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Melba Marie Driscoll Stoppello passed away November 12, at 3:33am. Melba graced this world for 99 years. Motherhood was her calling, and although she said she never wanted the plethora of children she had, her children never felt unwanted. Once asked how many she would have had if it had been her choice, she replied that five would have been just about right. She overshot that goal and had eleven births, accounting for eight and a half years of pregnancy, all before the age of 40.
She loved into the world 7 boys (Anthony dying at birth), and 4 girls. And if you are wondering… yes, the Catholic faith had a lot to do with this population explosion. Her Catholic journey started the weekend before Joseph Driscoll was being sent to Amarillo Texas to serve in the war efforts. Joe’s parents insisted they marry before catching the long train ride across the country, as at that time they had been dating for two years. Her Catholic faith was a testament to her love and commitment to Joe. She told us often that while going into the birth of her last child, she told Joe that Dan’s birth would be the last one. Joe felt better when the priest said that Melba had served God well. Barbara and Dan, the last two children born, are especially grateful she stayed committed as long as she did.
She was the sole parent of all her children for 50 years as Joseph Driscoll, her husband, left her with five children at home at his death at the age of 50. She was also preceded in death by her son Edward, who passed away at the age 40 and Dorothy passing away at the age of 42. At the time of her death, she had amassed 21 grandchildren, 20 great grandchildren and 4 great-great grandchildren. She is survived by two brothers, Mel Baldwin and Dick Baldwin and has three predeceased siblings. Her surviving children are Ron Driscoll (Portland, OR), Bob Driscoll (Portland, OR), Joanne Morris (Sacramento, CA), Rose Bue (Houston, TX), David Driscoll (Caledonia, MI), Pat Driscoll (Caldwell, ID), Barbara Rose (Nampa, ID) and Dan Driscoll (Meridian, ID).
She grew up a sharecropper’s daughter and went to eleven different schools as her parents moved constantly for the next job. These moves had an emotional toll on her ability to feel comfortable in new social situations her whole life. She would often avoid anything that would draw attention to herself. She was dropped off at each new school, with not even a pencil for supplies and was expected to orient herself. This constant trauma caused her to nearly drop out of her junior year of high school, until she met Rosalie Driscoll, Joe’s sister, who convinced her to finish high school. Although she didn’t feel comfortable in large groups, anyone that met her felt loved and welcomed. She formed a huge family and friends circle and would eventually become everyone’s friend at church and the bingo halls she adored. Eventually she found deep friendships and affection for the staff and residents at the assisted living facility, where she lived the final two years of her life.
She grew up in a poverty level that seemed unimaginable, telling us of using fruit crates for chairs and newspapers to cover holes in the walls. Her Christmas consisted of an orange and new slippers, if she was lucky. She often spoke of having no toys, and of making toys imaginatively with sticks and anything her and her siblings could find outside. She spoke of her childhood being “depressing” and that her parents never celebrated their birthdays or expressed love for their children. So, the fact that she broke through an oppressive childhood and eventually created a powerfully loving family, is a spiritual life accomplishment that goes beyond any success she could have achieved in a career. Always used to living with less, in 1956 she and Joe found themselves with 6 children, and Melba’s sister living in a 500+ sq ft home attached to the side of an airport hangar. She would become exasperated when she was watching the HGTV shows where the buyers were saying a bedroom for each child was a requirement. She never could have conceived of such luxury.
Her hobbies were few when the children were being raised, but once she had a little more free time, she LOVED playing bingo and only wanted to make sure she had enough money to play bingo as often as she desired for the rest of her life… that was real wealth to her. And later on, she did play almost daily when possible, sometimes staying at the bingo hall for stretches of 6-7 hours, playing a full table of bingo sheets. Her family is convinced that this life entertainment (even insisting on playing into 2020’s Covid concerns) helped her keep an amazingly sharp mind that astounded everyone that got to know her. If you happened to play bingo with her, she would watch her 10 sheets and then glance over and point out the number you had missed on your own sheet. Eagle eye and an eagle ear she had, hearing the slightest noise and noticing anything that was in her environment. Her memory for life events and especially locations and dates for those events was better than all of her children’s memories. She never forgot a child, or grandchild’s birthdate, and would always try to reach out to them and wish them the happiest of birthdays, unlike her own childhood experience.
Card games were a family affair in the Driscoll household, where you could find rousing and very loud games of Nertz going late into the night. Later in her life, she loved the social activity of local family gathering on Saturday nights to play Tic, a favorite card game of hers. Sometimes, we would have a dozen or more playing on multiple tables. She would normally win more than her fair share of games, her sharp mind always at play in her desire to beat everyone else. She would cackle happily as she would cream others with a happy proclamation of ‘TIC’! She loved puzzles and often would have one being attended to for hours in her day. Her lifelong devotion to the soap opera “Days of Our Lives” was a daily concern for her… how in the world could it get any crazier? She kept wondering if she could keep watching it, but her commitment to it, had her watching daily until her death. She knew every episode of “Golden Girls” and would watch them nightly without fail and enjoyed them, as if she hadn’t already seen them 10 times. She was a proficient seamstress, making many of her children’s clothes. She crocheted beautifully, painted ceramics and absolutely loved playing Pinochle.
She often said that she wished she hadn’t focused on a neat house and instead would have played more with the kids. She had never-been trained to housekeep and cook, having always been required to work in the fields and hand over her pay to her parents before she got married. Joe’s mother, she would say, treated her more like a daughter and taught her what she needed to know in order to be a housewife and loving mother. Grandmother Elizabeth Driscoll would play an important role in showing Melba what family looked and felt like. Those that visited the Driscoll home would often remark at the neatness of the home with such a large family. Melba was constantly in the kitchen and never felt she was much of a cook, but we all LOVED her cooking. When only Dan was at home, she decided to get her one and only paid job after marrying Joe. She was a cook at the high school just down the street. She was beloved for her ability to work hard, make large quantities of food and create the experience of homemade goodness.
She married Frank Stoppello after having been single for 13 years. She cared for him for 18 years of marriage as he developed dementia and died. After Frank’s death she lived with her son Dan’s family for 13 years, creating an especially loving bond with Dan’s two children, Danae and Kayla. As her health started to decline at 93, Barbara moved from Moscow to Nampa to have her live with her, which she did for 3 years until moving to the Karcher Estates Assisted Living Facility.
Although Melba didn’t like change, she was able to adjust to challenges and eventually adapt and thrive. This survival energy during challenges was a spiritual strength that served her well into a long and fruitful life. We often created wonderful family gatherings throughout the years, having huge family reunions for over 30 years in which any extended family possible would spend time together in LaGrande, OR and later week-long gatherings in Heber City, UT at a resort-like lodge. Our last gathering was for her 99th birthday in September. She kept saying she didn’t want to do anything big for her birthday. The family ignored her and did an event anyway, and it brought her an amazing amount of joy and fun. All who came, now have lasting memories of Mom with her sparkling lit up crown on her head, and a t-shirt that said “Party Squad 99.” Everyone had matching t-shirts and the family played a “Who Knows Grandma the Best” game. Joanne came in first, with Barbara a close second. But Barbara wrote this tribute, not Joanne.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to Women’s and Children's Alliance at 720 West Washington Street, Boise, ID 83702, (208) 343-3688…or go to WCABoise.org to donate online in the name Melba Stoppello
Click here to view a webcast of the service on 11/17/2023 at 02:55 PM, Mountain Standard Time.