Loicene- Love your family fiercely and unconditionally.
My sweet grandma Loicene. She lived to love her family. She was smart, kind, and unconditional in her love. Somehow, she was ceaselessly able to meet the needs of her family in the most profound and important way, by loving us without bounds and being faithful to her beliefs and the legacy that she left. Whether it was through making food or offering a listening ear, she gave to others and found joy and value in it. In these days more than ever before, her legacy reminds me that learning about love, service, acceptance, and respect starts at home. Whatever family looks like to you, those people are precious. Love them. Accept them. Embrace them.
Lola- Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, and always stick up for those who need it most.
I’m honored to be related to this woman. My great aunt Lola has taught me more about standing up for yourself than she’ll ever realize. She has never been afraid to speak her mind, even if it’s not that of the popular majority. She values education and is well-informed. Most of us have had those moments in life when we’re part of a conversation and our stomach is in knots because we know it isn’t right, but we are too uncomfortable to speak up. In these moments, I’ve literally asked myself, “what would Lola do?” That is how much I look up to her. She was a Montessori preschool teacher for many years, and I know that there are a multitude of people out there who have found their voice through her example. She has taught me that the loudest voice in the room isn’t always right. Lola is a voice for people who may not have one, and firmly stands on the belief that everyone deserves dignity, respect, and equal rights as human beings.
Grace- Work hard, never give up, and go out and do things when people say you can’t.
My Grandma Grace passed away when my mom was just 16 years old. As much as I wish I’d had the opportunity to meet her, it makes me so proud when I hear about the kind of woman she was. The oldest of 9 children, Grace grew up on a farm in rural Kansas, and later served as an army nurse in the 1940’s at Pearl Harbor. After traveling the world in the military, she graduated from Oregon Health & Sciences University in 1953 (at that time it was University of Oregon), with her Bachelors Degree in Nursing. I think it’s no coincidence that my mom and I followed in her footsteps, both earning nursing degrees decades later. Her work ethic and her confidence were so inspirational that her influence continues to live on, despite her relatively short time on this earth. Grace pushed ahead and continued to learn and work toward her goals, because she knew what she was capable of. She stood out from the crowd (especially so for her conservative background in the 50’s and 60’s) through the way she embraced people who were different than her. She taught English glasses to immigrants, hosted foreign exchange students from a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds, and welcomed and loved an aging “bachelor” (code in the 60’s for gay..) as a close friend when others in her world were not so accepting. She invited old veterans from the psych unit of the VA hospital to have Thanksgiving dinner with her family. She had the kind of grit, courage, and determination that is not possessed by many.
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Roberta- You’re never to old to have fun and do what you love to do.
How many women do you know that enjoy video games, jumping on trampolines, and playing on a softball team over the age of 60? Let me introduce you to my great-aunt Berta. She is confident, fun-loving, and has never let her age or gender determine what she enjoys to do. She’s outspoken, witty, and loves a good prank. She laughs loudly and hugs her family with confidence and strength. I was very young when I made the realization that if Berta was going to be there, we were going to have fun. She serves as a great reminder that having fun is one of the greatest joys in life, and we have the ability to create it in any situation, at any age.
These women adapted and thrived through so many changes our country has experienced over the last century. I will always admire their individuality, their strength, their love for their families, and their respect for everyone.
“Here’s to strong women. May we know them, may we be them, and may we raise them.” ~unknown