Before beginning today's piece, I wish to apologize to Mr. Howard Ehmke, who was omitted from my recent piece on Chautauqua/Cattaraugus County celebrities.
I was incorrect saying there were only two area persons who won major sports championships. With help from a loyal reader, and further research, I found that Mr. Ehmke was a member of the 1929 World Champion Philadelphia A's. My Bad!! Thanks Mr. Martonis. And now on to today's thoughts
It's been said/written often that behind every successful man is a woman supporting, encouraging, pushing him to reach potential, constantly reassuring that it's okay to make mistakes, urging him to keep going/never quit, no matter what "potholes" he encounters along the way. That woman can come from many different roles, be it a mother, wife, fiance/girlfriend/partner/companion, and sometimes the man is successful with all of these people in their corner.
I like to think of my life and career as being successful. I was able to hold my job for 33 years, buy a home, keep cars on the road, raise my family, enjoy some travel and entertainment "extras" in life, and pay my bills on time.
I was fortunate to have a number of women in my life who pushed/reassured/urged, and supported me along that journey. My mother demanded I do my best in school, (though at times I tended to be lazier than what she wanted). She made sure we had the life skills/values needed to be successful in what was a highly competitive life after college. After I got my job, she offered advice and encouragement to help me go forward, not accept just getting that job, but urging me to do whatever I could to be the best I could be.
In 1979, I met my wife-to-be. Immediately she supported me and all that I tried to do with my job. After we married (1980), she and my "inherited" daughters always backed me regarding my teaching career, including lots of "outside the family" time spent on special activities with my class. They also supported my baseball and football coaching practices and games, road trips, the missed meals, missed bedtime tuck-ins and stories, and lack of family spring trips, all the while each of them urging me to continue, never making me feel like they were cheated, when, in my mind, I always felt guilty that they were.
I've had other women who have supported and backed me in my life, but today's column pays tribute to two amazing women, both having very special places in my heart, and both now having special places in heaven.
In the mid-1970s, as a senior in college, I began my teaching experiences. It was arranged for me to student teach in Sixth Grade at Southwestern Central School for eight weeks, then eight weeks in Kindergarten at Celeron Elementary School. My cooperating teachers in both experiences were two women who made huge impacts on my life. Both were two of the most graceful and wonderful women I've ever met.
My cooperating teacher at Southwestern was Mrs. Patricia Moldovan. Mrs. Moldovan was an outstanding teacher and mentor. She was a great example of an educator, but also showed what it took to be an excellent parent, citizen, and person. She taught me how to teach as many as sixty students at a time, and how to work with as few as three at a time and be just as effective in both situations. She encouraged me when things didn't go well, and when things did. She constantly offered many options and suggestions and urged me to vary my methods and not worry about error. She always made me feel like I could do it and that I'd make an excellent teacher. I'm not sure that ever happened, but it was great motivation for me.
Outside of her classroom duties at that time, Mrs. Moldovan was dealing with her husband's illness which took him from this world before that school year ended, but you would never have known it. She always presented herself with dignity and class. As her recent obituary read, she was heavily involved in her family's lives, her community, and her interests in travel and gourmet cooking. She was an amazingly, and deservedly, well respected woman in all areas of her life.
My cooperating teacher at Celeron was Mrs. Marilyn Ricketts. She, too, was an outstanding educator and mentor, and also was a very worldly woman. She was an avid reader, loved to do cross-stitch, cared deeply about family, friends, her profession, and shared that example of how to be more than just a teacher with me. She was amazing in how she taught four/five year olds, helping them learn what academics they needed to start their educations, but also building the foundation for success in dealing with others, playing fair, and being responsible. She too, encouraged me to try new things, and how to build on what worked, and how to tweak what didn't. She never let me leave without feeling that I was going to make an outstanding teacher. As with Mrs. Moldovan, I'm not sure she was right, but it, too, was great motivation.
Mrs. Ricketts, also, was a graceful, wonderful woman, community and civic minded. She handled herself with class and passion for what she did, and too, was well respected in everything she did.
The musical South Pacific includes a song titled, "There is Nothing Like a Dame." One definition of the word "dame" is, "the official title of a female member of the Order of the British Empire; equivalent to a knight." Knights presented themselves with honor, class, dignity, and integrity, as did the "dames" of that time. Honor, class, dignity, integrity definitely describe Patricia Moldovan (R.I.P.2012) and Marilyn Ricketts (R.I.P. 2010). In my life, there was nothing like these "Dames."