Mary Ione French was born on November 5, 1929, to Robert James (RJ) French and Ruby Opal Munson French on the family farm near Boise City, OK. The city limits were on the other side ofthe road, but they were allowed a lifestyle of raising animals and tending gardens, orchards, and grain crops. Mary was quickly named Cukie for her love of fresh cucumbers from the garden, a joy she shared throughout her life, and family and friends forever knew her by that name.
Cukie joined her older brother and sister, Hugh Monford and Ruby Alice, with her littlesister Barbara Laine completing the family unit. Cukie was born at the beginning of the depression and the growing drought and dust storms.She related tales of the first black storm that blew in on a Sunday while her parents were away at a funeral. There were stories of the men who would come to their home from the railroad tracks just west of their farm.
Her mother always made them a sandwich and gave them a glass of milk from the dairy cow. Although the times were hard and seemed to have no end to the deprivation, Cukie did not speak of that as a period of neglect or loss. All people in the area were in the same circumstances and the loads were shared. With the gardens and orchards to feed them, her parents shared their bounty with all. Chickens, turkeys, and pigs, fresh eggs and milk would even help bring in some money to provide for the extras. Her childhood was a happy one with a large extended family and many close friends.
Her parents made the decision to have the younger children attend the Mount Carmel Academy in Wichita, Kansas, while her brother Hugh was fighting in Europe during World War II. Ruby Alice (Boo), Cukie, and Barbara were transferred there for part of their grade school and high school education. Boo and Cukie graduated at Mount Carmel with Barbara returning to Boise City to complete her education. Cukie then attended college at Loretto Heights College in Denver, Colorado. Though her plans were to become a dietician, she left school after two years to accept the proposal of marriage from her long-distance sweetheart, Donald Max Fowler of Boise City. They were wed on August 21, 1949, and began growing their family. Nancy Lark was born in Guymon, OK in 1951 and the small family moved into a new home on Freeman Street in Boise City. Robbie Don, 1953, Heather Ann, 1956, and Shelley Beth, 1958, completed their seating at the dining table. Cukie was an easy mother, or at least made it seem so, and the family was built around much love for each other. Cukie and Max shared their love for God and their faith in Jesus Christ from an early age, taking them to Sunday School and church at St Paul’s Methodist Church.
Cukie was blessed with a beautiful soprano voice. She shared her talents from an early age, continuing to train through her college years. She participated in choirs and groups that would entertain in the Denver area and at the prison in Central City. After marrying, she was happy to join in the choir at church and to perform for many local weddings and funerals in duets and quartets. The Easter Pageant at Kenton, OK., was an annual event that the family enjoyed participating in with Max and the children on the hillside, and Cukie in the choir. Her church was her place of love and worship, and when the years prevented her from attending, she was heartbroken.
In 1969, Max was injured in an accident that changed his life and the life of the family forever. Cukie cared for him at home, and when he had to be admitted to the nursing home in Boise City, she began working there as an aide.
In 1978, Cukie married Dr. Paul Cutter from Goodwell, OK. As the wife of a college professor at Panhandle State University, she made many friends with other faculty wives and students. Paul had a good heart and helped many of the foreign students when they had difficulties, and Cukie was there at his side. They farmed land in Hugoton, KS in the summers, and Cukie made a home out of a small three room building. They were busy and happy years for them both.
Cukie made lasting friendships with many people from each stage of her life. She always had a smile on her face and was ready to listen to others. Life presented challenges that would have brought many to their knees, but she leaned on the love of God and her family to conquer them all. She remained thankful for her life and her many friends. She had extended friendships with the Fowler and Cutter families.
Cukie was one of fourteen first cousins in the extended French family. She was the only survivor and felt such an aching loss for her siblings and family. Her final years saw her surrender of mobility and independence, yet she still had a smile for everyone who visited her. She was able to see her first great-great grandchild and to have her children within close distance. Her son, Robbie, cared for her at her home on Freeman Street in Boise City, OK. She never missed the opportunity to say ‘thank you’ for any small thing done for her, and her first question was always about how you were doing.
Our kind, loving, gracious mother took her last breath on January 20, 2022, at 8pm with her children surrounding her in her home. Her faith gave her the hope of Jesus Christ, her Lord and Savior, and a new life in his presence following her last breath on this earth. It is a comfort that each one of us carries forward into our lives without her presence.
Mary Ione, Cukie, is survived by her four children: Robbie Fowler of Boise City, Nancy Roberts of Meeker, OK, Heather Ritchie of Vici, OK, and Shelley Fowler of Boise City. Her first grandchild, Amy Roberts Gonzalez, lives in Cimarron County with her husband Silvester and children Ariana, Emma, and Samuel. Grandson Heath Ritchie lives in Camargo, OK. Granddaughter Lori Roberts Dyer and husband Richard live in Muskogee, OK. Grandson Ryan Roberts and wife Xuan Xuan reside in Meeker, OK. Two great-granddaughters, Kaytlyn and Tambre Dyer are from Muskogee, OK. Two great-great-granddaughters: Makhia and Alorah Emberson live with their mother Kaytlyn. Paul shared his sons and their families with Cukie who loved them: Gary and wife Tina Cutter and their sons Mathew and Logan, and Alan and Ozzie Cutter and their son Richard and daughter Suzanne.
Cukie was predeceased by her husbands, Max Fowler and Paul Cutter, and all of her French family. She also had a son, Lance Munson Fowler, who was stillborn in 1965.
A memorial service will be announced at a time in the future, perhaps in springtime.
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