Mary Denise Godfrey, avid quilter, mystery and science fiction enthusiast, loving mother, and devoted friend, passed away Thursday, May 11, 2017 at the age of 69 in Topeka, Kansas.
Denise was born on January 15, 1948 in sunny Barstow, California. She was the youngest of seven children produced through the loving marriage of Harry V. Gill and Mildred (Gallison) Gill. Being the youngest of seven Denise gained valuable knowledge from her older siblings. Through the tutelage of her older brothers Harry and David she was shown how to thwart the advancement of unruly boys by directing a swift knee to their gonads; unfortunately for her brother David, the technique was mastered at his expense. Her sisters Betty, Rosie, and Jane provided her with the essential tools for becoming a strong young woman in a culturally emerging America. While Betty provided a paramount example of what mental health issues to look out for later in life, Jane and Rosie showed her how to love life and most importantly keep a husband in line by whacking him in the head with a cast iron pan; Moe was a new man after that incident. Two and one half years of age separated Mary Denise and Mary Tressa. Her closest sister, Tressa and Denise took on the world together: they chased boys, learned to dance, raised family’s, got married then divorced (more than once), suffered loss, and took in lost children. There are without a doubt more esteemed examples of how her siblings had a positive impact on her life, nevertheless, Denise had a fantastic sense of humor and often laughed about the aforementioned examples. Family was the most important aspect of life for Denise. She stayed in contact with all of her siblings and close nieces and nephews her entire life. Though at times separated in life and death, Denise and her siblings were and will always be with each other in heart and soul.
The persistent motivation supplied by Mildred Gill helped elevate Harry V. Gill to respectable success in the railroad industry. Her father’s career with Santa Fe took Denise from the sunny west coast, where he was one of the two first men to operate and maintain a diesel locomotive, to the cold but sometimes warm heartland of the country, Topeka, Kansas, where he served as works manager for the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway and on the city council. It was there in Topeka where Denise grew into a vibrant adult. She graduated from Hayden High School in 1966. Knowing that college wasn’t necessarily her thing she worked some odd jobs and shortly thereafter met her first husband. Having married a military man, she traveled around a bit and had her first child, Ann Marie Godfrey in the great state of North Carolina. Seeing as though her husband was not so husbandly they were soon divorced. After a brief celebratory vacation in the beautiful country of Mexico, she and her little girl migrated back to the wonderful world of Oz.
Denise settled back into the daily grind and discovered a professional environment in Topeka that welcomed women to the workforce. She found a home in the company that was then called Security Benefit Life (SBL). She worked for many years at SBL as a clerk and even excelled in a COBOL programming class as the company was progressing technologically; nonetheless, she knew computer work was not truly in her wheel house and she opted to maintain a career that afforded more human interaction. More importantly, she met her two lifelong best friends Pat Olmsted and Tina Fritch at SBL. The Olmsted and Fritch families quickly became part of the Godfrey family and shared countless life adventures.
It was not long before the relentless thunderbolt of life touched the shoulder of Denise and took her mother. She and little Annie moved in with her father to help ease his grief and bring a little joy into each of their lives. Soon after she met another guy and had another child, a boy. Being the selfless person that she was and possessing what some may refer to as a mother’s intuition, she allowed little Annie to name her new brother: Andrew David Godfrey. She decided it was best to keep the Godfrey name so that the three of them could begin life on a united front, mother’s intuition.
With the new guy effectively never in the picture Harry, Denise, and raggedy Ann and Andy lived blissfully together for a number of years before life again intervened and took Harry away. With a little encouragement from her sisters Betty and Tressa she packed up her two kids and moved to sunny Florida to be closer to family. While in Florida she worked as a clerk at the doctor’s office of her niece, Teresa, and Teresa’s husband, Dr. Bruce Brunson. She took advantage of her time in Orlando and frequently enjoyed trips with her kids to the wonderful world of Disney and the area beaches. She also enjoyed visiting her sister, Tressa, and Tressa’s children in Ft. Lauderdale.
Despite the sunny weather, proximity to picturesque beaches, Disney, and close family, Denise realized that Florida was not be the best place for her to raise two children while being a working single mother. With a little help from her extended family, Pat and Tina, she packed up shop and ventured back to good old Topeka, Kansas. Along for the ride was the son of a friend in Florida who Denise brought back to live with her and her two kids for a year to help her friend and her son make life transitions of their own. In Topeka for good this time, Denise worked for a handful of companies that moved in and out of town before she gained long term employment at Health Management Strategies (HMS). Thinking that having a man around to help raise a young boy and teenage daughter might be a positive influence, she began dating an acquaintance from high school. Though they were married for a number of years, they were soon divorced. Perhaps it was because she couldn’t intentionally harm anyone and only saw the good in people; she never tried the cast iron pan technique that Rosie taught her. Though the man was no good she did gain more extended family in the kind and loving Rodriguez household; Denise always found positive outcomes in the direst of moments. Moreover, she happily moved on, remaining a strong single mother for the rest of her life.
Given to fly, Denise wisely decided to retire early from HMS. During retirement, she visited friends and family across the country. She readily consumed any mystery or science fiction novel that piqued her interest. Having had a lifelong passion for art and quilting, her house and others, were quickly filled with material and quilts for all. She dedicated much of herself to caring for friends and family in need, aiding them through some of their most difficult times. During the holidays she and her good friend would drive around town to find people who may need a leg up and would give them wonderful Christmas cards. What she enjoyed most was spending time with and making quilts for her grandchildren Jordan and Griffin Cox and her darling great grandchildren Kayden and Luna Sharma.
Denise did not live a perfect life, and as with all people, she was not a perfect person. She was a beautiful, selfless person who saw only the good in people, one who always put the needs of others before hers, a dedicated mother, grandmother, and friend. She was one who lived a good life. Though she was preceded in death by both biological and adopted family, thus is in good company, she will long live here on earth in the hearts and minds of those she touched. If you have read this far then know that she loved you too and would want nothing more than for you to continue living a good life.
"We’re all stories, in the end… just make it a good one, eh?” - Eleventh Doctor
Family and friends are welcome to gather at 4846 SW 19th St Topeka, Ks 66604 from 2:00pm central time to 4:00pm central time on Sunday, June 11th 2017 to tell stories have cookies and remember Denise. There will not be a formal service as Denise did not wish to have one.
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