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An Honourable Mention

May 31, 2017

If I have done the math right, it seems my mother was born in 1924. She turns 93 June 3rd and is a remarkably active woman.

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba of Russian Jewish immigrant parents, she taught me from as young as I can remember the value of charity and volunteer work.

Just the other day chatting with her while hunting for garage sales, she was telling me about the first youth groups she mentored. She was 12 years old at the time and the kids she mentored were nine. Needless-to-say, her career in volunteerism started young.

I remember in the mid to late 1960’s her wanting to go to Israel as a delegate of the volunteer organization of which she was a member, then called Pioneer Women, now called Na’amat.

She recounts people asking her how her husband would give permission to go on a 6 week excursion, leaving him with their 3 boys. Thing is, she didn’t ask his permission. It was a given she could go. The only question was sorting out how he would care for us in her absence. It was sorted out. She went. My parents had a beautiful marriage. My dad supported her in all her endeavors.

By about 1970, in addition to her volunteer activity, she opened an antique business with another lovely woman, Kay Burford. Together they literally scoured the countryside looking for treasures. They would go to auctions, estate sales and literally just show up at random farm houses asking if they had anything old. These two were the original “pickers”. They had moxie.

I would be dragged along as a kid, too young to leave alone as the youngest of my brothers. I didn’t much like it then, yet now when together for the weekend, my mom and I happily go on treasure hunts one garage sale at a time.

My mom has outlived two husbands. My natural dad died at 60 years of age. This was devastating for mom. He was a great guy, also active in charitable and volunteer organizations. However, 4 years later she was to meet another man. As lovely a fellow as was my dad, this other fellow may have been even nicer, kinder, if there was such a thing. So mom was twice blessed given her choice in men, as were we her children.

It was only a few years ago, through her volunteer organization that my mom received a certificate from the Government of Ontario for 70 years of continuous volunteer service. I should mention that her group raises funds to support daycare services as well as women’s shelters both in Canada and in Israel.

More recently, she was asked to speak at one of her group’s bigger meetings – coming this October. With a sense of humor she apparently asked the organizers if they knew how old she was. She responded telling them she would be happy to present, assuming she was still around.

My mom, still lives independently, drives locally and takes care of many others. She has organized a small group of women in her condo to keep an eye on each other as well as to socialize and attend recreational events.

For as long as I can remember, I have called my mom by her given name. This is not in disrespect, but a function of my loving relationship with her. Although never equals, there has always been an egalitarian way with her.

Bess, congratulations on your 93rd birthday. I love you now and always.

You are an impressive women and remarkable role model.

Everyone should know.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. It’s because of my mother.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

  1. Michele Maycock permalink

    What an absolutely touching tribute to your mother and your relationship with her. A most beautiful account. Thank you for sharing Gary.

  2. Susan Cook permalink

    Thank you for sharing that, Gary. Very touching.

  3. Kristina Jonsson permalink

    Thanks Gary for the honor you express to your mother who sounds like an exceptional lady. Personally I am encouraged by her blessing of finding a second husband worthy of her.

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