The Heroines

Jerry Dyson

is honored with a Brick from Lynette Murphy and Kendra McNeal.

 Jerry  Dyson
Honored by her daughters, Kendra McNeal and Lynette Murphy, on the occasion of Mother's Day 1999 and her 71st birthday, May 19, 1999

When she was just a little girl, Mom's mother began preparing her for life as a married woman, especially emphasizing the importance of sewing. Having been born in 1928, Geraldine Rosaline Cote was a child of the Depression -- where every last penny mattered, and you made clothes by hand because you had to.
So, Grandma taught Mom how to embroider and needlepoint and do utilitarian sewing. She needlepointed a beautiful picture of a deer when she was quite little; that picture is still somewhere in her basement. She made bed sheets to learn how to sew strong, everyday items. You had to be strong during the Depression and years thereafter.

All throughout our childhood, we remember Mom pumping away at the buzzing machine as the needle whooshed its way through cloth. She'd set up the contraption in front of the TV to catch up on soap operas or fit in some handiwork after the dinner dishes were all put away. She made tiny clothes for our Barbie dolls that of course matched ours because she used the leftover cloth. (That was pretty neat, we thought!) In 1976, when the nation celebrated its bicentennial, she made matching dresses for us and her and Dad a coordinating shirt to wear in a parade downtown. And when it was time for our Dad to realize one of his lifelong dreams - singing in front of an audience in a big auditorium - Mom sewed a matching dress and shirt for daughter and father so they could make their debut on the stage of the Brown Grand in their hometown of Concordia, Kansas. It was an emotional night for Dad.

When we ourselves became wives, she lovingly sewed a set of tea towels for us that of course we have never used. We are also proud of the handmade quilts she has crafted not only for us girls, but for our two sisters-in-law, too. We each got to pick our color and design, because Mom wanted to make sure they were personalized just for us. Mom also sewed the curtains in a grandchild's bedroom and her youngest daughter's kitchen because, unlike her Mom, this daughter has never operated a sewing machine! The kitchen curtains are made from antique tablecloths, and mother and daughter spent a lot of time thinking, designing and cutting out the old material. Those memories will always be there in the thread of those curtains. And many a knee of a grandson's and granddaughter's jeans were patched by Grandma.

Yes, the material things she has made us will be cherished always. The bicentennial dresses are long gone and the patched jeans long outgrown, but her youngest grandchild still plays with the Barbie clothes, and the quilts are displayed in our homes.

But, as the years add up, we realize that it's not what Mom has made for us but what she has made of us that makes her a heroine in our eyes.

We are different from our mother in so many ways, a testament to her upbringing of us. Like already mentioned, one of us never sews even though she did encourage us when we were small. (She chalks her youngest not catching on to being left-handed. How nice of her!) We both have college degrees and one of us is closing in on a master's degree; Mom never finished high school. Our jobs are our careers, our livelihood; Mom worked wherever she could to earn some extra money.

Our kids were (and one is still) in day care since infancy; Mother not only stayed home with us, but babysat other children at the same time. One of us -- God forbid -- had a house cleaner at one time; Mom would never have considered such a thing. We are quite independent of our husbands at times, something Mom has a hard time understanding; Mom and Dad depend on each other for everything.
With all of the differences -- most of them there because she encouraged us to better ourselves, to have a more affluent life than she did -- our lives and our personalities draw parallels to her every once in awhile. We find ourselves saying something she would say, or our husbands tell us (endearingly, of course) that we are just like our Mom. Like when we buy a dozen rolls of paper towels because they are on sale, even though there may be no room for them. Or when we buy an outfit that won't fit our daughter for three years because it was such a good bargain.

Without a doubt, the number one way she influenced us -- and again, this is what still made of us, not for us -- is her thriftiness. Mom shopped garage sales, thrift shops, discount bakery stores and the like. In fact, it's so fitting that she retired as a store clerk in a grocery store that got its start as a damaged freight outlet! But, where many people would have been embarrassed to do so, Mom was proud of the fact that she found an almost new pantsuit for next to nothing or a toy for a grandchild with nary a sign of use. But Mom did not buy "junk." No way. She examined each piece of clothing or kitchen utensil with an eye only Mom had. It may have been secondhand, but it did not have to look that way. Kind of like when she used to say, "You can be poor but you don't have to look poor" about some of the families in town.

Don't get us wrong. She did buy new things, but when she did go into a department store, she was headed to the back of the store for the sale racks faster than we could ever realize. And she made sure those purchases were practical. Very practical.

We are proud to say that we, truly our mother's daughters, don't even see the items in the front of stores. We're always set dead square on the back, to the sale items. And we go to garage sales, consignment shops and "dollar" stores diligently. We are damned proud of it! Our kids love to shop for bargains, too, which makes us happy knowing that Grandma has influenced them. It's hard to imagine that, years ago, we did not even consider getting new prom dresses. It wasn't that Mom said no -- we didn't even ask -- we just knew, because of the way she raised us to pinch pennies -- that one we had worn as a bridesmaid months before would be just fine. It's amazing to think that that didn't matter to us at the time!

For all of the influence that she has had on us, it's not over yet. A major stroke on the last day of 1998 -- a day after what would have been her mother's 110th birthday -- paralyzed the left side of her body, confining her to a wheelchair. She indeed has a different life, depending on others -- mostly Dad -- for her well-being. She probably won't be making the sewing machine needle whirr anymore, nor will she be fighting to get the last parking place at a "good" garage sale, but she's not done making contributions to life. She's not done forming our character. Her courage shown during this life-changing ordeal is inspirational, and we've gotten to know her even better in the hours we've spent sitting, playing cards, Rummikub or talking. If anything good is to come out of this stroke, it's that our entire family -- Dad, Mom, brothers Bruce and Greg and us -- have grown closer and appreciated each other more.

We realized as we were discussing writing this tribute that we each used parts of Mom's wedding veil and dress in our own wedding bouquets; we hadn't remembered that before. Just as we wanted her tradition with us, close to our hearts, on those special days, so do we have her with us each day even though we live miles apart.

We love you, Mom. You are our heroine.

Geraldine Rosaline Cote
Born May 19, 1928 in Aurora, Kansas.
Married Lyle Ivan Dyson on July 14, 1947 in Aurora, Kansas.

Mother of: Gregory Lee Dyson, Bruce Edward Dyson, Kendra Gerette McNeal, and Lynette Gerase Murphy.

Grandmother of: Brian Jay Dyson, Cassandra Irene Dyson, Kyle Douglas Burch, Emilie Elsie Dyson, Alynn Renae Dyson, Danielle Brianna McNeal, Kelley Rae Burch, John Edward Dyson, and Madeline Grace Murphy.

June 7, 1999