A Trailblazer and Role Model

Lake Ontario


The Golden glow of brilliant sunshine spread rays of love, kindness, determination and compassion on that long ago date of June 26, 1932. For you see, that was the day my mom made her debut appearance in the world she would bless with her presence.

Rose Marie grew up in the North Country of New York State, by the shores of the Saint Lawrence River. Like many in her age group (those in the post depression era) their beginnings were humble, to say the least. Her father had died when she was only 9 years old from a ruptured appendix. Apparently, these senseless deaths occurred when the only doctor in town was too drunk to perform surgery. The loss of my mom's father at such an early age left a deep scar which lasted a lifetime.

The masses struggled with poverty in those days, so being a young widow with two small children my grandmother ended up cleaning houses and washing windows, along with just about anything else she could do in order to scrape by. Due to circumstances beyond their control my mother and her younger brother received hand me down clothes from those who were more fortunate. As my grandmother used to say, even to me as a child, “Remember honey, just because a person is poor doesn’t mean they have to be dirty”.

Meanness and snobbery have always been around and it was no different in rural New York State.There was one particular little girl in school that would taunt my mom by yelling out to everyone else, “Ha-ha, look at Rose, she’s wearing my old dress.” Emotional scars run deep and I think that is one of the reasons why my mom was so driven to succeed and achieve excellence in school. Years later, while shopping with her in downtown Syracuse, we ran into that little girl from school. Lo, and behold both my mother and she were wearing the exact same coat. After the woman passed by mom grasped my hand tightly and said proudly, “Well, I guess she’s not better than me after all.” She was beaming. I remember that incident as though it happened yesterday.


One particular family vacation sticks out during this time period.We traveled to Florida in 1958 when I was only 7 years old. The journey was filled with excitement and sheer elation for a boy my age. The car windows were rolled down and a stifling hot southern breeze swirled wildly around our faces. My dad was puzzled and worried about a nonstop clicking sound in the front of the car. My mother kept hearing this odd noise as well. My father pulled the car over to the oppressively hot, sandy shoulder of the highway in order to check things out. My parents began to laugh once they realized the cause of their angst was nothing more than a cicada that had attached itself to the front wheel well. Once remedied, our trek south continued.

My mother had meticulously choreographed our vacation. Our destination was Silver Springs in Ocala, Florida. We were treated to a glass bottom boat ride, watching the fish play soccer with balls of bread, monkeys swinging in trees, alligators swimming by us, 100+-year-old tortoises and boa constrictor snakes. We were in awe learning that this was the area where Johnny Weismuller filmed the Tarzan movies in the 1930s and 1940s. I was entranced watching the scenery pass by. Shacks, built upon posts, with peeling paint were scattered across the watermelon and cotton fields. We bought a basket of Georgia peaches and filled the trunk with watermelons that were only $.10 a piece.

Our family vacation was coming to an abrupt end when all of a sudden my mom chimed in with this little gem..."Charlie, we're only 17 miles from Washington. Let's take a day or two and visit and show Dennis the city." The ensuing conversation went something like this: "Rose...I am not driving into Washington and get caught up in all of that traffic. For crying out loud, we've done quite enough on this trip!" My mother went silent and you could cut the air with a knife. When we approached our home my mom said, "Charlie...don't take Dennis and me home.You can drop us off at the airport." "What are you talking about the airport for?" dad surprisingly asked. "Well, Charlie I told you how much I wanted Dennis to see Washington and you refused to go. Now, you can drop us off at the airport because the two of us are going there and we're going now."

Washington, D.C.

The Washington Monument
The Washington Monument | Source

I don't have a clue how my mother pulled it off so quickly, but we flew into Washington, D.C. and stayed in a hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue overlooking the Capitol. I got my first lesson in race relations while we were passengers in a taxicab. The cab driver, knowing we were from New York, kept trying to educate us regarding the black community. His language was disgusting, even to me as a 7-year-old. Once the cabbie started throwing out the "N" word my mom abruptly instructed him to pull the taxi over and drop us off. He did not receive a tip, although he quickly learned that his actions were intolerable to my mom. Within record time, my mother secured a chauffeured limousine to act as our personal travel guide for the next three days. Who ever heard of such a thing back in 1958?

