Today would have been my mother's 93rd birthday. Today (and always) I am thankful for knowing this amazing wonderful woman who was a shining example of how to live, love and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us. Not only did I have the privilege of knowing her but I was blessed enough to have her as the most wonderful mother on the planet! (I know, I am biased) Today would have been her 93rd birthday. So today, I will do something I have never done before. I will write something about the life of my mother, Dorothy Kent Dewey Napolitan.
Mom was born on April 5, 1919, the second child of Dix and Myrtle (Schmitt) Dewey (another amazing woman!) in Chicago, Illinois. Some time between 1920 and 1927 the family moved to Elgin, Illinois. She had the most amazing red hair and beautiful green eyes that could see into your soul. During her youth, mom was very athletic and participated at school in volleyball, swimming and many other sports. Mom was always a caring and nurturing woman and she decided in high school that she wanted a career before marriage. A career that would allow her to help other people. So, mom went to Elgin's Sherman Hospital school of nursing and became a licensed professional Registered Nurse. Mom graduated from school in December 1940 and officially became licensed on January 24, 1941. This was an era when educated women with careers was very rare and most woman married right out of high school. Soon after Mom became a nurse she moved downtown to an apartment near the hospital she was employed with, Wesley Memorial Hospital (today it is Northwestern University Hospital). Mom's career in nursing was very interesting.
Back in the 1940's nurses were not paid very well. So, mom also began doing private duty nursing in addition to her job at the hospital. One of the jobs mom took paid so well she quit her job at Wesley hospital to do it. The famous Phillip K. Wrigley family hired mom to come to their summer home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin to care for their son who had contracted a serious illness. This son was William Wrigley III, who took over the famous chewing gum/sports empire in 1961. She spent the entire summer there caring for him. Later, after William assumed the President role of the Wrigley Corporations mom had written him a letter. He wrote her a beautiful letter back in which he told mom how fondly he remembered her and her kindness and caring. Mom was always very proud of that. During this time Mom dated men, but was busy with her career and family life and was not impressed by most of her dates. When I was in 8th grade my dad finally agreed to allow me to wear make up so my mother and I went shopping for some lip gloss, mascara and blush. I choose a Revlon product and mom smiled at me and asked me, "Can you keep a secret between us girls"? I dated one of the Revson brothers! I was fairly shocked and I wish I could remember his name but that was a long time ago. I asked her about that several times over the years and each time she gave me a little more information. Around 1947 Mom went to work for a company that employed my father. Meeting him changed her life. My parents married at city hall on May 7, 1949. Mom was raised Protestant and Dad was raised Catholic so they could not marry in a church - yet. Sometime after the arrival of my brother and I Mom converted to the Catholic faith and was devoutly dedicated to her new religion. My brother, my mother and I were all baptized together in 1960. Mom taught me faith well. She also taught sewing classes after school at the local Catholic grade school. She had the patience of a saint, something she tried so hard to teach me. Mom and Dad spent 3 months during the winter months in Florida every year. Each day she would swim 100 laps in the pool. One day when I was in Florida with them, I asked my mom why she did not swim that day. She told me I swam 100 laps a day all those years and now I am done. She was in her late 70's at the time.
My mother was an amazing mother and there was never a doubt in my mind about how much she loved me, even when I messed up. She loved my father's family with all her heart and often took me to visit my grandfather's cousins and their children (who were her age) whom she admired greatly. Her love for my father was so beautiful and I have never in my entire life seen anyone love the way my mother loved my father. Until the day she died she looked at my father as if she just fell in love with him. It was an amazing thing to see - that much love and admiration always. Her face literally would light up every time she saw him. After 61 years of marriage!! Mom had many heartbreaks and struggles but through it all she bore everything with dignity and grace. She taught me how to live, love and the lesson that took the longest for me to learn...how to stop and be thankful for the joy and beauty that surrounds us everyday...to stop, smell and appreciate the beauty of a flower and each person in my life. To look deeper because everyone is so beautiful but some people you have to dig a little deeper to find that beauty and in the end, it is so worth it. If I could be half the woman my mother was, I would be proud and happy. Happy birthday Mom! I love you and miss you more than words could express.