May You Both Find Eternal Peace

A human life is a story told by God. ~Hans Christian Andersen

Melanie A. Grimm
December 18, 1976 – March 28,2014


Bertha F. Nesser
December 19, 1970 – May 22, 2014


Melanie Grimm giving a reassuring thumbs up! Rest-in-Peace 12/18/76 – 3/28/14

Recently, meaning within the last couple of months and a week ago, two friends of mine from back in the day, have separately moved on into their eternal journeys.  Melanie Grimm and Bertha Nesser both passed away at young ages, but graced everyone who knew them with their friendship and loving spirits.

Unfortunately, in recent times, I’ve lost touch with both ladies, only reaching out via Facebook or the rare get together, but I still considered them friends.  To be honest, I took advantage of these distant friendships, thinking they would be around for a long long time, into our ripe old ages.  I guess God had other plans.

Previously, I wanted to pay homage to Melanie, who passed away on Friday, March 28, 2014, but was never sure how, it’s been weighing on my heart.  To be honest, I was in a little bit of shock, knowing she was sick for quite some time, yet remaining in that false safe place called denial.

Then, Bertha passed, on Thursday, May 22, 2014.  Now the true reality of death is standing in front of me and staring me in the face, without as much as a blink or a flinch.  I know this is a part of life, but one I was hoping to postpone for many years.

Recently, Grandma Ferry – Moving Into Greener Pastures, passed at the age of 97.  That’s an acceptable age, at least in my mind, but 37 years and 43 years, respectively, is uncompromisable, again in my tunnel vision.  I’m still trying to fathom the death of my cousin Tommy who was only 13 years old.  Moving On Too Soon – Thomas Watson Piper.  I know there’s no age prerequisite for dying, but some ages make more sense to me than others.


Bertha Nesser looking radiant. Rest-in-Peace 12/19/70 – 5/22/14

There is no doubt that there is a world of people, meaning strangers, who have experienced worse in life, so much more so than I can ever imagine.  But the death of a friend still shakes a person up a bit.

I’m no stranger to dealing with a sudden loss, and I’ve experienced tragedy first hand.  Nothing can ever compare, nor crumble my spirits and drop me to my knees with sadness and sorrow like it did with Ryan’s passing, at least I hope not for a long time.  Yet, loosing a friend effects me in a different way, not better or worse, just different.  It certainly rekindles emotions from Ryan’s funeral.

Sometimes, I wish I could become callous to death and facing the loss of loved ones with ease and without sadness.  Personally, I guess I wish that of no one, for every life has meaning and is essential to the world and should be treated with extreme importance.  However, on the same note, even though death is inevitable, I pray for many to have peace when exiting this world and their family and friends are graced with acceptance and strength.  My heart bleeds for those suffering, truly heartbreaking.

It’s weird, but both gals, Melanie and Bertha were very similar, at least in ways that come to my mind; fun, goodhearted, hard working and friendly, to name a few.  I came to know Melanie through a friend, as did I with Bertha.  Did they know each other?  I don’t believe so, but without a doubt they would have been friends.

I don’t mean to lessen either death by combining them in one blog post, but to be honest, I don’t think I could have ever mustered two separate tributes without it breaking me down.  It seems as though I am comforted to speak of them together and deal with their deaths as one whole, little bit more manageable from my point-of-view.

I want to give a call out to each lady and reiterate how genuine and great each one was in life, and how missed they are and will be for years to come.  My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone Melanie and Bertha touched.

God Speed Melanie Grimm

Melanie Grimm Obituary Aunt Heather Piper

God Speed Bertha Nesser  

Bertha Nesser Obituary Aunt Heather Piper

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Grandma Ferry – Moving Into Greener Pastures

When you set sail for Ithaca,
wish for the road to be long,
full of adventures, full of knowledge.  ~C.P. Cavafy

July 6, 1917 – May 8, 2014

Grandma-Ferry-Funeral-Pamphlet-Aunt-Heather-PiperGod retrieved another good soul, but blessed us with her for 97 years.  Mrs. Sophie (Ferry) McLaughlin was a good friend of my family’s for as long as I can remember, as long as my mom can recollect.  The entire Ferry clan has been an integral part of our entire life, living on the opposite hillside.

