Sunday, November 10, 2013

In Loving Memory-Great Grandma Vivian

Vivian King Gutzman
December 18, 1922-November 1, 2013
My Grandpa's widow, who my children knew as their Great Grandma, recently passed away. My maternal Grandmother passed away when I was 12, and my Grandpa married Vivian when I was 13. They spent their golden years mostly in Texas and traveling around, so I didn't get to know Vivian very well until more than a decade later, when she and my Grandpa came to live with my mom after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

This tiny, fierce, Southern Belle with a stubborn side clearly loved my Grandfather dearly, and was devastated to lose him. She had already survived many losses in her life, including two previous husbands and a son, her only child. After my Grandpa's death, Vivian returned home to Texas with the knowledge that, as he had requested, my mother had promised my Grandpa that she would take care of Vivian.

A few years ago, my mother brought her back to Wisconsin in order to fulfill her promise. Since that time, Vivian was a fixture in our family. She loved sharing in our family events, holidays, weddings, and the births of her Great Grandchildren. She worked hard to restore her speech and her memory when strokes threatened to take both away. She loved creating and crocheted herself a hat and scarf to match just about every outfit she owned. She styled her hair and applied her makeup meticulously, always wanting to look her best. She lived independently, strongly resisting any suggestions at transitioning to assisted living, even as her personal and medical needs increased.

Vivian loved our whole family, and was especially delighted with the babies, Delilah, my niece Harper, and Canon. She took every opportunity to tell us all that we were wonderful, to thank us for our place in her life, and to tell us that she loves us.

Vivian with Canon

Vivian with Delilah

Vivian with Harper

She often worried about being a bother or having people make a fuss over her. She'd made all of the arrangements for her passing in advance, and was adamant that she wanted no service, no visitation, no fuss at all over her passing. I was honored when my mother asked if I'd write up something resembling an obituary for her, but not a traditional obituary, as she hadn't wanted that. No 'preceded in death by', no 'survived by', just a little something to let those who knew her know that she was gone, and something that maybe, someday, an ancestor might find to get to know a little piece of who she was.

Here's the obituary as originally written:

Vivian King Gutzman peacefully passed from her earthly life on Friday, November 1, 2013. She was born in Houston Texas on December 18, 1922, though if you asked her, she’d insist that her birth certificate was wrong and she was actually born a year later. She lived her life to the fullest throughout all ninety of her years; a “career woman” born before her time. From owning her own dance studio in Texas to her national reputation as a makeup artist, Vivian both taught and embodied beauty and grace. Vivian loved birds, flowers, and snappy outfits. Though her heart was in Texas, she spent her final years in Wisconsin, celebrated as a beloved Grandmother and Great-Grandmother, enjoying the tiniest of meals accompanied by the largest glasses of wine. 

Throughout her full life, Vivian loved and lost deeply, and found great joy in her family, her crafting, and her knack for finding beauty in every day. Vivian was fiercely independent until the very end, and will be remembered fondly by all who knew and loved her. Per her wishes, no visitation or service will be held, and she will be returned home to Texas to rest peacefully.  

I had the opportunity to say Goodbye to Vivian before she passed. I thanked her for loving my family, for being a wonderful Grandma and Great Grandma, and for being a part of our lives. I told her I'd kiss my babies for her, and asked her to give my Grandpa a hug and tell him all about his Great-Grandbabies.

I don't know what happens when we die. I'm at peace with not knowing. Still, I'd like to think that we are, in some way, reunited with those we love that have passed before us, even if just by becoming part of the same earth. I'd like to think that she's with my Grandpa, snuggled up by his side and telling him stories of  family, of fun, and of love.

Rest well Grandma Vivian. You will not be forgotten.

All photos by Bella Photography by Nicole Aarstad


  1. Hi! My name's Meredith. I stumbled upon this during some shot-in-the-dark Googling. I'm working on a PhD dissertation on women who owned businesses in Houston from 1945-1977. I found Vivian King in the Houston Chronicle as a dance studio owner, which brought me here. I would love to hear more about her, if you have any more information about her time as a business owner. I'd really like to feature her story in the dissertation (which will hopefully be a book someday).
    If you would like to communicate further, you can contact me at
    -Meredith May
    PhD Candidate, Texas Christian University

    1. I took dance for 10 years with her I loved that lady I took ballet , tap, baton acrobatics at the Palm center location I was in every thanksgiving parade for ten years got to ride in her Cadillac when I was little tired from marching my mom took dance with her also

  2. I also took dance from her in Houston in 1953-54. Always wondered what happened to her. I always thought she was so beautiful and she was always fun. RIP

  3. I just stumbled across this today always wondered about Mrs King as I called her. I took ballet ,tap, jazz and twirling. I still have recital programs from 1967 and 1968. I also walked in the Houston Thanksgiving parades. She also had me in the Little Miss Houston pagent, all at Palm center. May she Rip


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