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In honor of Mother’s Day, the Times asked community leaders from throughout the county to share memories of their moms and discuss how they impacted their lives.
The participants included Kenton Mayor Randy Manns, Ohio Department of Transportation District One Communications Director Rhonda Pees, Ridgemont Superintendent Emmy Davis, Hardin County Commissioner Brice Beaman, Forest Tax Administrator Becky Taylor and Ohio Northern University President Daniel DiBiasio.
When asked to discuss the influence Kate Hoffman had on her daughter’s life, Rhonda Pees said she felt more comfortable setting her feelings to written word. Pees is the Communications Director for District One of the Ohio Department of Transportation.
“Growing up,” she wrote, “I thought every kid had a mom who stayed home and was always available. It’s not until years later that I realized the commitment mom made to us by doing that and what a luxury that was for my brother, Mark, and me. That luxury was provided by both my dad and mom through his job at Rockwell, playing music, and farming. They were a team and we were their priority.
“Mom always made sure we had breakfast. That may seem trivial to mention, but that one act set me on a lifetime of good eating habits. I was always happiest when she made me a fried-egg sandwich.
“She took us to church and Sunday school, both of which are important parts of my life today.
“Many times kids don’t like the clothes their mom chooses for them. But mom was particular about the clothes she bought for us. She must have known something about fashion because my brother and I were both chosen as the ‘Best Dressed’ in our graduating classes.
“She also is still teaching us what marriage should be. Mom and Dad had 52 years together before he passed away in 2008. What wasn’t so obvious growing up is certainly obvious now – love can last forever, even when one is gone.
“She battled cancer when I was a senior in high school. I never believed that would turn out badly, partly because I couldn’t imagine it but mostly because of how she reacted to it. She talked very little about it, even during her treatments. We didn’t know how she was feeling or how it was affecting her.
“That’s my mom – strong, independent and never a complainer.
“She’s a good traveler when you take her places, but she won’t fly. She’s a good cook, known for her potato salad, and I’m proud to say I can make it just like her. She loves animals and throws bugs outside rather than killing them – both traits I inherited.
“My mom told me that as a little kid, I always woke up with a smile. There are many days now I wake up and think of that, and am thankful I have a mom who remembers me in that way.”
When Randy Manns was growing up, he said, there were many times his mom could have complained about her life, but she didn’t.
Peg Manns is the mother of eight children, five boys and three girls. With so many mouths to feed, said Manns, there were times as he was a child, when it was difficult to put enough food on the table, but nobody went hungry in the Manns’ home.
“We had difficult times,” he recalled, “but mom had a knack. She knew how to make things go farther. Even if we didn’t have money for groceries, mom would make things go farther than they should have. She grew up in a period when people did more with less.”
From an early age, he continued, he knew he could rely on his mother for support.
“She is my biggest fan,” he said.
Eight children with different interests in school kept her busy attending ball games and programs, said Manns, but his mom attended them all. Even if it meant walking to a ballgame, Peg Manns wasn’t about to miss seeing her kids doing what they enjoyed, recalled her son.
“Even in the times I wasn’t doing the right things, I learned I could trust in her and rely on her support,” said the Kenton mayor. “She was faithful to support me. One of the biggest things in my life were the talks I had with my mother.
“I look at my mom, who raised eight children and yet she never complained,” he continued. “She had plenty of opportunities to complain, but she did the best she could. That is one thing that has helped me in life and keeps everything in the right perspective, when I look at mom and what she did for us.”
A few months ago, Randy and his family were forced to place Peg in a nursing home after she suffered a series of strokes.
“She had been staying with my sisters, but we took her there for a few days,” said Manns. “But she is so content there and made new friends. So she is staying at Hardin Hills. The staff does a great job of taking care of her and she is content there. It is where Mom wants to be.
“I thank God for the mothers who have the opportunity to raise their kids at home,” he continued. “My mom had a dramatic impact on my life. Who I am today and the values I have in life come from what I learned from my mother. Maybe not verbally, but from what I saw her do in her life.”
Ridgemont Superintendent Emmy Davis learned from childhood she could do anything in life she set out to accomplish. It was a lesson she learned by watching her mom, Kathy.
“My mom,” said Davis, “is the one who stands behind me and holds me up. Whether my challenges are personal or professional, she is my cheerleader. Her influence is her constant encouragement and belief that her little girl can really do anything she puts her mind to. Her example to me is the testimony that no matter how difficult life is, commitment and integrity are our anchors. I am grateful to have her.”
When Davis was young, her parents were divorced and to bring in money, Kathy was a baby-sitter and Avon salesperson. She later secured a job as a bank teller and by the time Davis was in college, her mom was named the manager of the bank.
