Last month I had the pleasure of either writing or editing a series of posts for the Women's Resource Center of Manatee on 25 remarkable women in our community. This series celebrated the 25th anniversary of the WRC, and it was a diverse group of women who were honored, including a number of our very own "I Am Woman" contributors. All were inspiring.
I learned about women I thought I knew and women I had never met before -- each and every one of them had a wonderful story to tell, they made a huge contribution to our community and I wanted to meet them, have a cup of coffee with them and learn more about their lives, their motivations, ideas and so much more.
Who knew that Marge Kinnan had worked in a doughnut shop to support her family after her husband passed away? I had no idea that Rose Carlson, a phenomenal lady, co-chaired the Committee for Passage of the Children's Services Tax in Manatee County, which today raises and allocates $8 million annually to benefit children in our community. Susie Walters started the training department at Bealls? Really? The differences that these women have made in the lives of so many is simply amazing.
It started me thinking about all the strong women that I know -- and apparently there are a lot! From family to friends and so many more that I want to get to know -- they celebrate one another, they lend a helping hand up the ladder, they encourage and cheer lead. I have been so blessed in my life to be around so many remarkable women.
One of the biggest blessings has been to join the Horne/Curtis clan and yes, it really is a "clan"! Just the family members at our holiday gatherings each year numbers well over 40. I gained five "sisters," five more "brothers," seven "nieces" and seven "nephews," an aunt, an uncle and a Grammy.
When my mother passed away six years ago, I announced to John's parents, Ann and Lynn, that whether they wanted me or not, they had gained a daughter. They did not put up too much of a fuss, thank goodness, and so from that day on they became Papa Lynn and Momma Ann.
This is a family full of strong women, always there for one another through joy and loss, sickness, health, good times and bad -- just a phone call away ready to help, no matter what they have going on in their lives. John's mother Ann was one of the first women business
owners in Polk County, starting the Ann S. Horne Court Reporting Services in the 1960s -- such a wonderful role model for her "daughter." That would be me, granddaughter Jake Ann, and all the generations in our family.
I love to hear the stories over family dinners of these strong women that came before, the Granny's, Bebe's and Edna's who ran grocery stores, farmed and instilled their strengths in their family. We have teachers, nurses, actors, entrepreneurs -- even a poor deluded nephew or two intent on following Uncle John into the restaurant trade, always being encouraged that they can do whatever they put their minds to.
The past week has been difficult for all of us, for we lost one of the patriarchs of our clan, Uncle Clint, to a long battle with Parkinson's. Uncle Clint was the man who married John and me, we never considered anyone else. He was uncle, friend, "corporate counsel" and John's role model as "cool Uncle."
Aunt Flo, his wife of 63 years, has been so strong throughout his illness, as have his four daughters -- it's now time for us to be there for them, to be their strength. That's what strong women, and men, do for each other: support, love, encourage stand beside each other -- and maybe crack a few inappropriate jokes to make them smile and forget their loss for a moment.
The holidays will be hard this year, but we have little great nieces and nephews running around to bring joy and we have stories -- boy, do we have stories.
I challenge all of you to go out into the community and talk to those you meet, listen to their stories, their histories, their lives, their passions. I think we will find that there are many more strong, amazing people, both women and men, than we realize. We need to celebrate them, encourage them and enjoy them.
We know there are so many more who could have been honored as "Wonder Women" by the Women's Resource Center -- the list of women they started with was long and amazing, and it was a tough choice. So, keep a list going -- let us know who you believe is a wonder woman, and let's continue celebrating all our amazing sisters.
Amanda Horne, community relations coordinator for the Women's Resource Center of Manatee and board chair at PACE Center for Girls of Manatee, can be reached at email@example.com.