It was about 10:30 on Friday the 10th of May and I had just finished surprising the winner of our 2013 Nom the Mom contest (click here to see the video). It was time to hand deliver gorgeous flower arrangements to our two runners up, Esther and Pat!
Esther was next on my list.
To be honest, Esther had the shortest entry to ever make it to the a finalist spot and the one that I knew the least about. Her son, Dale, nominated her, but he now lives in the Philippines so wasn’t able to be part of our surprise. I really wasn’t sure what to expect.
I pulled up to her driveway and instantly felt like I could have been outside my own Grandma’s house. On the porch sat a half dozen flower pots with blooming buds and a brightly colored rocking chair with a decorative pillow.
You know how walking into a stranger’s home can feel a wee bit, um, awkward? Nope, not at Esther’s house! Esther’s son, Charlie, met me at the door with a smile. As I stepped inside, it seemed as though I had popped into a regular family gathering. The woman of the hour, Esther, was seated in what I imagine is her favorite chair, covered with a light blanket. Her daughter, Sharon, and granddaughter (who doubles as her caretaker) were there as well. Oh, and we can’t forget Julie, Esther’s granddaughter’s adorable pup.
Esther’s family was so excited that she had not only been nominated, but was a finalist. They weren’t very familiar with the contest, so I pulled out the entry and read it out loud to the group. As I read the simple nomination, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Well, maybe Julie. ;o) (Read her nomination here.)
It was time to start digging in to learn more about this wonderful woman, 94 years young. Esther was born on December 24, 1918. She came from humble beginnings on a German settlement in Missouri. Women didn’t have the right to vote, welfare was nonexistent, but people in this very poor settlement joined together to help one another. (Hmm… that sounds A LOT like our credit union’s entire foundation!)
Esther gave birth to 7 – YES, SEVEN – kids: Charlie, Dale, Sharon, Doug, Vicky, Van and Denny. Extra bonus points go to Esther because Vicky and Van are twins. As if having 7 kids wasn’t a challenge in itself, their father was an alcoholic and left them.
But our heroine wouldn’t let that get her down. In 1954, she moved her family to Cedar Rapids to make a better life for the kids. She got a job working at Farmstead Packing, which was a meat packing company. For nearly 30 years, you could find Esther there packing pigs feet. Looking at this small framed woman, it is next to impossible to imagine her in that line of work. But she did what she needed to do to provide for her family.
She achieved quite an American dream in 1956 when she was able to buy a home for her family. In fact, this was the very home I was sitting in. Sharon began to talk about how when they moved in, they had no running water. She even went on to show me the bathroom that they later added on. It was a very monumental occasion!
No matter the challenge Esther was faced with, she handled it with grace, something her children took to heart. Sharon recalled a story from her childhood. Though Esther’s family was poor, their neighbor was really, really poor. Around Christmas, a young neighbor so badly wanted to bake a cake for her parents, but couldn’t afford the sugar. And guess what? Even though money was scarce, Esther helped that little kid fulfill her Christmas wish. This story seems to perfectly sum up this amazing, selfless woman.
When you looked around Esther’s tidy little home, the very first thing you notice are pictures. She is literally surrounded by those who love her at all times, even if they aren’t there physically.
Let me break THIS down for you: Esther has 7 kids (ranging in age from 57 to 76), 26 grand kids, 33 great grand kids, and 22 great, great grand kids. That is a whole lot of limbs on her family tree, folks!
Esther had a tradition of making every single grandchild a quilt. The first thing you probably thought was, “Oh my goodness, Esther! That’s a pant-load of quilts, girl!” Okay, maybe that’s just me. But they showed me two of her quilts and, honestly, they were more like works of art. Every stitch hand sewn with intricate detail. Charlie had a very wise idea to start embroidering her name on each of the quilts so they can continue to be passed down for generations and generations to come.
In my short 60 minutes with Esther, I felt like even I became part of the family. She is warm, calm, and carries a strength in her eyes that you know is product of every challenge she’s ever conquered. It was nothing short of an honor to meet such an awe-inspiring woman.
My final stop of this 2013 Nom the Mom adventure would be at Pat’s work. Unfortunately, she was very busy and unable to talk for very long. Though Pat and I didn’t have the opportunity to chat, I did talk with her daughter, Katie, a few times and know for certain that Pat has been an incredible mom. (Read her nomination here.)
On behalf of Linn Area Credit Union, thank you to all of you who have been part of this Nom the Mom adventure. Whether you nominated, voted, or just read along – THANK YOU! Start thinking now of who you want to nominate next year. ;o)