Women of Distinction

We hear a lot about amazing, strong women who are leaders in business, education or politics.  There were two women in my life who were not leaders like that, but they meant a lot to me.  Both of them are gone, and I miss them both very much.  Who are they, and what would I say if I had a chance to just say one more thing to them?

mom and me
The only photo I have of just me and my mom. Easter Sunday 1949.

My mom – Her name was Dorothy.  She was always old to me, because she was my mom— she was 30 years and 29 days older than me.  My mom loved from the farthest depths of her heart.

She saw heartache from a young age.  On June 10, 1935, at the age of 16, she and her mother survived an automobile accident where her best friend who was also her aunt and the same age as her, died instantly.  Along with my mom’s aunt, was my mom’s uncle and his newlywed wife of less than 24 hours who died in this crash.  My mom and grandmother survived this accident with minor injuries.  I am sure the real injuries for her were deep in her heart.  Sixty years later, I interviewed her about the accident.  She described it in detail—what she saw and what she heard—so heartbreaking.  My mother was thrown from the car—how did she survive that?  Had she not survived, I would not be here to write about her.

My mom was not formally educated, but she was one of the smartest people I have known.  She could add columns of numbers in her head.  When I was a child she would come home from the grocery store and lay her purchases out on the table.  She checked her receipt to the stamped prices on the cans and packages, like she was reconciling a bank statement.  If the store gave her too much change, she would drive back and return the money to them.

My mother received a settlement after the tragic car accident.  She took the money and attended Brown’s Business School in St. Louis, MO, where she studied bookkeeping.  She was a natural.  She was the bookkeeper for Mr. Pigeon who many will remember as the owner of Gramdpa Pigeon’s Stores.  She worked for Pigeon Vitrified China Company, which was before he opened his big discount stores.  She later became the office manager for my dad’s construction company, and her expertise was a major contributor to their success.

mom2 2Dorothy never forgot a birthday or an anniversary.  She sent cards and money to many people to celebrate their events.  She gave generously to others.  She fed my friends, she housed my out of town friends.  She drove us across the country so we could reunite with our friends at church camp.  In the days when my life was rough and finances were very tight, she would give me bags of groceries so I could feed my children.  She did not have one selfish bone in her body.

My mom did not have a great singing voice, but she sang a lot.  She taught us fun little songs like “Mairzy Doats.”  I don’t have a great singing voice either, but I sing.  I sing a whole rain medley when the weather takes a turn.  Usually when no one is listening, I sing silly songs, hymns, show tunes, and I sing along with the oldies.  She also could play a pretty mean harmonica!

When I was going through the roughest challenges of my life and was not coping well or making good decisions, my mother told me every time I saw her, “I love you and I am praying for you.”

Today I know that her prayers were answered, and to this day I feel the love she had for me, my sisters, and everyone who crossed her path.  What would I say to her if I could tell her just one thing?

Thanks, Mom, I will always feel your love, and I hope I can bestow that kind of love on everyone with whom I have contact.

Susan – She was my sponsor in my 12-Step program for codependency.  Her famous words were always, “Work the Steps.”

Susan22Being my sponsor was not what made her so important in my life—she became a dear and personal friend.  She was the best listener I have ever met.  She let me talk through whatever my issues were.  We talked about everything.  She always got a chuckle out of the crazy stuff that occurred around my life, and always wanted to know about my career, my online dating, my spiritual journey, my kids and grandkids.  She attended my youngest son’s plays and concerts in high school.  She attended my oldest granddaughter’s concerts and other events.  She rejoiced with me over my family’s accomplishments.

Other than my mom, she was the most generous person I have ever known.  Her home and swimming pool were open to me and my family any time.  She even provided all the pool toys.  My grandkids learned how to swim in Susan’s pool.

Just a few of the many gifts from Susan, and also the “You Go Girl” pictured above.

When I met her, Susan was working at a Hallmark card store.  What a perfect place for her to work.  Even after she quit working, I got cards in the mail for my birthday, for Christmas, and sometimes just because she was thinking of me.  I have mementos all over my house of the sweet little gifts she would give me.  These are reminders of our sweet friendship.

When I was struggling to pull my life together, Susan was always encouraging me.  I had finally decided it was time for me to start attending church again.  I would get up Sunday morning with good intentions, drive my car to a church I wanted to visit, and then panic would set in, and I would turn the car around and go home.  I shared this struggle with Susan, and she told me not to get down on myself.  She said, “When you are ready, God will get you there.”  She was right!

Like my mom, Susan never said a bad word about anyone.  She loved people deeply, and people were drawn to her kindness.  To me, she had friends coming out of the woodwork.  I am sure every one of them felt as special as I did.

What would I say to her if I could tell her just one thing?

Thanks, Susan, for your devoted friendship, for all the great lunches and dinners together, for your sweetness and kindness to everyone who you met.  I hope I can be as kind and as generous to others as you have been to me

Both of these women (my mom and Susan) were quiet in the background kind of people.  They loved deeply, and they had generous hearts.  I am so much richer today because of these two very special women in my life.

Who would you want to thank?  Are they still with you today?  Tell them in person, if you can.  It will mean so much to them, and to you. 




  1. I once got in trouble with my mom for saying out loud that Aunt Dorothy was my favorite aunt. I guess it was rude, but it was true.

    I remember her sweetness to this day. She did indeed regularly remember my birthday with a card that always had a few dollars tucked inside.

    I laughed at your remembrance of her reconciling the grocery receipt with her purchases. I was so impressed by that, and I can still see her doing it at your kitchen table.

    I acknowledge that her voice was a bit too much like Grandma Tomich’s, but she was just great on the harmonica. I remember her taking the harmonica out of a glass of water and playing “Old Black Joe”, moving her palm over the instrument to give it that wailing sound.

    I worked for her and your dad one summer and she was a great boss. Always kind and helpful when I didn’t do something quite right. Always protecting me from Uncle Andy’s anger if I messed up one of my assignments. And often bringing us Steak & Shake for lunch.

    I remember her wearing her stockings rolled down to her ankles and pulling just about anything out of that big suitcase of a purse she carried around. It was like a magic toy box.

    Most of all I remember her support and big love for us kids which continued as we grew into adults. She once visited Robert and I in our house in Elmhurst shortly after we were married. We didn’t have much in the way of furniture or any material goods for that matter, and your mom saw that I was a little embarrassed by this lack. So she pulled me aside in our little kitchen and said, “Don’t feel bad. Your Uncle Andy and I didn’t have much either when we first got married.” I was so grateful for those words and loved her all the more for saying them.

    I would give a lot to see her again and tell her she was still my favorite aunt.


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