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STAYING TRUE TO HER CREATIVITY (AND REMARKABLE KATHY GRAY)

“ I think that Hurricane Katrina brought out a desire to create something with my hands—or simply a desire to create beauty out of chaos,” says jewelry designer, Kathy Gray, who lived through that natural disaster in Long Beach, Mississippi.

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“I uncovered some rusty old keys in a pile of hurricane debris which became earrings and necklaces, and thus began my journey into jewelry making. “

This was truly the beginning of Kathy’s seeing the possibilities all around her–objects that others might consider signs of destruction but what Kathy saw as signs of hope and renewed life.

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Always an Artist

Growing up poor in a small community in the cotton fields of northeast Louisiana, Kathy Gray has always found ways stop be creative.

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STAYING RELEVANT IN TODAY’S WORLD (and Remarkable Carolyn Brandt)

Remaining relevant as we age is particularly challenging for older women because of societal pressures, media images and dated grandmother/rocking chair Remaining relevant as we age is particularly challenging for older women because of societal pressures, media images and dated grandmother/rocking chair stereotypes. Sometimes we don’t even try because it feels like too much work.

A vibrant 73 year old who shatters these old beliefs every day is Carolyn Brandt, an older woman who not only makes it look easy, but acts as though it’s nothing special.

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Giving Away Her Secrets

When she tells her story, however, Carolyn Brandt gives away her secrets. In the process she reveals something very significant about older women’s relevancy at a time when everything seems to be changing faster and faster.

Carolyn Brandt was in education—“the best of all possible worlds for me,” she says, describing her move from high school teaching to Steward, a small newly opened private school in Richmond, Virginia–first as history teacher, then Department Head and Director of Studies, Director of the Upper School and ultimately the Assistant Head of School.

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A SAFE HAVEN FOR KIDS (and Remarkable Lena Robinson and Loretta Wallace)

What makes for a lasting friendship? And how does such a friendship inevitably spill over in a positive way to other people?

In the case of Lena Robinson and Loretta Wallace–close friends for years–it’s hearts shaped by compassion and love, plus a “can do” attitude and the ability to understand the needs of others.

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The Needs of Others

Both women have experienced first hand what shape these needs can take. Loretta Wallace formerly worked at Richmond, Virginia’s 311 Call Center while Lena Robinson is a private duty nurse who also operates a home for women transitioning back into society after suffering hardships.

A Shared Approach to Life

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The most recent living example of their shared approach to life and passion for neighborhood volunteerism is the summer camp for local children they organized in their back yard.

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SURREALISM IN A REAL WORLD (and Remarkable Susana Wald)

Sometimes the world of Susana Wald, a Canadian, born in Budapest, refugee from two oppressive governments and multi-talented artist living in Mexico, resembles her most recent paintings—a colorful swirl of energy and motion.

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Multi-Talented

“Artist” doesn’t tell the whole story. Susana is also a writer, graphic designer, literary translator, teacher, plus publisher of some 45 books and a multilingual magazine.

Truly a world citizen, Susana has taught visual arts in Chile, Canada and Mexico with solo shows in Belgium, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Iceland, Mexico, Spain, USA, and Venezuela. Group shows include the XLII Venice Biennial (1986), and the UNESCO Traveling Show Iberoamérica Pinta, (1997-2000).

Passion For Surrealism

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If these achievements are not enough for one person, it’s important to note that a guiding passion of her life is Surrealism. Since 1975, Susana has been part of Phases, a movement centered in Paris and since 2009 part of a Chilean Surrealist group called Umbral Secreto (Secret Threshold).

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ADVOCATING FOR CHILDREN (and Remarkable Marie Fraser)

Every day in this country 1,900 children are victims of abuse or neglect; four will die. Many of us wish we could help, but don’t know how.

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Marie Fraser, a 74-year-old resident of Indialantic, Florida, found a way. She is an unpaid volunteer advocate, appointed directly by the Dependency Courts in her state to help judges make the right decisions for vulnerable children who are removed from their homes.

Each State’s Volunteer Program

Called Guardian ad Litem in Florida, the program trains volunteers like Marie and is similar to CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), which helps abused children in other states. In Marie’s County there are about 250 volunteers advocating for 850 or more children at any one time.

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VOLUNTEER: DISCOVER A NEW CAREER: (and Remarkable Marjorie Clark)

It was Dukakis’ presidential campaign that did it–launching Marjorie Clark’s long stint in politics. “We both graduated from Swarthmore,” Marjorie says; “I thought I should be supporting him.”

It was 1988 and she jumped in with both feet. “It was a time for older women,” she says. “There were so many opportunities out there and even more since then.

