues to work on his physics department history site and audited a UT class on AI.   Pat started PT for balance issues in August and is making some improvement.  Her physical therapist insists she walk using only her cane and not holding Mel’s hand which takes some of the fun out of the walk, but she needs to work on walking more independently.  We are both working hard to stay as fit as we can.  She and her sisters continue to exercise together also every evening—Pat on the exercise bike, Nancy in Cortland, NY, walking on a treadmill or riding her recumbent bike, and Sandra walking in circles in her home.
Pat continues writing the Personals column for the church newsletter, as the church goes through a huge transition which will sadly involve developers knocking down the 100 year old sanctuary and most likely creating space inside a 32 story building which would hold the sanctuary, fellowship space, a kitchen, etc., plus commercial office space and hopefully some space for low income housing for students.  High rise apartment buildings abound around UT.  Pat is kept busy serving on several committees involved in this daunting process. Every other week we have a Zoom meeting with close cousins on Pat’s side from all over the country.  Both of us remain active in our book clubs—also on Zoom. In March, Pat was honored for her 20 years of service as a docent at the LBJ Library.  It has become too hard to do, so she will be retiring soon. 
Beth and Eugene have been in Iowa City for 25 years, but now there has been a change.  Eugene, a Stanford graduate, was offered the position of Director of Finance and Operations for the Department of Theater and Performance Studies—a job right up his alley.  He moved to Palo Alto in the fall and is really enjoying the work.  A bonus is that son Ethan is now a Junior majoring in Symbolic Systems with a concentration in computer music.  Beth is continuing her position overseeing the chamber music program for the University of Iowa. Currently they are commuting forth and back.  Eugene and Beth found a small apartment attached to a house —short on space but long on view for them to walk and explore when Beth is in town.  Granddaughter Emily, a senior English major at Smith, has spent the fall semester abroad at a program in Bath, England, with a program that has many side trips planned for them—Dublin, Oxford, Stratford on Avon, etc.  A joy for us is that Emily was able to visit our dear, long-time friends the Kimbers who live in Bristol just 20 minutes away by train. 
Sarah and Joe continue to enjoy living in Arlington, VA, and appreciate how it brings people they care about to visit them.  This fall, they hosted a friend who was in town for a conference and also the son of a friend who is considering moving to DC.  In addition to spending a week in Austin and several days in Iowa City (with Joe) over the summer, Sarah enjoyed a 2-week trip to northern Italy.  She spent a few days in Milan, a week at a language class in Turin and then 3 days in a small beach town on the Ligurian Sea.  When not working, Joe continues to enjoy rock climbing and bouldering and has achieved some new goals in terms of difficulty of climbs.  They hope to find more time to travel together in 2024. 
Mardie is working hard in San Francisco, juggling motherhood and her work.  Durham, 11, and in 6th grade, adjusted quickly to his new middle school - he especially enjoys computer science and band (he started the trumpet this year).  He loves sushi, has an amazing vocabulary, and enjoys listening to audio books when he’s not gaming. Mardie continues to work with two co-founders on the East coast to develop a digitally-delivered behavioral treatment for menopause symptoms (hot flashes and their downstream effects on sleep and mood). Building a company from the ground up requires many talents and each day is full of challenges. Mardie is really enjoying applying her skills to women’s health and learning a new industry. She calls it her “Alzheimer’s prevention plan.” She’s excited to have Eugene join Ethan at Stanford and to see Beth more often.

Pat and Mel

2023 Gallery

May 18, 2023  Mardie, Mel and Pat, 60th Wedding Anniversary, San Francisco.
2023, Eugene and Ethan Buck, Beth Oakes and Mardie Oakes, Stanford, Palo Alto, CA.
Summer, 2023  Durham. Mel, Pat. Mardie, San Francisco
 2023, Emily Buck, The Clifton Suspension Bridge on the cliffs of the Avon Gorge. Bristol, England. 
2023  Sarah and Joe