I have fond memories surrounding my educational and eye-opening trip to our Nation's Capital. As a young boy, I was fascinated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). On display were an array of machine guns and weapons confiscated from mobsters and other sordid individuals. We were treated to the marksmanship of Agents firing at targets in their indoor firing range. Etched in my memory bank was the admission that Agent's were trained to shoot to kill and not maim or wound. No one in the crowd had ever seen as much money as we did during our visit to the United States Mint. Sheets of currency were being printed, inspected, approved or rejected in record time. Mom asked, "Do you hand out free samples?" Even though the question had most likely been asked millions of times, the people in the crowd laughed and nodded in excited encouragement.


Our driver mentioned that he would drop us off while we eagerly explored the monuments. Mom spoke up and said, "No, you can't leave us. We need you to take our pictures together." She was always thinking about how to make memories to last a lifetime and she accomplished her goal with flying colors.

The White House tour was spectacular, as was the Washington Zoo, Arlington National Cemetery and the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. After an exhausting day at the Smithsonian Institute, my mother and I were holding hands walking down the steps from the building. A woman approached and asked, "Rose, Is that you?" Mom's grin went from ear to ear as the two women engaged in an uplifting conversation. You see, 500 miles and a graduation from childhood to motherhood hadn't prevented my mother's 6th Grade school teacher from still recognizing her.




All good things must come to an end
and so did our impromptu exploration of the Nation's Capitol. Sadly, there were no more vacations as a complete family unit. For the rest of my young life, I took trips with my dad and other trips with my mom and grandmother. However, the knowledge I gained during the summer of 1958 was immense. I grasped quickly that racism is never acceptable. My mother was an equal partner in her marriage and an outspoken trailblazer for independent women. Many may have considered my mom an enigma for her time. I, on the other hand, looked up to her as a leader, role model and a woman full of charisma.


Ray Charles

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Comments 30 comments

FyrFytr234 profile image

FyrFytr234 3 years ago

What a great and real life story Dennis. Your mother was indeed an impressive woman....in many aspects. Thanks so much for sharing this with us. Voted up and shared.

pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 3 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

@ FryFytr234 - Thanks Bob for not only reading, but for leaving such a nice reply to my mini documentary. My next installment will focus on her running a plumbing and heating company. Now you know why I learned to cook from my father. Honestly, we really were an extremely unique family way back in the olden days.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

Very touching! A wonderful tribute to your mother and thank you for sharing her with us through your words.

pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 3 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

@ billybuc - Thank you for taking the time to read my personal account of time spent with my mom. I'm still miffed by the passage of time. How did I blink my eyes and go from 1958 to 2013 in a nanosecond? Thank you again, for leaving your footprint on my article.

ImKarn23 profile image

ImKarn23 3 years ago

You are an AMAZINGLY lucky man to have had that woman for a mother and a role-model!

incredible, my friend - and - it proves why you and i are so in sync - our priorities are much aligned..(and much maligned..lol)..

It's women like your mother that make me proud to be a woman - the world needs many many more just like her!

Love how she pulled the idiot cabbie over and let him have it!

One question: what did your dad say when you got home?


up and sharing, D!

lovemychris profile image

lovemychris 3 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

Strong women who care.

What can be better? Salute to your mom!

pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 3 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

@ ImKarn23...I can always count on you to come through with a comment when I need it most. Two words...thank you.

I have a couple more stories to share about my mom that will figuratively knock your socks off. Then again, my grandmother set the stage for strong women of her day and my mom embellished her mother's accomplishments and plodded onward and upward.

Now the plot thickens. For you see Leslie, I have 3 adult daughters and although different, all of them have taken bits and pieces from their grandmother and they subconsciously carry on her legacy. Am I a proud papa? You bet I am and I couldn't be prouder for their individual compassion and accomplishments. As their dad, I am the one honored and beaming with joy whenever I am in their presence. That, my friend, you can take to the bank.

