Amongst the gifts, we received the following very special note:
“I am making two separate contributions to Solid Ground. One is for your general purposes. I would like this one to be directed specifically to the Broadview Shelter. My mother was widowed at 36, a housewife with four children and no home (my father was a minister, and our house was the church parsonage, now needed for a new minister).
“She moved us to my grandparents’ farm; learned to drive a car and handle finances; took courses, became a licensed practical nurse, and got a job; and bought a house, all in the first year. She then completed raising her children.
“I began donating to Broadview in her name some years ago, as a Mother’s Day gift, to help people who weren’t fortunate enough to have a place to go, as we had. She told me it was the best gift she had ever gotten. My mother passed away in January from post-COVID complications, about three weeks short of her 96th birthday, and with this gift, I honor her memory as I honored her in life. She was an extraordinary woman.”
The note came from Jean Feagin, a longtime Solid Ground donor who connected with us back in our Fremont Public Association days. As a resident of the Fremont neighborhood, Jean came across our organization when attending the annual Fremont Fair. One day, almost two decades ago, a note arrived asking if our supporters would give to Broadview in honor of their mothers, and Jean said it really resonated. She knew that she wanted to honor her mother, Ruth Gordon, with such a gift.
A safe, stable place to lay down roots
Jean grew up in Western Pennsylvania. Her grandparents’ farm was a friendly place to spend the year after her father passed away, and the home her mother bought was just five miles away, allowing for frequent visits.
As on many farms, guests and family at the farmhouse used the kitchen door exclusively to come and go. The front door was only for special guests, and Jean laughed that the artist’s rendition of the farmhouse really played up the front door and porch as the main space.
Given the stability the farmhouse provided, Ruth purchased and lived in her home nearby until she moved to assisted living in the fall of 2019. Jean recalls that her mother put a down payment on their house in 1962, and eventually paid it off in the following decades. The family celebrated by burning the mortgage papers in the metal barbeque. Somewhere, still tucked away at her mother’s house, is a picture of her mother and siblings gathered around the fire.
Family legacy of perseverance
“Mother had only ever wanted to be a wife and mother. She had gone to college to find a husband (which appalled her parents when they found out). She didn’t like any of the boys she knew locally – and at college, she met Olin, a tall, thin young man from Georgia. As we were cleaning out her house, I found an old loose-leaf notebook full of poems. In one poem, the first stanza talked about how she didn’t really know what love was like, had only read about it in magazines. But the second stanza started with, ‘I met him twenty days ago’ and went on to describe her recognition that she was in love.”
Ruth Gordon met her husband during WWII. After not having the funds to continue college after the first two semesters, he joined the army. Ruth wasn’t much interested in college without him and took a job in a factory setting rivets. Jean laughs as she says, “I just found out two years ago that she was a Rosie the Riveter!”
Ruth and Olin wore down their parents (who wanted them to wait until after the war) and finally managed to get married in the summer of 1944, a few months before he was shipped off to Italy. Unfortunately, he came home with a heart murmur and unexpectedly succumbed to heart complications at the age of 36. It was then that her mom moved the family to her parents’ farm and had to reimagine what her life would be like. “We were so very fortunate that my grandparents were nearby and there was a place that we could go,” Jean says.
As an adult, Jean studied molecular biology, got her PhD in California, then moved to Seattle for a postdoc. She stayed in the area and opened her own lab in Seattle to study the malaria parasite for two decades. She loves detailing the simplicity of the single-celled organisms, how they can adapt to their challenging environments to thrive. It’s hard not to wonder if she gained this sort of appreciation from her mother, who did just that so many years ago.
We’re so thankful to donors like Jean who lift up the parents and children at Broadview, and for sharing their stories with us. If you’d like to share your personal giving story with Solid Ground, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.