On April 3, I asked readers to tell me why their mothers should be treated to a Mother’s Day beauty makeover. A flood of emails and letters ensued, so many that I decided to share some more of the finalists today. Each of these moms plays a powerful role — like the Little Engine That Could — in helping us climb our mountains in life. (Some of these letters have been edited.)
It was extremely difficult to choose just three moms for the makeover. They will be featured in Sunday’s features section.
“On May 12 [Mother’s Day] of this year, my mother, Romaine Kiser [of Orrville, raised in North Akron], will be 81. When she was 32 years old, she suffered a stroke that left her without the use of her left arm and leg. She had been left-handed, played piano and had an artistic talent. She returned home to a 5-year-old daughter and three sons, ages 11, 4 and 3. I’m told while she was in the hospital, a nurse found her on the floor. She was scolded for trying to get up on her own, to which she replied, ‘I have to get up, I have four kids at home to take care of!’
“Within three years of that time, her marriage fell apart, making her a single mom. She couldn’t drive, couldn’t work and had to beg for help. She struggled. I know now she went without meals so we could eat. As kids, we saw her just like every other mom and expected her to do the same things. We really never saw her as a handicapped person who needed pitied or cared for.
“I used to have her button the cuffs of my blouse before school. One day, I was probably 9 years old, she asked me why I didn’t do it myself. I told her I couldn’t button with one hand. She said, ‘What do you think I’m doing?’
“This year began with Mom taking a bad fall and ending up in the ICU with a brain bleed, cut on her head and multiple bruises. While in the hospital, the doctors found she had breast cancer. After treatment and surgery, she is now cancer-free. She’s back in her little apartment, living on her own. The day she came home, she was greeted with a litter of kittens, born just days before she returned. It was the perfect gift for her after a very long road.
“When I heard the word ‘cancer’ I was certain I was going to lose her, but that same strength and determination she had when I was a child brought her through this latest trial. I sincerely hope my children and some day, my grandchildren, inherit their grandmother’s strong determination and stubborn will to survive.”
— Paula Knode,
“My daughter Wendy Wilson [of New Franklin] is the mother I want to be. She has four beautiful daughters. Nina, 16; AnnaMay, 5; Ella, 3; and Mia, 2. Nina is active in Summit Choral Society and two church youth groups. She is also researching going on a mission trip in August with our church. AnnaMay loves princesses and fairies. Wendy went into her room a week ago and sprinkled glitter over the bedroom and left a letter from Tinker Bell. AnnaMay loves ballet and takes lessons. Ella is a teeny peanut who is very adventurous. She loves gymnastics and takes lessons at a Christian gym.
“Now the biggie … Mia is health challenged and wasn’t even supposed to live! Now she is 2! Wendy is, as I’m writing this, taking her to Ann Arbor for cochlear implants. She has a rare congenital heart defect and spent nearly the first year of her life in a hospital in Ann Arbor with both parents and her sisters at her side. Wendy and Bobby administer 40 meds 17 times a day. Without missing a step! None of these girls wants for time alone with Mom. I don’t know how she does it.”
— Peggy Weaver
The Rev. Karol Lewis “works at First United Methodist Church, Cuyahoga Falls, as its Christian Education director.
“Mothering a special-needs, strong-willed child/teen with Asperger’s syndrome through what will soon be a third Army deployment (this one taking the dad away from the special-needs child’s high school graduation by a matter of days), while at the same time mothering a younger daughter into national-level leadership positions before age 16 (through Young Marines), Karol is a fantastic mom. Mothering hundreds of church children over the years, as well as many of their mothers and fathers who help in their children’s programs, these are accomplishments of one of the greatest moms in the area!
“At the age of 15, she watched her own dad die. Yet she has been able to not only tolerate, but thrive in her mothering, despite hubby’s being away far too much in an Army career across more than 10 years of war. While many soldiers worry about a spouse buying a TV without them, on the last deployment, this mom bought and renovated a house for the brother-in-law out of work and facing the loss of a home, while also taking on mothering two of the teenage nephews in her home. She’s quite a mom in two paragraphs or less, and quite the wonderful wife!”
— Maj. Jim Lewis, chaplain,
Ohio Army National Guard
“My mom Theresa Stump [of the Portage Lakes area] had a very rough life, from her own mother who gave her up to be raised by her stepdad, to never knowing who her real father was until long after his death. Her stepfather was in the Air Force so they moved from place to place when she was a kid and she was completely on her own from the time was she was 16. Her stepdad and his wife asked her how she would feel about being adopted by them. So, at 46 years old, my mom was legally adopted by the man who raised her.
“In spite of all this, she grew up to be a strong, hard-working, loving registered nurse and mother of three kids. She, along with my dad, has also been raising my nephew, now 16, since he was 2 years old.
“She has always been willing to sacrifice anything she had to in order to give us the life she never had. Although she never had one of her own, she learned to be a wonderful mother who is still there for us whenever we need her. She has had a rough life and I definitely don’t tell her enough how much I love and appreciate everything she has done and everything that she is. She means more to me than she will ever know. She is my heart!”
— April Eldridge
“Lisa Gage, who lives in Stow, has two children. Her daughter Sophia is on my soccer team. We call her ‘Smiles’ for reasons that would be obvious if you met her. Lisa also has a younger son who is about 6 or 7. His name is Gino and he was really sick. His kidneys weren’t working correctly. He needed a transplant and they found no tissue matches except for Lisa. She gave him her kidney a few weeks ago.
“With all the crummy things that happen in the world I am very happy to say that this is a happy story. Both Mom and Gino are doing well. This spring, Lisa has actually volunteered to help coach the team and she has been out to our practices and has been cheerful (it is easy to see where Smiles gets it from). Her story is inspiring to me.”
— Jim Dudones
“My mother, Jaynee Brown, is the epitome of what a mother truly is. She raised three kids on her own, one being special needs. My mother still takes care of our brother, Johnny, day and night. He needs continuous medical attention. On nights we don’t have nurses to cover a shift, my mother takes over. Every day she is up and at it about 3 a.m. helping my brother get prepared so he is able to go to his workshop at 7:30 a.m. I am not sure when she has time to eat or sleep. I often think about where all of her strength comes from and the only answer to that is God.
“She works a full-time job and comes straight home to tend to my brother. She rarely has a day to herself. Just to get her hair done she has a friend come over to color her hair right in her own kitchen. She doesn’t think about cosmetic things or clothes or even her own health at times. She must have gone though hell with three of us running around and almost losing my brother due to his health issues numerous times. But through it all she still has a smile on her face. She believes we go through our ups and downs in life to build us all as better people and to build our character for something greater in life.”
— Nichole D. Griffin
Jewell Cardwell can be reached at 330-996-3567 or firstname.lastname@example.org.