So, the question remains, "What did your dad say when you got home?" To answer your question appropriately would take way too many words and time. Suffice to say, as poor as my mom was when she grew up, my father's beginning were far worse. The first time he ever slept in a bed, without his two brothers, was in boot camp preparing for battle in the jungles during WW II. After being raised in a nightmarish and physically tormented household, plus being a combat veteran who manned a .30 caliber water cooled machine gun, my dad was the post passive and non confrontational person you could ever hope to know. My dad had seen enough and experienced enough and consequently, he was the peacemaker. Mom, on the other hand, was the trailblazer and my father would say, "Rose, just let it go." My mother would have nothing of that and dad would simply open up a book and that would be that.

My dad was in acceptance of our vacation. As I mentioned, from that time forward I would spend half the time traveling with my dad and then my mom and grandmother would fly in wherever we were, dad would hop a plane and fly home and the rest of my journey would be spent with them. Actually, I had the best of both worlds.

Wow, I went on way too long, but thanks again because this was so therapeutic.

hawaiianodysseus profile image

hawaiianodysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

Hi, Dennis!

The more I read your human interest stories--especially those about your family members--the more I like who you are. I am so thankful and tickled that you appreciate, as I do, strong and independent women who stand as equals with their men. My mother, wife, and daughter are cut from the same cloth. I also like that you have a strong stance, again taught to you by both word and example, against racial discrimination in any form. This is a beautiful, loving, and memorable tribute to your mother that, frankly, makes me think about and tear up over my own dear mom. Incidentally, my friend, in just ten days, I am flying over to the Big Island where Mom and family members will also be arriving from Kaua'i. A few days later, we'll be celebrating Mom's 80th in Hilo where one of my sisters and her family live. I hope to draft several hubs while I'm there, one of which will hopefully reciprocate what you've done here. Have a great rest of the weekend and productive and memorable week ahead!



PS You do your parents proud, Dennis!

Nathan Orf profile image

Nathan Orf 3 years ago from Virginia

Great hub Dennis! This one really brightened my day.

pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 3 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

@ lovemychris - I am so appreciative that you read and commented on my story of a strong woman who just happened to also be my mom. I don't think we would have as many of the problems we do today if we would simply elect more women to the House of Representatives.

pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 3 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

@ hawaiianodysseus - I am always pleasantly surprised and honored to see that you have dropped by left your kind words. In an upcoming article I'll address the fact my mom ended up running a plumbing and heating supply company, while most moms in those days were home raising children or being housewives. My daughters are all strong women in their own right, as well. I know they are the successes they have become due to their grandmother's influence. My youngest daughter is taking a real gutsy move as a single woman. Within the next few months she is pulling up stakes and relocating to Molokai.

I can't wait to read your articles surrounding your upcoming trip to the "Big Island." You certainly have some exciting times on your horizon.

pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 3 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

@ Nathan Orf - Thank you for allowing me into your world to brighten your day! I'm pleased you found my article uplifting.

lovemychris profile image

lovemychris 3 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

I read an article about that recently pages....that the women in Congress regularly meet for lunch. All of them. Of course, the men used to do that too....it all soured when Newt Gingrich became Speaker.

But--Have you seen Elizabeth Warren? Wow....she makes McCain's "maverick" look like little tom thumb!

pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 3 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

@ lovemychris - Elizabeth Warren is brilliant. I wish we had 300 more of her in Washington.

lovemychris profile image

lovemychris 3 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

Me too....Good role model for those who aren't afraid of the big bad money-wolf!

pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 3 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

@ lovemychris - Too bad we are still flooded with the white, good old boy network. Equality and diversity are happening much slower than I had ever anticipated.

lovemychris profile image

lovemychris 3 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

Yes, it's a big brick wall for sure: but I never thought we would elect Obama. Slowly slowly it goes, until the dam breaks.....and I feel we are near that point.

My 18 yr old gen has it right.....all colors, all genders, all genre's of music.....and skeptical of both sides of political aisle.

