Have you ever met someone and said, “I want to be like that person some day?” When I was twenty, serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia in 1971, I met such a woman, Ruth Jacobson.
Here she is in 1940 graduating with her 3-year diploma of nursing from Tacoma General in WA State. Ruth was everything I wanted to be. Over a year ago I honored my biological mother on her birthday. This Mother’s Day I will pay homage to Ruth, my surrogate mom.
When I met Ruth and her husband Harold they were in their early 50s, older than my parents. But so different. They had just joined the Peace Corps as volunteers.
I wrote about them in my memoir, In Search of Pink Flamingos in Part III, Comrades and a Role Model. Here is an excerpt:
Ruth and Harold exemplified the qualities of mature, open minded, capable individuals who possessed unparalleled integrity…Many of my peers cherished their wisdom. Soon many of us young volunteers looked up to them as mentors. They gave us the best example of unconditional caring and generosity, and I treasured their non-judgemental character….
…A vision of my future began to gel the longer I worked in Liberia: I planned to continue my education and become an RN. When Ruth and I met a few weeks later she encouraged my vision and told me she only had a three-year nursing diploma and planned to get a BSN once she returned to the U.S. I could hardly imagine a woman over fifty years old returning from Africa to obtain a bachelor’s degree. She had a plan and a goal. If she could, I knew I could...
After returning to the U.S. I graduated magna cum laude from SFSU with a BS in Nursing.
In the Acknowledgments of my memoir….I am forever indebted to Ruth and Harold Jacobson (R&H). Upon returning from the Peace Corps, I asked them to be my surrogate mother and father, filling the hole in my heart from my estranged parents. They wholeheartedly agreed. In addition, I also adopted Ruth’s ninety-three-year-old mother, Signe Hanson, as my grandmother—the loving grandparent I never had. Through them I learned how to reciprocate unconditional love and acceptance. Ruth inspired me to tell my story, when, in her 90s, she published two memoirs about their life in Liberia.
My connection to the Jacobson family has not ended. Judith and Vikki, Ruth and Harold’s daughters have accepted me as their sister. Here we are celebrating R&H’s 60th wedding anniversary.
Signe, Harold and Ruth have all passed: Signe at 107, Harold at 99 and Ruth at 100,but their love and memories are eternal. R&H’s daughters suggested I plant a tree in their memory. I located a Lutheran Church in Bellingham (R&H’s faith) where I donated a beautiful magnolia tree. Here it is blooming on Mother’s Day, Ruth’s honored day.
If you were never blessed with the family you wanted, there is still time to find one.
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