My turn

We are all influenced by the voices and deeds of remarkable women

2014-02-23T00:00:00Z We are all influenced by the voices and deeds of remarkable womenBy Bill Vargo Times Columnist
February 23, 2014 12:00 am  • 

When next this column appears in print, it will be Women’s History Month, so I thought what the heck, close enough.

I know a little something about women, just don’t ask my sisters. We all have a woman in our lives, whether  a mother, spouse, aunt or grandmother, who has influenced us.

This past week, I lost an aunt. She was one of those aunts that always saw the good in you, even when you didn’t see it in yourself. Being really close to my mother and grandmother, my aunt was a constant in our lives until last year, when she became really sick.

Ruth Ann Payne left behind a family that will miss her warmth and compassion. When I was in grade school, they moved to the 1200 block of Arbogast Street in Griffith. A mere two blocks from our house, it was a place to get a different kind of pampering.

Ruth Ann would treat us like one of her own, which meant that we couldn’t get away with much, or at least that is what we were told.

When I called my uncle to offer condolences, I got the answering machine, and it was comforting to hear her voice message.

I was tempted to call back just to get the machine again. In some small way, we cling to the voices of people that are there with a smile and a kind word, even when you don’t think you deserve it.

My Aunt Ruth Ann would probably not have been comfortable as the feature of this column, because like a lot of other mothers, aunts, and grandmothers, she preferred being the background.

The story goes that my aunt grew tired of seeking help putting the Christmas tree away. So one year, she put the tree on casters and decorated it. After the holidays, she simply rolled it into a spare bedroom.

I am sure there was more to the story than that, but it illustrates her nature, just like one of the first times that I remember visiting her. I dropped my Popsicle in the dirt and was devastated, but she simply ran it under the hose and we went back to playing. She was like a second mother, just funnier.

As for Women's History Month, let’s celebrate women for more than their role in the home as nurturers. Women lead great nations, as proven by Angela Merkel in Germany.

Women have been involved in movements for change and been catalysts for such efforts. In places like Northern Ireland, the Middle East and Africa, women have risked their lives to make sure that their families and neighbors enjoy freedom in whatever form it takes.

Here in the U.S., the Civil Rights Movement celebrated during Black History Month would not have been possible without women, from the background to the front of the bus.

I will keep the sound of my aunt’s voice in my mind, along with those of my grandmother and mother. They would have you convinced in a very short time that you were capable of most anything, even when you had your own doubts.

That should be the same voice, on a larger scale, that we all hear when we talk of the strides women make in the sciences, business, technology and politics. Listen to those wonderful voices repeating over and over, “You are kind, you are smart and you are important.”

The opinions are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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