ST. PETERSBURG — She was the June Cleaver of mothers — with more spunk.
Doris Eileen Hissong's family ate dinner together every evening. She made their clothes. Darned their socks. Upholstered furniture. Cooked and cleaned.
Always, she was there for her family. On Jan. 24, they were there for her, at her bedside when she died in St. Petersburg at the Masonic Home of Florida. She was 87.
Mrs. Hissong was born in West Milton, Ohio. It's where she met her future husband, Donald. She was 13 and he was 16. Eight years later, they married on Christmas Eve. He died months short of their 65th anniversary three years ago.
Her parents had a good marriage, daughter Teresa "Terry" Salazar said.
"My mom, every afternoon before my dad would come home from work, she would comb her hair and put on lipstick. That was her job. She took pride in it. She was a wife, a mother and a grandmother. She was a tremendous friend," said Salazar, 63, who lives in Orlando.
Her mother was also multitalented, she said.
"When I was a girl, the first grownup doll came out, and they called it a Revlon doll. It was pre-Barbie. My mom made a full outfit for this doll. She had a wedding gown and formal dress. She had a (night) gown and robe with lace, a cape and skirt. For a young girl back then, it was a dream come true," Salazar said.
When Mrs. Hissong's only grandchild was born, she made the complete layette. And when that granddaughter, Alicia Wilkes Culp, made the University of Florida's homecoming court, it was Mrs. Hissong who sewed her shimmering, sequin-laden gown.
"I truly only have happy memories and just filled with love," said Culp, 38, recalling a grandmother who did handstands in the pool.
"My mom always said she was my play grandma. Pretty much every summer I would spend time with her at the pool in St. Petersburg. We always just swam and played. She always smelled good. Always perfume and lipstick and full of life."
"She understood everything about being a grandparent," Salazar agreed.
"It was never material with either my mom or dad. It was time, it was love, it was mentoring."
Robert "Bob" Hissong, 62, remembers his mother's concern when he was sent to Vietnam.
"We were very close. I know it scared the heck out of her. I got wounded the day before her birthday," said Hissong, a retired postal worker who lives in New Port Richey.
It was Mrs. Hissong's second distressing war experience. Her husband fought in World War II. It was the only time she worked outside the home. She made gliders for the war effort.
"She was so short, they put her in the tail section," her son said.
"She could have gone out and worked, but she stayed home and took care of the two kids. When I was in the seventh grade, she made a complete corduroy suit, black, with a red vest. That was for my first school dance," he said.
"Mom was the classic 1950s housewife. She was always there for us. We always knew there was going to be dinner. We always knew we were going to eat together. Dad came home about 5:15 every day. We knew to be home right about that time."
Despite her '50s TV-mom persona, Mrs. Hissong was not bland. She had strong values, kept up with current events and voiced her opinions, her family said.
"My mom was a lifelong Democrat. She believed in fairness and equality," Salazar said.
Toward the end of her life, Mrs. Hissong was diagnosed with dementia, but her tight-knit family said she still knew them. Relatives remained at her bedside during her final days.
"We stayed not out of obligation, but out of love," Salazar said.
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283.