Grandma Ferry, as we always called her, which is exactly what she was to us, a grandma, passed away on Thursday, May 8, 2014.

Some may ask why I would call this neighbor lady, who clearly wasn’t even related, with the honor of the grandma title?  Easy, my maternal grandmother passed when my mom was a teenager, so I never met her.  It’s true my paternal grandmother is alive and well (still is causing trouble), but let’s say Grandma Ferry was more of the grandmotherly type.  Granted, we had my Uncle Walter and Aunt Mary down over the hill who were also very close with us and like a another set of grandparents, but somehow Grandma Ferry got the title and it has remained ever since.

Grandma Ferry  lived directly behind my parent’s house, most of her life, until she re-married and moved to Ohio.  During my childhood, occasionally she was needed to babysit, and let me tell you it wasn’t a free for all.  Nope, if our rooms were a mess (which usually they were), then she made us clean them up and organize the disaster.  If the house needed cleaned, we had to get to work straight away.  If any work, inside or out, needed done, there was no time to dilly dally.  When it was time to feed us, she wasn’t no short order cook.  O no!  We helped her prepare our lunches and no television while eating.  We had to sit at the table and eat together, the way it should be.


I remember once when I was hanging cloths, yes back then we had cloths lines strung up alongside the house.  Part of my chores were to hang the dripping wet garments and take them down, fold them and put them away.  One day, while doing so, I remember as plain as day, I spotted Grandma Ferry making a beeline for me.  Her house sat up higher on the hill directly behind mom and dad’s, making our backyard and the sides of the house easily visible.  As a kid, I know I rolled my eyes when I spotted her, because I didn’t want to be doing these chores, let alone listen to someone tell me how to do them.  She marched right up to me and showed me the right way to hang the laundry.  My comment, “That’s not how mom does it.”, which we all know my mom was never the poster child for good housekeeping.  In her own polite way, without throwing my mom under the bus, she held her ground and showed me the reasoning for hanging the clothing a certain way and the correct way to do so, which I remember to this day.

Every once in a while she would have me and Ryan rake her leaves or grass clippings.  She paid us in homemade soup and freshly baked bread.  I remember thinking, I would rather have some cold hard cash (I would have never dared ask), but the food was so delicious it made all the work worthwhile.  She also didn’t let us slack while raking.  Nope!  If we missed areas she would point them out and we weren’t done until the job was done, no matter how long it took us.  We always had to finish what we started.

She really was a huge help to mom and dad, especially when mom went back to work when I was in the third grade.

Grandma-Ferry-Funeral-Card-Aunt-Heather-PiperWhile playing in the backyard or taking hikes up through the woods with my cousins, she would always pop her head out to see what we were up to, questioning our actions every now-and-again and sometimes not speaking a word.

Thinking about our interactions with Grandma Ferry now, from a different perspective, she was never a nag or a pain, she really cared for us.

On a side note, sometime when I was little, dad put in our small orchard, which overlooked Grandma Ferry’s front porch.  She always loved it, especially when dad would mow.  Dad even commented that she came down one day, while the digging had begun, and gave dad a little bit of money to put toward the project.  She too had an apple tree and a huge grape harbor, which again Ryan and I would have to pick.

Did I think she was annoying and bossy?  You bet!  Exactly like I did my own parents, that same bittersweet love.  She really was my family and truly a nice lady.  However, you never crossed her for she wouldn’t take any crap, and that meant from us kids, even around our own parents.  Most adults shy away from disciplining kids in front of their parents, especially ones that aren’t their own.   Not Grandma Ferry.  She knew where she stood and demanded respect and demanded we show respect to our parents and each other.

Grandma-Ferry-Newspaper-Article-Aunt-Heather-PiperWe always joke around wondering how I know how to fold and clean properly and am so organized, the complete opposite of mom.  I think I finally found my answer, Grandma Ferry.  Looking back on it now, I owe her a lot.  She wasn’t just the little old neighbor lady.  She was a big part of our childhood and helped reinforce what we were taught, respect and hard work.  She taught me to do laundry, clean, yard work and even a little cooking.  She was one of the good ones, who took an invested interest in us, not for her own sake, but for ours.

