Pull up a chair, sit back and let me bend your ear for a moment about an unsung heroine I had the privilege of knowing.
She was born on Jan. 15, 1927, in Bradford, Pa., and was the fifth in a family of six children. By the time she was 7, she knew how to wash and sterilize her mother's insulin syringes and give the injections, because her mother was blind and could not do it. By the time she was 10, her mom had passed from this world and when she hit her teens, her father was also taken from her.
She moved in with an older brother and when she turned 16 in 1943, she took a Rosie the Riveter-type job after school to support herself, and still managed to graduate near the top of her class.
After the war ended, she met the man of her dreams. They married and moved to the Buffalo suburbs to raise a family.
When her youngest child started first grade, she found an entry-level job at the F.W. Woolworth Store in the Hamburg Plaza. While June Clever was sitting home being wonder mom, she worked a 40-hour week so the family could afford the American dream of a home and someday even a brand-new car in the driveway.
She instilled in her children the values she believed in: Always address your elders with a title. If your neighbor is colder than you are, give him the shirt off your back even if it's the only one you have. Never say anything bad about someone; if you don't have anything nice to say, just keep your mouth shut. When you find a job, always give the company 200 percent of your effort because you will be missed about as much as the size of a hole left in a bucket of water when you pull your hand out if you don't.
She taught her children to run with the wind and walk in the morning dew using caution, but not fear, and then she let them go to lead their own lives.
She and her husband finally retired in 1989 after she had worked herself to a management position. They were ready to enjoy all the plans they had made for their golden years. They sold their home in Hamburg and moved back to Bradford to be near her sisters.
The first year back, her younger sister passed away. The second year back, her older sister was diagnosed with cancer, so she took care of her sister for a year until she passed away. The next year, her husband was diagnosed with diabetes. Over the next eight years, she took care of him through the blindness, neuropathy and finally renal failure that took him away from her.
By then she was also a diabetic and lost the use of her left leg to the diabetic ulcers, but she never gave up on life. She got herself a four-legged friend to keep her company at home and conversed on the phone daily with her family and friends. She learned to use a computer and did her best to enjoy the golden years she was never given.
She passed away on July 13 in a tragic auto accident, and now my world is a darker place. My mom, Jeanne Hillard, has finally gone to join my dad.
Take a look at your family and call your unsung heroes/heroines today to tell them how much they mean to you, because tomorrow may be too late.
Jeanette Andrews, who lives in Blasdell, reflects on the life of a strong, selfless woman.