It’s called the “widowhood effect”. All over the world, studies have shown that mortality rates rise after the death of a beloved spouse. Only in this case, it did not happen across the globe. It happened in my very town and in my very own heart space. It happened to my mother.
Reina Waybright Jordan followed her husband beyond life October 26, 2020 in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Her heart stopped 1 year, 1 week, and thirteen minutes after the man whose heart had beaten for hers for over forty years.
It was an untraditional love story, the type most parents warn their children to stay away from. You see, as a young college student in Missoula, Montana, Reina had fallen for a college professor nearly thirty years her senior. After earning a C in his class, Reina also earned a partner in life and in love.
Reina Waybright Jordan was born April 28, 1952 to James and Pearl Waybright. She grew up in Wessington Springs, South Dakota, the eldest daughter of a hog farmer blessed with five daughters. Reina was a lifeguard during a time when the local pool was just a pond and she delivered burgers and fries on roller skates at the Round Up Drive-in.
She worked as a speech pathologist on the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation in Sisseton, South Dakota and as a juvenile probation officer in Billings, Montana after attending Black Hills State University, South Dakota State University, and the University of Montana. Ultimately, she traded in her career-life for the opportunity to raise her two children with her husband in Ninemile Valley and Frenchtown, Montana.
Mrs. Jordan was a woman who loved to talk, a collector of people. Speaking English was not a prerequisite for her friendship although she knew no other languages. She always bought cucumbers from the same family at the Missoula farmers’ market whether she needed them or not and she spent more time chatting than eating at the local China Buffet because the connections and relationships she made there were supremely important. She forged and valued relationships with her hairdresser (Debbie), the staff of the local pharmacy, and anyone at Costco willing to stop and socialize. She once flew over 2,000 miles to Fairbanks, Alaska in order to witness the birth of her first grandchild, and walked into a restaurant where the owners greeted her at the door with a hug because they had already become fast friends on the plane.
At home, Reina prided herself on being the “Mrs. Brady” of moms. Neighborhood children knew they could enter her house without knocking to a smiling face, snacks, and any meal of the day. She was the PTA president and volunteered in countless elementary school classrooms in Frenchtown, Montana. Later, with her grandchildren, she was known for carrying ginger candy in her purse and doling out tight hugs and sloppy kisses which she would self-narrate with a loud “Mwah”!
Reina laughed loudly, loved her soup hotter than was really palatable, and bought more boxes of tea than she could drink in a lifetime. She often brewed her tea in coffee instead of water and was increasingly proud of these crazy flavor-concoctions that she could describe at great length. She pickled green beans every year in mass quantities, was a master pie-baker, stuffed her pockets with tissues and napkins, and cooked enough food for a small army every night despite having only a family of four. She was the type of woman who shared her opinions adamantly, never threw away a jar, and reused ziploc bags and paper towels.
Despite the age difference, Mrs. Jordan was always more adult than her husband. She attempted to keep him in line and out of trouble but was not above sticking out her tongue at him when provoked. She proposed to him at least four times before he finally broke down and married her. He was afraid that he would rob her of her youth. In a sense, he did...because she joked that he required just as much mothering as their children did. She was known for throwing away articles of her husband’s clothing that she did not like, but, in her defense, he was known for wearing short-shorts in public with long wool socks and leopard print Speedos to the swimming hole. Together, they canoed through Canada, settled without power or water on 82 acres of mountain land in Montana, and married in a meadow dressed in denim.
Reina Waybright Jordan is survived by two children: Joshua Jordan of Missoula, MT and Kendra Apodaca (husband Randy Apodaca) of Alamogordo, NM; younger sisters: Debra Puffer of Hitchcock, SD, Shary Muchow of Hartford, SD, and Madonna Graanstra of Sioux Falls, SD; three well-kissed grandchildren: Serena, Jolene, and Corbin Apodaca of Alamogordo, NM; dear friends Mike and Jo Jakupcak of Missoula, MT and Lowell and Ruth Luke of Helena, MT; and many nieces, nephews, neighbors and countless friends. A special thank you to the caretakers and staff at the Aristocrat in Alamogordo, NM and to the medical professionals at the emergency room who tried to convince a heart to keep beating when it was being called elsewhere.
She was preceded in death by her parents, James and Pearl Waybright; her younger sister, Mary Waybright; a multitude of furry animal companions both feline and canine; and last, but certainly not least, her husband and partner-in-crime, Dr. Evan Paul Jordan (whose obituary can be found at www.alamogordofuneralhome.org. How very much like him to attempt to get the last word in her obituary!
The Jordan family has entrusted their loved one to the care of Alamogordo Funeral Home.
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