I’m sure she led a great life before I came into this world, and I know she led one while I was here, being a first hand witness.  I can’t even imagine what those eyes have seen over a span of ninety-seven years.

Rest-in-Peace Grandma Ferry! 

Thank you for being you!  You will always be remembered!  

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

Moving On Too Soon – Thomas Watson Piper

Death is a distant rumor to the young. ~Andrew A. Rooney

March 12, 2001 – May 9, 2014


Thomas Piper – image courtesy of Terri Lynn Lewis on Facebook.

Death is not an easy part of life, however there are some circumstances, which are harder than others.  This one is truly heartbreaking.  I want to send my deepest sympathy and condolences to Thomas’ family and friends.

My cousin Thomas Watson Piper was killed in a car accident on Friday, May 9th.  I don’t know much about the details, but like my mom says, “It doesn’t change anything anyway.”

Stepping back to understand how we’re related, since there are so many Piper’s, here is a very brief general outline of our family tree.  My pap (Walter Piper) had a brother, Merle Piper, my uncle.  Again there are a lot of other siblings but I’m just tracing one line down.  His wife was my Aunt Mary and among all the kids, they had Richard, who later married Eileen.  They had a son, Aaron Piper, who in turn had a son Thomas Piper.

Unfortunately, with such a large family we each get lost in the shuffle, or in Thomas’ case, live out of state in North Carolina.  I never really had the opportunity to get to know my little cousin, but regardless he is still family.  Perhaps over the years I met him, but I am saddened to say, I truly don’t remember.

Again not knowing a lot about this young man, I can say for certain he was loved and seemed like a pretty good kid.  Following Aaron’s Facebook posts helped to keep me in the know with my distant relatives.

It’s true, I did attend Eileen’s funeral, Thomas’ grandmother, but those are moments when I put my head down, pay my respects and give support to the family, before scooting out the back door, so to speak.  I know getting reacquainted with my relatives is never on the top of my list.

When I heard about Thomas’ tragedy, of course I was saddened, not wanting anyone to endure such an ordeal.  Admittedly, the details of the misfortune really hit home with me.

Tommy was only thirteen years old, about the same age as Kyle is now.  That really puts things into perspective.  As mentioned earlier, he died in a car accident.  Now that paints a whole new scene of nagging sorrow and depression, since loosing Ryan, Kyle’s dad in a car accident.

My heart bleeds for the family and friends of the deceased.  I will continue to reach out through prayers and thoughts during this time.

God Speed Thomas Watson Piper!   

Online condolences may be made by visiting

Here is the complete obituary as well as a screen shot below.

Thomas Piper Obituary Aunt Heather Piper

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination and have No Comments

Blue Skies Dr. Jennifer (Smith) Galbraith

No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world.  And normally he doesn’t know it.  ~Paulo Coelho

Dr. Jennifer (Smith) Galbraith
July 28, 1974 – August 27, 2013


Nicole & Jen hanging with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. c. sometime in the 80’s

Tragedy is no stranger to me and my family.  It has directly landed on us, suddenly, and with pinpoint accuracy, so I know what dealing with sorrow and confusion feels like.   We’ve been wrestling with it for nearly twelve years.  I’m not saying I understand it, and I’m not saying it’s easy, and I’m not saying I like it.  I’m just saying it’s a close friend and I certainly recognize it.

At this particular moment, I’m at a loss as to what to say.  I’ve never dealt with such a situation.  So instead of my typical format, I chose to write Jen a letter.  I’m sure it doesn’t do her justice, to her kindness, beauty inside and out, intelligence, sincerity, adventurous spirit, wit and sense of humor.  But my words are sincere and straight from the heart.

My thoughts and prayers are with Jen’s family and friends at this time and always.  We have been blessed to know such a wonderful person.  The world will not be the same.


Dear Jen,

If my memory serves me correct, we have known each other since I was in the first grade and you in the third, going to Sacred Heart Elementary School.  To be honest, I don’t remember when you officially joined our family because it seems like you were always there.  Who would have thought, from that moment on,  you and my sister would have become friends for so many years?


Dr. Jennifer (Smith) Galbraith eating a Twix.