Throughout her life, said Davis, she has relied on being able to share her concerns and find solid advice from her mother.
“If I’m having a bad day,” said Davis, “I know I can call my mom and she will listen to me talk about stuff that doesn’t connect to her. I tell her, please pray for me and she does, but she also gives me encouragement. She will say, ‘OK, we have had our pity party, now take care of this.”
The responsibilities of leading a school district often take time from Davis at home with her two children. She counts often on her mother to look after the kids while she attends meetings and works late, said Davis.
“I couldn’t do this job without her,” she said. “She sup-ports me and the kids and gets them where they need to go. Logistically, she is very helpful. Mom is my baby-sitter, but she is also still my best friend.”
“My mother, Julie DiBiasio, walked cheerfully on this earth,” said Ohio Northern University President Daniel DiBiasio.
It was his mom’s commitment to her faith that left an impact on his life, said DiBiasio.
“Her faith in God was total, unconditional, and reverent – all she wanted to do was serve others, help others, and devote herself to her family,” he recalled. “Her kindness towards others was inspiring. That kindness, however, did not always extend to referees or umpires who made the wrong call against any one of her three boys during a football, basketball or baseball game. She came very close to being a sinner on those occasions.”
His mother was special not only to him, said DiBiasio, but to others she met.
“A measure of her grace is found in the fact that my friends from high school and college would invariably stop by to see her whenever they were in town,” he said.
“Whenever I would see any of them, they would always ask about Julie.”
This Mother’s Day will be the first the university president has spent without his mom and her memory will still be on his mind, he said. Despite watching her battle against the loss of her memory, Daniel said he found comfort in seeing his mom’s spirit was not conquered by Alzheimer’s disease, said her son.
“Sadly, my Mom passed away a few days after Mother’s Day last year. She was in the grip of Alzheimer’s, that horrible disease that robbed her of memory and the ability to recognize family and friends. And yet her mood in the moment was always sweet, happy, and joyful. I think it was her Christian faith still shining through.”
Commissioner Brice Beaman said he always felt like out of his mother’s nine children, he was her favorite. But then, Helen Beaman had a way of making each of her children feel they were her favorites, he said.
“Mom had nine different favorites,” he said. “She made us all feel special. When we were with mom, each of us was the most important person in the world. There was never a lack of love from mom for each of her children. We never felt cheated for her attention. I don’t know how she did it, but we were all mom’s favorite.”
Helen taught her children to stick with their projects to the end, said Beaman. She didn’t tell the kids what to do with their time, but insisted they follow through on their undertakings.
“If we started something, she expected us to finish it,” said Beaman. “That has carried on with our adult lives. She wanted us to be the best we could be. Mom never pushed you to be something you weren’t, but she was all in for whatever you wanted to be.”
But even with nine children and their families to watch over, said Beaman, Helen had a second family where she was “mother.” For many years, she was a dispatcher for the sheriff’s office on the night shift. Helen looked out for the deputies on the road, said her son.
“She was mother to them, too,” said Beaman. “When they checked in, she watched over them.”
Since her death, said Beaman, he has realized more how much of an impact his mother had on his life. She taught her children to be honest and fair, he said, and never think of themselves as better than anyone else.
“I would give everything I own and everything I could steal to get her back,” he said. “But mom’s in a better place. She did her job and was ready to move on. Mom was a good woman.”
Courage in facing life is the lesson Forest Tax Administrator Becky Taylor thinks of when she reflects on the influence her mother, Ronna McKibben, has had on her life.
“The older I get, the more I find myself saying the same things to my kids that mom used,” she said. “But she taught my brother and I faith and family come first and when things get to be too much, God will take care of your family. But over the past five years, Mom has shown me how to look life in the eye and deal with it.”
When her father died unexpectedly four years ago, said Taylor, her mother was the solid emotional rock the rest of the family leaned on.
“I am sure she was falling apart herself,” said Taylor, “but she remained strong for all of us.”
That was in 2008 and the next test of her mother’s courage came three years later, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I saw a fight in her I never saw before,” said Taylor. “It is one thing to deal with the death of a parent or a husband, but she said, ‘I’m going to knock this thing out and she did it. She is now cancer-free.”
Her mother lives in a small town in eastern Ohio, but the mother-daughter bond is stronger each day despite the distance between them, said Taylor.
“I try to call her every day. Sometimes it is for only 30 seconds; just long enough to say ‘Love you’ and then we’re good. I am extremely proud of my mother. She’s my best friend and if I can grow up to be half as strong as she is, I will have done something right.”
By DAN ROBINSON
Times staff writer