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.

Feel free to leave a Reply below or an applause if the mood strikes you.

26 thoughts on “This Mother’s Day

    1. Happy Mother’s Day Mary. I’m so glad I got to have met you and through you I got to meet your wonderful son via Zoom. My Memoir has given me such wonderful connections to wonderful people. Thank you for being in my life.

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  1. How fortunate that Susan and Ruth met and became such an important parts of each other’s life sharing the kind of Love and Care we honor every day. Happy Mother’s Day Susan. 💕

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    1. Happy Mother’s Day Susan. You have found a way to continue so much Love and Caring in your relationship with your surrogate daughter.

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      1. Thank you Bill, like my surrogate grandmother said to me when I asked her if she would be my grandmother, her reply was an overwhelming yes and “I always have more love to give,” I was so worried when I ask because she was 93 and I thought she wouldn’t live long. She lived until she was 107.

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    2. Thank you Bill, I am so happy to reconnect with you and hope to see you in Washington DC this summer. The human connection is something we all desire and need.

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    1. Hello Velma, it was so wonderful to see you again this spring and have you honor me in the way that you did with the gathering of your friends. You will always have a special place in my heart. Happy Mother’s Day to you too.

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  2. What a lovely tribute to a wonderful family! What special memories.Thanks for sharing.Liz Thomas 

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

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  3. Hello Liz, when someone touches you this deeply oh, it’s almost impossible to forget. And now fifty years plus later, the memories of Ruth are even more Vivid. Thank you for your comment and happy Mother’s Day to you too.

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  4. Susan, This was just wonderful and brought tears to my eyes. You are a wonderful sister.

    By the way, Pastor Dave was really happy to be included in your zoom group. He says the Liberian history really needs to be written by people like you since so many Liberians who would be able to tell the history were killed in the war or by Ebola.

    Love, Vikki

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    1. Hello Vikki,
      I cried so often just writing this. As I am again this morning reading everyone’s overwhelming response to this blog. Mothers are very important to all of us. And Happy Mother’s Day all of you out there. Many of these photos are ones but I received from you, Vikki, especially Ruth’s graduation photo. It is certainly a treasure. I am thrilled that Pastor Dave was able to attend our workshop. He is absolutely correct that this anthology, to be released in June, Never the Same Again is going to go down into the archives of Liberian history.

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  5. You amazing woman! Thanks for this beautiful update! And thank you for these pictures, stories, memories of Ruth. I so look forward to holding the Anthology in my hands and reading it, though I can’t imagine it being more satisfying than pouring over In Search of Pink Flamingos and re-living memories of 50 years ago. BTW, I hope by now you have received a little package with a Pink Flamingo coffee cup. We’re way past due to get together. This week? Plans for DC? Nancy

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    1. Hello Nancy,
      YES, YES, I received the beautiful Pink Flamingo Mug. It is gorgeous. I use it for my tea, and hold it with memories of you. I have to say, I didn’t know which Nancy it came from as I have 3 in my life. But now I know. Thanks so much dear.
      Yes, Ruth and Harold were very special to me and they live within me today. Thanks to Vikki, I was able to have these older photos of R&H in Liberia and her RN graduation photo.
      I will be in DC for the July festivities. I will write you the details in another email. Lots of Love, Gowee Sue

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  6. Susan — Thanks for the memories you shared about Ruth and Harold. They were a remarkable couple, and we were proud to be associated with them as Peace Corps Volunteers. We were fortunate to reconnect them here in Blacksburg when their grandson was attending Virginia Tech. They ennobled us all. Lyn and Jim

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    1. Hello Jim and Lyn,
      Yes, R&H were special to so many of us young PCVs. At my young age of 20 from the farm in Nebraska, I had never met anyone older than my parents with such an open heart and mind. I think of them so often and a piece of them lives within me as the best role model one could find. Thank you both for sharing that common fondness of such a wonderful couple.
      Gowee Sue

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    1. Hello Karl, thank you so much for your comment. It sounds like you may have also been a volunteer somewhere? I don’t know if you have read my memoir but I write in great detail about how I was coming to “save the people in Africa” when in actuality they saved me. My experience in Liberia was a memory I would never have guessed would reaped an even greater value some fifty years later. It is a book and an experience that keeps on giving.

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    1. Hello Karl, Africa in general was a simmering pot of oil ready to blow at any time. Liberia was just a decade later than Ethiopia with it coup in 1980 and two civil wars later. I believe that no one in my Village of Zorgowee is alive. For me my Peace Corps experience was a memory of beautiful people in a hard time, but one worth living. Thank you for writing.

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  7. I met Ruth and Harold 1972 when they were in Gbedin, Liberia. I was a “tourist” from Sweden and was lucky to spend a week with them. We became friends for ever and They visited us when they were tavellist in Scandinavia. I have visited them in both Oregon and in Washington state.
    I have the same feeling as you; Ruth and Harold became part of mycket family too!

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    1. Hello Kerstin, thank you for the lovely reply. I believe met you in Eastern Washington at the annual family picnic. I did not know how you met and that is not surprising to me of how you bonded with them in one brief meeting. Ruth and Harold have touched so many lives and I was honored to have crossed their path.

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  8. Thank you for writing this. Mentors in my life have taught me lessons about integrity, service and faith that I had no other means to learn. I loved reading this. Thank you.

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