Even though you were always Nicole’s best friend, you always treated me as a friend too.  I can’t believe it’s been years since those days at Sacred Heart, but we’ve always kept in touch, only due to your continued friendship and sisterhood with Nicole.

Over the years, my family would get updates on how you were doing, what was new and what was going on in your life.  Even though Facebook has been the focus of the media for negative uses and development of an anti-social society, Facebook helped us to connect again.  Prior to that, even without direct communication, you were always in my thoughts.  After all, you were very much a part of the Piper household.  I mean even dad remembered your name!

By the time I reached the seventh grade and you in ninth, in the Latrobe Junior High School, I would grin when I saw you in the halls.  You would smile and give me a friendly nod.  Actually, I think it was more of a laugh, I was always so lost, mentally and directionally.  Here I envied you because I thought you were so much more together than I ever was!  Even in junior high it seemed like your life would take a straight path to greatness.  Well, you certainly achieved greatness, in many ways.  But I was wrong, your life took a sudden and fatal sharp turn.


Nicole & Jen graduating from Greater Latrobe High School. Class of ’92! Go Wildcats!

When I joined the colorguard and you were in the band (clarinet), it was nice to know someone among the older strange faces.  You never snubbed me or anything of the sort.  Actually, you looked out for me, and over the years as we both matured, maybe you more than me, I wasn’t just “Nikki’s little sister”, I was your friend too.

When I heard you were going to school to be a doctor I was so excited for you and I remember thinking, “Yes she is one smart cookie who will have no trouble getting through her studies.  She is going to be such a success in life!”  You were always such an intelligent girl, it came so natural to you.  In that respect, I could see why you and Nicole were always such good friends, you challenged each other intellectually.  In my younger days I didn’t appreciate that, but over the years I certainly have.

Jen, you always had such patience.  Every time I asked a stupid question like “How can you be an optometrist and not have perfect vision?”, you would answer me.  Even though we were private messaging each other or communicating digitally, somehow I could see that Jen smirk.  It’s funny, Ryan had the same type of grin.

You may not have realized it at the time, but you were loved!  You had a lot of friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers, neighbors, patients and the list goes on and on, that relied on you in one way or another.  There were so many lives you touched, including mine!  I know my sister looked up to you and was proud to call you a friend, as was I.


Nicole’s birthday at the house. Back of Casey’s head, Mikey, Ryan, Jen, Nicole & Elizabeth. Rest-in-Peace Ryan & Jen, may you both find each other in blue skies.

In a way, I think you found me intriguing with my hyperactive nature and my adventurous and creative spirit.  You seemed to find those qualities later on in life, whereas I discovered them early.  I loved hearing about your skydiving adventures, your running accomplishments and your evenings on your porch with a beer.  You seemed to be enjoying the life you made for yourself.  I was enjoying it with you!

Did I ever mention I loved hearing about your dogs and especially your chickens!  When I heard you were building a chicken coop, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic and pride.  Not because you wanted to have fresh eggs, which I didn’t blame you, but because to me that was a sign of you hanging around my family.  You were always at the house and down my Uncle Walter’s farm.  It was almost like a piece of us up on the ridge was instilled in your very core.  You didn’t know it because I never told you, but to me that was a perfect compliment.  Now I may have been completely off base with my assumption, but I’m holding onto it.


Welcome back class of 1992! Nicole, Jen, Heather, Susan 2012. Go Latrobe Wildcats!

On a side note, I saw that Facebook post you posted about getting locked inside your chicken coop.  I was howling!  That was so terribly funny, I still think about it.  You certainly found complete humor in yourself, which was a great quality to have!

I don’t know if you remember or not when Ryan died?  I bet you do, how can anyone forget that horrible time and grief.  The same grief everyone is feeling today.  Granted that wasn’t Ryan’s choice to leave us, but it doesn’t make any death easy to accept.  I guess that’s why they call it a tragedy.  I’m not sure why someone, including you would make that choice.  Maybe you really wanted to LIVE and wanted true peace.  I’m sure I’m a part of the mix of people you left behind wondering why?  Or what could I have done?  I mean, that’s natural right?  Everyone wants to understand and have a good reason, although in my eyes there wasn’t a good one, however that wasn’t my decision.  It was your unfortunate action that cannot be reversed.  One that I still can’t fathom.

