A Personal Heroine 
by Kathy Wilkins, New York

     I don't know what to say--there are some "ordinary women" who have said or done things to encourage or inspire me, but the ones who come to mind that might be fun to write about were like professional people rather than friends and have moved away and I cannot contact. However, there is a woman in town that I have been trying to chase down. I called her recently and she just returned my phone call.

     She told me please to not feel hurt if I can't find her at home or she doesn't get back to me right away because she's been very busy. I told her "Oh, no--I was even prepared to send you a note in the mail, if it came to that --I just wanted to update you on what I had been doing since the last time we talked and also to ask you if you would tell me anything that you want about yourself. I have been asked by a person who is doing a website for women to write about a person I admire, and you are the person I thought of. I am just honored that you took the time to return my telephone call, and also relieved because it is easier for me to talk on the telephone than to write and actually send a letter." She said "You are certainly welcome to call or write anytime; my mail delivery service is very reliable and I am glad to hear from you.

     Don't feel "honored" by my returning your phone call; you are an important person to me, and I just wanted to tell you that I WANT to hear from you, but I don't have has much time to talk to you as I'd like." 

     That is the kind of person she is--she cares about everyone she meets, and everyone she meets is "important" to her. But, she asked me please to not use her name if I happened to write anything about her that might appear on the NET. She said that she and her husband are planning to participate in an "elder hostel", where they would visit a number of different universities to learn, as they have always been committed to learning and growing--actually, this time they want to learn about computers; although they donít' have one they want to understand what everyone else is talking about. 

     Unfortunately, at the present time, her husband is suffering from congestive heart failure, and she has been running him to and from the doctor's offices, in addition to working 20 hours a week for the program that she ran for 20+ (?) years before she "retired" , and also the volunteer work that she is involved in, because I know she was doing some sort of volunteer work as well--I think some of it may have had to do with correlating results of what happened with people who had been served by the program that she ran.

     I would mention more about that program, if I knew that she would feel comfortable with my doing so, but if I were to write about the program, then I would no longer be writing about an "anonymous" person! So, I will tell you this much: This woman is to me the epitome of a caring, service-to-the- community-oriented person of unusual tenacity and loyalty, not only to her ideals, but also to the people she has chosen to serve. The program provided, for 2 years, a support system for me and many other young parents like myself at that time, and, after that, a job, serving families of other young parents, which I held for 2 years. I think that she was eager to incorporate into her program anyone that she met who had any kind of potential for caring and serving the community in her area of service--she hired people who were "challenged" in a variety of ways long before it became "politically correct" to do so! At the end of the 2nd year, I informed her that I would probably not be able to work for the 3rd year because my husband was about to have surgery to remove a tumor from the base of his skull, but she told me she would keep the position open for me, anyway, and she wanted me to keep in touch with her. 

     After my husband came home from the hospital and got worse instead of better, and had to be re-admitted, she still insisted that she was waiting for me. It wasn't until, I think, the very week that I would have needed to start working again, that I was finally able to convince her that I really wasn't going to be able to come back that she finally let someone else take my position. 

     Even though we hadn't spoken in nearly 20 years when I called her this past winter, she not only remembered who I was and who my husband and son were, along with asking how each of us was doing, she asked me yet again if I were looking for a job! I wasn't; I was looking for some other kind of support, totally out of her area of service, and yet she took the time to think of where I might look and make suggestions that I followed up on. 

     That was my excuse for calling this time; I wanted to report to her the results of what happened since I followed the advice she gave me last winter, which she was eager to hear, and, along the way, I slipped in my request to write something about her for this column because she definitely is a Woman to Admire.