Linda Zemke has begrudgingly moved on after 76 years on this earth, but not without a fight. For 39 years she had fought back against 6 bouts of breast cancer. Pancreatic Cancer claimed her life. But what a life!
She earned 3 master’s degrees (Education, Special Education, & Speech Pathology) by her 30’s. She was a Special Ed teacher, a school Principal, and the Director of Pupil Placement for the state of Maryland. She met her husband Larry in her 36th year and they were married in 1984.
She worked in Verizon until 2001 retiring as a Product Manager for what was to become interactive internet communications. With work behind her she continued to travel the world both on land and under the sea. She picked places to see that are fast disappearing in places like the Tibetan trail in Nepal, the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, Alaska, the 4 Corners area of western America, the great barrier reef, and the jungles of South and Central America where she caught a Piranha while canoeing on the Amazon River.
She was Chairperson of the Louisa County Relay for Life sponsored by the American Cancer Society and in 2 of the 3 years she was chair, Louisa won national recognition for effort and contributions to the fight against Cancer.
Closer to home, she was a member of the Belmont Club of Women and an avid exerciser with “Tammy”. Her friends and family knew her as a certified master gardener, master naturalist, diver, lover of trees and all the animals that came to eat her flowers. She fed birds, squirrels, raccoons, deer, and hummingbirds. She delighted in seeing or hearing them.
She taught her children and grandchildren about determination, tenacity, thinking outside of the box, and that Life & Love are worth fighting for. She was a lifetime learner and sought knowledge from all she came to know and often challenged those she disagreed with. She favored dialog rather than invective.
Her family and friends said goodbye to her. Her husband Larry (who like a bull in a China shop, cleared obstacles to make her path easier), son Dr. Jon Zemke (who clothed her in his US Marine colors as a final farewell), daughter Jen (who was a near constant figure in her last days and weeks), Molly Zemke (whose healing touch soothed her pains, and provided comfort), and grandchildren Lexy and Anna Zemke, Kaitlynn Walsh, Gianluca and Nicolo Candela (who sacrificed their time to honor her and be with her towards the end). She also leaves behind her mother Cecilia Cole, and sister Joy Piper, and brothers Bert and Charlie Cole who made the effort to travel to visit her a delight and an honor.
Thanks to Hospice, especially Nurse/friend Chantel Holly who provided significant expertise and especially loving care for Linda at home in her final weeks. The family is forever grateful.
Linda leaves, as we all must. She will be missed for her wisdom, experience, and humor. Especially her famous expression “THAT’S IT” (heard when the family ruckus had surpassed her tolerance level).