If my mother was alive today, she would be 109 years old, however, she passed away in 2000 at 85 years old and has been sorely missed since.


One of my first real memories of my mother was during a traumatic situation.  I was taking swimming lessons at the downtown Knoxville, Tennessee YWCA.  I hated those lessons and can still “smell” the chlorine water in that old building.  Mom had dropped me and a friend off and came back and picked us up after she finished a doctor’s appointment nearby, but when she came back I could see she was crying. She quickly took my hand and lead us out to the street.


I remember how fast she walked because I was six years old and trying to keep up with her 5’8” stride with her long, and shapely legs. She was a striking woman, next to the youngest of a family of 16 children and was known as the prettiest one of the bunch. Encouraging my little friend behind us to keep up, we finally got to the car and drove to one of my Aunt’s house.

That is when I found out that Mother had a choice to either die of cancer or have her left leg amputated, in order to try to save her life.


As soon as possible, they planned the surgery and I was left in the capable hands of another Aunt. I heard from family that when she woke up from surgery she asked the doctor if he had removed her leg and he responded yes, and that he felt it would definitely save her life.  The next question she asked was if he thought she would be able to swim and he responded that of course she could.  She responded with her normal humor saying, “that’s great because I never could before.”


I tell this story because I want to tell how she faced her obstacles with perseverance and courage. She was born with 10 siblings (five died at birth or infancy) graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in Education like three of her sisters which was rare for the times. She married by Dad in 1940 and had two children while working as a physical education teacher at high school.  At age 39, with two children, my brother 12 and me 6 years old, is when she had cancer and had her leg amputated to save her life so she could raise us.


After the surgery, it became difficult to teach physical education so she went back to school and got her Masters Degree and became a guidance counselor at her high school. The home my Dad and Mom built, where we were born and raised, remained her home for the next 55 years, on the land where our ancestors settled in the early 1800’s and where many of her family members lived.  Even after my father died at age 54, Mother stayed in that house and continued working as a guidance counselor, loved by students and teachers alike until she was 70 years old. In her later years, we brought her to Houston to be near my brother and I and her grandchildren where she died peacefully with her family surrounding her in 2000. 


I am so blessed to have been raised by such a remarkable, independent, brave lady who taught me how to overcome obstacles and believe that I could do anything I set my mind to if I believed I could.  I look at my four children with such pride that they, too, have been instilled with her qualities and navigate this complicated world while raising their children.


May all you Mothers have a great Mothers Day and spend it with those you love.



Beth Ferester



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