My mother, Natalie Jeanne Price Bock, was born on December 12, 1914 in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. Her father learned his trade of cook and restaurant manager at the Spruce Cabin Inn. When that establishment burned down for the final time, he started his own restaurant.
Things went well and he moved the family to Philadelphia to open a restaurant there. Things continued to go well. They bought a house and planned to send my mother and her three siblings to college. Then the Great Depression hit.
They lost the restaurant and the life they had. The most important impact on my mother was that her college plans were abandoned and she had to go to work. That’s where she taught herself a Lesson on Doing Good Work that she would later share.
She met my father when he was a young seminary student and her Sunday School teacher. They got married in 1941 and went off to serve their first parish in a small, rural community. Life had not prepared her for what she found there, but she dug in and made it work, savored the pleasures, and collected memories.
She also started writing about the place. Sixty years later, a woman in Phoenix would hand me a photocopy of one of my mother’s articles from that time. Later in her life she would work her way into a copywriting job by rewriting (she called it “improving”) copy that the agency had hired her to type.
She was not the typical pastor’s wife, but she supported my father in every church they served. She always called them “our parish.” But she wore pants, refused to automatically become the head of the Ladies’ Aid, and insisted on having her own opinions. Church councils often complained to my father but he supported her even when it made things harder for him.
She also refused to let people address her as “Mrs. Walter Bock.” “My name is not ‘Walter,'” she would say, “and I am not an appendage of my husband.” In all things she was Natalie Price Bock.
I learned a lot by paying attention to the way my mother did things. That includes most of the things I know about good supervision, including how to give feedback effectively. She taught me about the nobility of work and that you can adapt to the world and be successful without compromising your principles or who you are.
Those were powerful lessons, but nothing like what she taught me with the way she dealt with her cancer. “Cancer’s going to kill me,” she said, “But it’s not going to beat me.” It didn’t.