Monday, June 15, 2015

Remembering Demita Usher

Demita Usher, aka "Brown Betty"

This is the hardest blog post I have ever written. I lost a wonderful friend over the past weekend. Demita Usher died of congestive heart failure. She had not been ill. A blood clot was the culprit. My husband and I knew exactly what was going on when I received a text from Demita, apologizing and explaining why she would not be able to teach a class with me the next day. 

She sent a text that she didn't have the energy to walk to and from another room in her apartment, and she was having problems breathing. She texted that her brother was going to take her to the ER when he got off work. I texted back that it could be her heart. She needed to go to the hospital immediately. 
I didn't like to continually email and text, but Demita did. I would rather talk on the phone. But then again, we would be on for hours, so emailing and texting it was!

I called Cliff. He and I both suspected congestive heart failure as his mother had been hospitalized for it in March of 2013, just prior to me being hospitalized for heading into congestive heart failure in May of 2013. My 98 year old mother in-law lived for another year and 9 months.  I am still here. I was 10 to 15 years older than Demita, and as healthy as she was otherwise, she should still be here too. I am emotionally devastated. 
I have no idea what we were discussing in that etiquette class training session, but her smile is what I will miss the most.
We kept exchanging texts. Her brother hadn't taken her yet. I wish I had called her, or 911, for her. I regret not doing that.  The last texts I received from her was that she had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and "I'll keep you posted." The last text was at 11:40 p.m. She died a few hours later.  


The Demita I knew was always healthy, happy and enthusiastic about what we did together. She helped take care of me while I recovered through the spring, summer and fall of 2013. She would come and stay for days at a time, helping out when Cliff wasn't here and walking the dog for me. She was here for us each subsequent time I was hospitalized over the last 2 years. She took over my classes when I couldn't teach them and I told her I wanted to eventually turn my business over to her. 
Demita took pleasure in teaching etiquette, as much as I do, if not more.

When she was passionate about something, Demita committed 200% to whatever it was; teaching etiquette, writing, history, vintage clothing, racial issues... She was committed to our friendship and I appreciated her more than she will ever know.
Demita wrote for several online publications, many times as "Brown Betty"
In May of 2011, I had my first conversation with Demita. She had called about my Etiquette Instructor training program. We spoke for 3 hours over the phone. I came downstairs where my husband and son had stopped waiting for me to watch a movie with them. "You were on a business call for 3 hours?"I was excited... "I know! I just had the most incredible conversation with someone who feels exactly the same way I do about etiquette! It was like talking to a twin or something!"
 
Demita once told me early on in our friendship, that she had very few photos of herself when she was younger. So I went to work sleuthing and found two high school photos of her. She was as shocked as she was pleased.

Demita was up for anything and let nothing hold her back. She wrote continually, and researched historical etiquette works probably as much as me, always asking for tips. Before we met, she once flew to London to take hat-making classes with the former milliner to the late-Queen Mum and royal family.  

Practicing her royal wave? Demita with a fellow contestant when she became the 2007 Ms. California

She had entered the "Queen of Queens" pageant and was the 2007 Ms. California. She was interested in mentoring younger pageant contestants. 
Much of my family is stunned and saddened by her death as well.  Here she is with my brother in-law Vince, my sister Barbara and me at CSUF's wine event/fund-raiser in August 2013. Cliff was taking the photo.
She guest blogged for me, even though I continued to prompt her to "keep digging for more information." She volunteered for anyone that needed her. I was continually getting photos texted to me of herself at different events.

Don't let that glamour fool you... I discovered Demita was a "secret nerd"when she bought a "Captain Kirk vs Captain Picard" t-shirt. She said it was for a "friend," but after she started "covering" and writing columns about Cosplay, I told her I had figured out her secret. She simply turned to me and beamed!

Demita and I swapped books and videos continually. I still have one of her favorites with me. It's titled "Forgotten Elegance: The Art, Artifacts, and Peculiar History of Victorian and Edwardian Entertaining in America" By the books she enjoyed the most, I always felt Demita was born too late, as if she belonged in another era. Now I know, she is gone much too soon.
Rest in peace, my dear friend. You will never be forgotten by those whose lives you touched!





8 comments:

  1. My heart goes out to you Maura. Your blog was beautiful and very touching. I know how much you loved her. My prayers are with you...

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  2. Maura,

    This is a very nice tribute to Demita. It sounds like she was a wonderful lady and a great friend.

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  3. I'm so sorry to hear of Demita's passing. Such a shock! I know how close the two of you were, and what a true friend she was to you. Your blog is a beautiful tribute to her and the friendship you shared. My heart goes out to you and her family and friends as you try to cope with such a sudden and unimaginable loss.

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  4. A tremendous loss! Our prayers go out to her friends and family.

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  5. Goodbye, gracious lady. You won't be forgotten.

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  6. Thank you for this beautiful tribute. We all miss her so! Sonora "Thea".

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  7. Thank you for this beautiful tribute. We all miss her so! Sonora "Thea".

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  8. Thank you for this beautiful tribute. We all miss her so! Sonora "Thea".

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