Cover photo for Lynne Justine Mekshes's Obituary
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1953 Lynne Justine Mekshes 2024

Lynne Justine Mekshes

February 18, 1953 — January 9, 2024

Bettendorf

 

           Just like her heroine Cinderella at the ball, Lynne Justine Mekshes did not say “goodbye” when she passed away on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, in the emergency room at St. Mary’s Hospital in Centralia, IL. Shortly before her sudden death at age 70, she had been found unresponsive in her Disney-bedecked room at nearby Bryan Manor, a home for up to 100 souls like herself identified as “developmentally disabled.”

           Not a word was spoken by Lynne, ever. Any potential verbiage was trapped in her brain’s shriveled cortex, a birthright bestowed on Feb. 18, 1953, when she was born in Davenport, Iowa. The tragedy potentially barred the door on family life with parents Paul and Helen and siblings Michael, 9; Sondra, 10, and Carol, 13. Helen’s heart shredded as her mother’s instinct grasped for even small celebrations of progress in her baby and found none.

Early on, doctors recommended Lynne be institutionalized for lifetime care. Paul, who dropped out of eighth grade because his Lithuanian immigrant parents had no money to buy him shoes, agonized over losing Lynne. Cuddling her in his arms, Paul vowed, “She’ll stay home until Christmas!” That post-yule exit never happened. Joyfully welcomed to help avert a looming empty nest down the road, Lynne became a forever child.

Growing up in Bettendorf, Iowa, Lynne attended pioneering special education classes in her hometown and neighboring Davenport and Scott County. She was the belle of the ball at proms, where her dark hair glistened like a stallion and her flawless skin radiated ethereal sparkle in frothy second-hand dresses. She didn’t dance; nor did she “work” at the sheltered workshops she adored, accompanied by her Mickey Mouse lunch box. Even rote tasks eluded her “functioning level of five months” and her “profound range of mental retardation,” documented in voluminous support plans over her lifetime

Despite seemingly insurmountable odds, Lynne exalted in life. “I have a sense of humor and enjoy watching Disney movies, going shopping, and participating in parties,” surmises a statement on “What People Admire about Me” in her recent support plan at Bryan Manor. Those aren’t Lynne’s words of course, but who could doubt them?

Lynne’s family took her everywhere. For years, she was ambulatory and her mother’s zest for travel was infectious. Into middle age, Lynne experienced the good life, usually aboard an Amtrak long-distance train going north, south, east, or west. Thanks to Lynne, she and her mother and sister Carol traveled like potentates in sleeping cars equipped with spacious compartments, including private bathrooms, for the disabled.

In 2001, shortly after 9-11, they boarded the California Zephyr in Chicago and rode the rails on and off for 30 days! In San Francisco, Lynne hopped on and off cable cars with the aplomb of a Flower Child. She dined at Top of the Mark in San Francisco, hobnobbing with locals on a Friday night. She lunched at the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel as stars’ agents sparred over deals. She spent a week at Disneyland in Anaheim. In Las Vegas, singer Wayne Newton left his stage to hug her.

By then, Lynne had been living on South Washington Street in rural Taylorville, IL with her mother in a two-story house adorned by ribbons of iris, brought from Iowa after Paul passed away. Her perch was the stellar front porch. Swaying in the wooden swing, Lynne welcomed the local Breeze-Courier newspaper carrier every afternoon and proceeded to “read” every page from front to back. Her comprehension baffled everyone, including her mother, who guessed Lynne somehow taught herself to recognize certain words along with pictures of friends (and sister Carol, who moved there after marrying into a local family.) Lynne’s mother never learned to drive. The two of them walked everywhere, especially to the town square three blocks away and the nearby McDonald’s, where co-owner Sally K. Davis treated them like VIPs.

            People still reminisce about the mother-daughter outings. Helen striding ahead … Lynne, in her Disney princess togs, shuffling behind. Into her eighties, Helen tucked her beloved daughter into bed every night. Alas, even though Lynne was bereft of what is considered normal and taken for granted, it wasn’t enough as the fates, DNA, nature, or whatever aimed like bandits in the night. Her legs gave out; replaced by wheelchairs. To avoid choking, pureed everything invaded her menu. Her fingers contorted into skeletal angles. She could not even turn the pages of picture albums from her trips or feed herself.

The assaults are listed in raw detail in her health records: Atherosclerosis of arteries of extremities and legs, nail dystrophy, corns and callouses, hyperlipidemia, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, osteoarthritis, alopecia, disorder of bone and cartilage, scoliosis, autism …

Toggling among her passions, Lynne leaves behind a trove of Disney and Roy Rogers videos, a vast clown collection, dozens of hair adornments from shiny crowns to beribboned creations, and a wardrobe of shirts, jackets, and sneakers echoing all things Disney. All are bequeathed to dear friends at Bryan Manor.

There is one trait about “Lynne being Lynne” that is not left behind. Never to be heard again are Lynne’s raucous screams that burst from her tiny frame down through the decades when her facial expressions, her invented sign language, and communication boards failed her.

Lynne’s favorite person in the whole world was her niece April Slattery, who was greeted after birth by 10-year-old Lynne. At a recent reunion in Centralia, Lynne’s eyes welled with tears when April arrived from 1,200 miles away.

“I always felt much love for and from her,” April, who lives in Waltham, MA, said a few days ago. “Now in heaven and free of her disabilities, I love to think of her as happy and joyous with the Lord, singing and running through fields of flowers, free at last.”

            A service for Lynn Justine Mekshes will be held at Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Davenport, Iowa when weather permits.  She will be buried beside her parents.

 
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Lynne Justine Mekshes, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Gathering

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Starts at 11:30 am (Central time)

McGinnis-Chambers Funeral Home

644 River Drive, Bettendorf, IA 52722

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