This is Donna. She might be one of the most angelic people I have ever met and her interview blew me away. She grew up in a home with an alcoholic father and a promiscuous mother (her words) who would often take off for weeks at a time. She basically raised her four younger siblings on her own and they often went without food, water, and heat. She remembers stealing coal from her neighbors shed because they were desperate and had to keep warm. Eventually the state caught on and placed all five kids into foster homes, which broke Donna’s heart. Unfortunately, many of the children suffered abuse in these homes. The thing that amazes me though, is that Donna has absolutely ZERO animosity toward either one of her parents. In fact, she loves them and says that they “tried the best they could.” She even took care of her mother in her later years. If that isn’t forgiveness, then I don’t know what is.
My friend Fran volunteers once a week at her local recreation center, so I decided to film her in action. I love when I find people like Fran, who so willingly give their time to others. It’s a good reminder for me, because sometimes it seems more complicated and overwhelming than it really is. Her advice was to “just go out and do it!” Wait for the ending, it’s the sweetest!
I was born in Wellington, Missouri. It was just a little town and we liked it. Wellington had just 656 people when I was growing up, but I think it’s bigger now. It’s between St. Louis and Kansas City. My dad worked for Corps of Engineers, so we moved there because he got a job with them. Wellington was on the Missouri River and when the summer came, all the crap (pardon me) that comes from Kansas City and places like that comes down the river. Somedays it don’t smell too good. They call it the Missouri River, I call it puking.
I went to school there. I went to Lexington to get a better job. When I got older, I moved to Kanas City cause the jobs was better and then I met a guy there and that was our home. I just came here recently. I lived in Missouri all my life. I like it here. So far so good.
I had a sister and we were just 19 months apart. She wasn’t very healthy and she finally died. I’ve lost my brother and I lost my sister and I’m hanging on. I lost two husbands and I’m still hanging on! I had a good life. I’ve still got a good life. Life is how you make it!
I have not been back to Wellington since I buried the folks and my sister. I’ll never go back. None of my people live there anymore. I haven’t been back and I don’t intend to go back. nobody in my family lives there anymore. I don’t blame 'em.
I like to dance. Just plain old dancing. I remember prom night. We had 16 in our class and eight of them was boys and I had to show them boys how to dance! Course Wellington is very old fashioned, so most of the people in Wellington are farmers, but they’re good farmers and most of them are very well-to-do, but the boys aren’t. They didn’t know the two-step or a swing, they didn’t know nothin’! Before prom someone said, “Pat, you have to teach these boys how to dance.” So I did, and they were so klutzy!
My mom taught me how to dance. She was a gay ol’ gal in her age and she could really dance. She made sure my sis and I knew how to dance. My mom taught me all growing up, but when I needed to go to prom, that’s when she really got behind me. As old as she was, and she wasn’t that old, but you know being a mother, she still knew how to dance. My mom was German-Irish and they liked to dance. I still dance. As old as I am, it’s still there.
I grew up in the rural farm area on the northern side of Argentina. My dad left my mom, and my mom couldn’t raise me on her own, so when I was 8 years old, she left me with another family and they raised me. When I was 22, I moved to the capitol and started working in Buenos Aires. A few years later, I met Nilda.
I was born and raised in San Nicolas, Buenos Aires, Argentina. I grew up in a neighborhood where all of the houses looked exactly the same. They were kind of like condos. They were really close together in the middle of the city. All of the neighbors knew each other and we would get together and eat dinner and have parties, so I knew everyone and everyone knew me growing up. My favorite meals were meatballs, breaded chicken and stew. My father was a tailor and worked at a factory as well. My dad raised me and my siblings because my mom left us. She just walked out on us. I had five sisters and one brother. My dad passed away when I was 10 years old, so my oldest sister raised us because she was 18 at the time.
One of my greatest accomplishments is being a hard worker and raising my four daughters. When my father passed away, my sisters raised me, so I had to go out and work in the fields. We would gather fruits and vegetables and then my sisters and I would go sell them at the markets. Today, I’m a janitor at Carl’s Jr. People have told Augustus and I that it’s hard work for how old we are, but we just do it.
Some advice I would give my grandchildren would be to work hard, but more than work hard, to get an education. Make sure you’re doing what you need to do now so that you can have a better future for your family and yourself. Go to college and graduate. Major in something important. I went to school until I was 13 and then I stopped because I had to work. If I were able to go to college, I would have been a lawyer or a teacher to teach kids.
This is Bill. Bill is a hero.
He went without food for three days. He watched his best friend die in his arms. He was such an accurate sniper that he was asked to run alongside the colonel to protect him. He was captured by the Chinese and tortured for three days. He was part of the "Frozen Chosin" battle and fought in 30 below zero conditions.
He was in the Marine Corp during the Korean War. He earned a double Purple Heart and a Silver Star medal, along with several others. He experienced the brutality of war first hand, and openly talked about his PTSD with me. We cried together as he recited his poem titled "War is Hell." I have no words to describe the experience we shared and I left wanting to share Bill's story with the world.
I drove home in silence and tried to process everything this man had gone through. Suddenly, my often petty complaints seemed minuscule. In one hour, Bill had changed my entire perspective on life. It made me so grateful! Grateful for those who have sacrificed their lives for our freedoms. Grateful for those who have to continue living with the nightmares of war every day.