Marriage is not requisite, and they are whips on the techno stuff!

No guarentees, MUST make your own way.

I like them, and they give me hope.

lovemychris profile image

lovemychris 3 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

Slow, but steady......@KatrinaNation

Sweet news! Portland, Ore., Approves Earned Sick Leave Policy http://nyti.ms/13Wt2ob


I think Vermont has universal healthcare for all it's citizens? Pot is legal in many more states now....

Warren pointing loud finger at banks. We're getting there.

pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 3 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

@ lovemychris - You are so correct about the new crop of young adults making their own way in today's tough work environment and how they view politics, social issues and political parties. No one knows what the future holds, but we can only hope it improves for this new generation.

Kudos to Portland for allowing the passage of the Earned Sick Leave policy.

When I cross the border into the State of Vermont it is as though I have entered a foreign country that still thrives in a state of utopia. They have banned gas companies from "fracking." They abolished slavery way back in 1777. Plus Vermont has banned all outdoor advertising (billboards) since 1968.

Finally, as I've mentioned before, we need about 300 more Elizabeth Warren's in Washington and within record time this country would be back on track.

lovemychris profile image

lovemychris 3 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

Here's hoping...:-)

lovemychris profile image

lovemychris 3 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

not just Elizabeth...!

"Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, is introducing legislation, co-sponsored by Republican Senator David Vitter, to break up the half-dozen mega-banks.

If legislators like Sherrod Brown and David Vitter, joined by newly elected bank critics like Elizabeth Warren, lead in the direction of aggressive reform, we might see the beginning of something big. "

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

What a wonderful person your mother must have been. You were blessed. Thanks for sharing a bit from your personal life. Very uplifting.

mperrottet profile image

mperrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

I love this story, and I can certainly see your mother's influence on your writing today. Great hub - voted up, interesting and shared.

pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 3 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

@ lovemychris - There is so much that is wrong, that is about time the tides turned back. It will take people who are strong in values and check their egos at the door. The people you have pointed out certainly fit the bill.

pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 3 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

@ teaches12345 - Yes, I was blessed by my mother's influence which has now been carried over to my three adult daughters. Two of my girls have Masters in Accounting and the 3rd one is a manager. One daughter will be relocating, as a single woman to Hawaii. She's moving there because her grandmother had always wanted to visit Hawaii. So after my daughter went there on vacation she said, "You know dad, I think this is what grandma would want me to do." You can't argue with logic and a heart.

Thank you for stopping in because it was much appreciated.

pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 3 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

@ mperrottet - Thank you so much for reading, commenting and voting on my story.

I was fortunate to have been exposed to many strong women in my family. I had a great grandmother who lived until I was a teenager and she was not only a Major in the Salvation Army, but raised 20+ foster children. My grandmother, who was widowed at a young age, went on to own a rooming house and a restaurant. She taught me how to do electrical wiring and the proper way to hang wallpaper. I have 3 intelligent, independent and successful daughters and a wife who is still teaching school after 38 1/2 years. She often jokes that the school officials will have to carry her out on a stretcher before she retires.

Yup, I am a lucky man. Thanks again. Dennis

AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 3 years ago from California

This brightened my evening! Thank you!

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

A tribute to a wonderful woman and to mothers everywhere who want the best education for their children. You are a special person too for recognizing the gift your mother was. So often people take their parents for granted and don't see the wonder before their eyes...you, sir did and let it touch your heart. I'm sure your mother still beams with pride.

Voted up, awesome, and interesting.

Jodah profile image

Jodah 14 months ago from Queensland Australia

Hi Dennis. it was wonderful to read about these childhood memories. Your mother was a strong and very intelligent woman. I enjoyed this hub and look forward to reading more. I liked a comment of your in a forum and decided to check your hubs. From your profile we have many things in common. Cheers.

pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 14 months ago from New York/Pennsylvania border Author

Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. The forum got a tad heated with another person, but that is the atmosphere of confrontation lately. Obviously, I was taught to stand up and fight for what is right. I was fortunate to have such a strong role model and influence in my life.

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