Mildred Ann McCoy Caldwell was gracefully called home to her Father in Heaven on May 25, 2021. She was born on Sept. 12, 1932 to John and Julie McCoy of Eden Valley, Minnesota. Her formative years were on a rural farm with Richard and Donald, her younger brothers. They, and their distant spread out neighbors, were educated in a one-room schoolhouse.
The daily chores on the farm, coupled with the long cold winters, instilled a desire in Millie to set her sight on something other than farm life for her. After high school, she went to the Twin Cities for a job. That’s where she met Robert Caldwell, a young Air Force serviceman from southern California. They were married in 1952 and moved to Kansas for two more years of military service.
Their firstborn, Michael Lee, was born 53 years to the day after her mother’s birth on April 20, 1900. That is when a life devoted to motherhood began. Military life didn’t interest the young couple, so after two years in Kansas, and the birth of John James late in November 1954, a move to sunny California was a welcome transition.
While Bob was getting an education of higher learning at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Millie was starting to adjust to life as a wife and mother of two very young boys. It’s a blessing the maternal instincts were in harmony with her life’s journey because, by the summer of ’55, Millie knew there would be an addition to the family. Son #3, Daniel, was born that winter.
So now, with a family of five, the financial situation would take precedence over Bob’s education, and he was able to land a job with an aerospace company near Sacramento. They moved into the hills near Placerville in November 1956 and, before they would celebrate the New Year, they welcomed their fourth son, Kenneth, into the world. Millie had become the stereotyped barefoot and pregnant wife.
The commute to work in winter was difficult and forced a move out of the mountains to the outskirts of Carmichael where they had pasture area for the first of many thoroughbreds they would own, breed and race. But, by this time, Millie doesn’t know if the moves around the country precede the next birth or vice versa. Regardless, she was pleasantly pleased with the arrival, finally, of a baby girl, Cheryl, early in 1959. Finally, she was able to dote on the daughter she had started to hope and pray for.
Now the family of seven needed a larger home and Bob (Dad) needed more pastures to raise and board more horses, so she packed it all up again and they moved to the Lone Pine Ranch in Florin. It almost felt like home for there was a small dairy/hog farm at the next fence line.
By this time, she has school age children and young ones at home to care for when financial matters dictate a shift in direction for her journey in life. It was time to join the other workingwomen of America, but there would be an interruption to the process of change. Not long after Independence Day in 1960, Millie, Bob, the doctor and nurses were surprised when there were two deliveries that day – twin boys – Richard and Robert.
Well, not long after that, the family was on the move again. They had a home built in Herald to their specifications and large enough for a family of nine. In five years’ time, all the kids were in school and Millie had settled into a secretarial position with the Department of Motor Vehicles. One of her fond memories from the ‘60s was seeing all seven kids lined up, by youngest first to Mike in the back, waiting in the driveway for the school bus to stop for them.
She endured much in those early years but remained resolute in her faith and determination to raise her children with the same morals and values. A span of about 15 busy, stressful years were required to shuttle the kids to and from catechism and athletic practices and games throughout the seasons. She offered encouragement and was always supportive. So, year after year, Millie commuted to downtown Sacramento five mornings a week, only to come home to gather up the participants or watch the weeknight games, before preparing the family dinner. There were no fast food places at that time.
Her weekends at home were much the same, except now the household chores and laundry for nine needed attention and the grocery shopping had to be done.
Millie didn’t seek fancy or far-flung vacations; she settled for a few memorable road trips to Minnesota or Long Beach, Calif., to visit relatives. And she was always willing to spend summer holidays at local lakes, despite not having the ability to swim. Those long distance trips with nine occupants in a vehicle were always a cramped adventure.
Mille did her best with what she had monetarily, but that entailed many hours on the sewing machine making clothes from patterns, canning pickles, fruit jams, or acquiring new skills to create various crafts she sold over the years. For many years, it was the typical small town American activity.
Millie would experience great joy with Mike’s marriage, but then suffer immeasurable heartache when she had to lay her firstborn son to rest at the age of 26. But she did not fall apart; she was strong, supportive and stoic for the others in the family.
Many years later, she would suffer a personal setback that she accepted and moved on from, albeit not as active. She gave up driving then and said that was the worst outcome – losing the freedom to drive herself around. By then, she was retired and her family tree had branched out with six grandsons and one granddaughter. She babysat them all many times and never tired of their company.
Of course, she had already created a special afghan blanket for each of them with her fast-flowing crochet hooks. She didn’t stop there; with the arrival of each great-grandchild, a special afghan blanket would soon follow. There were booties, beanies and mittens in some of those deliveries. She made many similar sets for the church’s needs.
Millie would not have considered herself an artist, although all of her crafts and crocheted gifts took talent, creativity, dexterity and patience for their existence.
Creating and giving those personal gifts must be where she found her calm in the storm. Coincidentally, it was calm and peaceful in Millie’s presence in a personal setting or gathering of friends and family. Everyone that knew her felt her love and concern for their well-being.
If it appears through these words that Millie raised the children by herself, for the most part, she did. A quiet, gentle, young lady took on the world and motherhood with determination to do God’s will. She adapted to every situation encountered and, instead of complaining and giving up, she became a self-confident woman with a virtuous character. In retrospect, it is obvious that Millie gave her all to her children with little regard for her personal desires in life.
Millie’s spiritual journey included her baptism, penance, the Eucharist – Holy Communion, Confirmation and Marriage, all sacraments in the Catholic Church. The culmination of those covenants was her very personal sacrifice and sacramental act of motherhood.
Whether you knew her as Millie, mom, grandma, great-grandma or as a friend, to all, she will be missed, loved and remembered by those who knew her love. We know God has blessed her soul, but offer our prayers for her reposal in heaven.
Thank you for your prayers and love for her.