Life will go on.  It always does, but it won’t be as colorful and interesting without you here.  I didn’t find out about your passing until early evening on Wednesday and I had the very same shock and confused feeling as I did when I got the news Ryan passed.  I guess that’s understandable considering you were family.


Jen with a Lobster. This was not my pic, but taken from Jen’s Facebook page. I just loved her in it! Rest-in-Peace Dr. Jennifer (Smith) Galbraith

Jen, I never thought your days would be short.  Of course, when loosing someone, who really thinks that?  I suspect you’ve always struggled internally.  I suppose I kind of knew that, but I never made mention of it.  Perhaps it was because I didn’t understand and I couldn’t identify with it or because I thought at this point in your life  all was good.  Do I get it now?  No!  Not even close!  Especially the way you chose to leave our earthly world.  Why that way?  It was so violent.  You seemed so happy, but I guess even though pictures can say a thousand words, they don’t show the inside, the truth, just the surface.  So I guess pictures can be deceitful lies.  I just don’t understand.  I mean here I am talking about going to the shooting range this past Sunday.  Did I give you the idea?  I hope not!  You grew up in the Piper household, you knew we respected the guns.  Did you forget dad’s rule about never pointing a firearm at another person, even a toy gun?  That includes yourself Jen!

I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a person near or far, friend, foe or even complete stranger that wouldn’t have stopped everything that was going on in his or her life to help you.  You, Jen were an asset to this life!  Did you realize that?  Many knew it, I hope you did too!  I bet everyone is wishing you would have called them.  Nicole would have been at your house in a heartbeat, as would I and many others.  Maybe you didn’t know or maybe you thought you had the perfect answer.  You were very smart throughout your short life and have done things right, this time your judgement was wrong!  If you had to do it again, would you choose the same?

Since you consistently read my blog, I thought it appropriate to give you your very own day, your own story, your ever lasting memorial.  Your words were always so kind and encouraging.  You used to state how much you loved my writing style and how much you loved hearing what I had to say.  I know you were just being nice, but coming from you, that was such a compliment!  You truly loved hearing about my silly and sometimes pointless tales, and a few uncontrollable rants.  Eventually, this post will be buried by life and other stories that always seem to want to exit my brain and travel down through my fingers, to end up in black and white, but like this post, you will always remain.  Remain in the minds and memories of those you knew, and maybe by some you didn’t.  You will never be forgotten!

Jen, I hope you are flying in the beautiful blue skies you were made to, and I hope your soul finds the peace it was seeking.  God bless!

With much love,


Rest-in-Peace and God Speed Dr. Jennifer (Smith) Galbraith!


Huffington Post Article on the Skydiving Accident

Jen worked for Leading Edge Eyecare since 2005.  I took a screen shot of the website.


Here are a few screen shots I took from Jen’s Facebook page to preserve her memory.

Jens Facebook post on the race Aunt Heather Piper

Jen Galbraith Facebook Post about running Aunt Heather Piper

Jen Galbraith Facebook Post Aunt Heather Piper

News of Jens death FB Aunt Heather Piper

Nicoles Facebook Post on Jens Death Aunt Heather Piper

Jen Galbraith Facebook Post from Patty friends Aunt Heather Piper

Friends of Jen FB Aunt Heather Piper

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,News,Reminiscing and have Comments (6)

Rest in Peace Mrs. Castellanni

Kyle with Mrs. Castellanni 2010 - Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle showing off his bowser outfit with Mrs. Castellanni 2010

Today we received a call that Mrs. Castellanni passed away.  She was my cousin’s Chad and Jeremy Piper’s grandma, their mom’s mother.  A close family friend on all sides of the family tree, Mrs. Castellanni was a really sweet and nice lady.  It’s funny if there was one thing I remember about her the most, it would be her cooking.  She was a true artisan with food, solid stick to your ribs food.  She seemed to live a long and full life.








Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family.  God Speed Mrs. Castellani!!

Kyle with Mrs. Castellanni - Aunt Heather Piper

Mrs. Castellanni & Bowser a.k.a. Kyle - Halloween 2010

posted by auntheather in Family,Milestone,News and have No Comments
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