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So Many Opportunities

At an age when many women are looking forward to relaxation, an empty nest or traveling, Marjorie Clark decided to volunteer in local Democratic politics, starting with the district in Virginia where she lived.

Claiming, “not to know much,” she made friends with activist members to recruit delegates to the state party convention. In the process she got a first hand taste of democracy in action.

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“I learned so much about what a balanced slate means—an equal number of men and women plus a racial balance. I saw how much the organizers planned ahead, several years in fact, so that what happened in the end is what was hoped for.”

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MAKING ROOM FOR LIFE (and Remarkable Catherine Bryne)

Since 1991, Catherine Bryne has transformed herself for an hour into one of the most famous literary women of the 20th century. When she says, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” Catherine is recreating the plight of artistic women in a world dominated by men as described in1928 by the writer and critic, Virginia Woolf.

Introduction to Virginia Woolf

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It is a calling that Catherine responded to at age 40 when she was a wife and mother who had returned to college in Florida to study theater and literature.

When a professor suggested the long essay, “A Room of One’s Own,” as her graduate project, Catherine was “incredibly moved by the beauty of the prose–so graceful, so elegant and perceptive.” Little did she know that her adaptation of Woolf’s powerful words would find a permanent place in her life.

Today’s Women Need to Listen, Too

Because she believes that today’s women also need to hear these words, Catherine continues to present her interpretation of Virginia Woolf’s famous essay to groups throughout the United States and as far-reaching as Scotland and Mexico. “The power of this piece,” she says, “is the power of Virginia Woolf’s words and how they’re being heard by the audience itself.”

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MOSS and THE SPIRIT (and Remarkable Norie Burnet)

A passion for plants and gardening grabbed a youthful, vibrant Norie Burnet 80 years ago and never let go. “I feel so close to God and a host of spiritual beings when I work in the garden,” says Norie. “Somehow it quickens my spirit and reassures my soul. I can work for hours and not tire.”

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The result is a nearly acre-sized garden Norie created in Richmond, Virginia, so loved by visitors that its Circle Garden has been called “A Cathedral in the Woods” by a friend and “a magical spot” by a number of others.

EDEN WOODS

Appropriately named “Eden Woods” the garden is visited regularly by dozens of plant enthusiasts. There they encounter an astonishing green world that touches an almost spiritual depth rarely experienced when visiting a private residential garden.

Norie herself describes the garden as a meditative place. “I feel a holy sense of awe each day,” she says, as she tends as she tends native plants, shrubs, hollies, ferns,and azaleas along with large patches and paths of cushy moss that weave among the garden’s colorful shade plants.

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RELAX and LET IT HAPPEN (How a Novel Became a Movie)

As the blogger behind OWDRT, I’ve not posted a story about a remarkable older woman recently as I have been nursing a broken ankle. In the meantime I had the opportunity to do something remarkable, myself–namely attend a private showing of the movie, “Artists Die Best in Black,” based on a novel I wrote 20 years ago. This is me in a wheelchair talking to the guests at the event. The film’s producer, Mark Headley, is standing beside me to answer questions about the production.

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After the Mississippi premier of the movie was postponed, four women friends decided it should be shown privately in Richmond–I think the forced recuperation of the broken ankle inspired them.. The producer agreed. And 100 guests celebrated the event with me in a wheelchair.

Watching my novel become a movie was easier than walking again!

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It was easier because it was fun, whereas getting back on my feet was serious business. Even the ups and downs of the actual filming on the Mississippi Gulf Coast were fun and they fit into an image of something I was able to let happen without being the one in charge. The fact that it took two decades was a very good thing, too, because it allowed me to let go of its importance to my ego or my identify.

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POLICE SERGEANT of FORGIVENESS (and Remarkable Carol Adams)

Richmond, Virginia Police Sgt., Carol Adams, is tall, slim and beautiful. When she looks at you with love and kindness you don’t expect to hear the story she is about to tell.

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“On December 30, 1980, when I was a young teenager,” she says, ” my father, Arthur Adams, shot and killed my mother, Orine, in our Church Hill home. They had been married 17 years. I remember the night as a blur of sirens, hospital waiting rooms, anxious faces of relatives, and the aching helplessness of realizing she wasn’t coming back.”

STORY OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Tragically, Carol Adams says, her story is not unique. National statistics cite one in every four American women as physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some time in their lives. All ages, backgrounds, income groups, neighborhoods, races, religions, and professions are affected.

“Since I was 5 years old,” Carol remembers, “there were the sounds of my father hitting my mother. I still have flashbacks of him beating her. I watched the abuse, watched the police come and go, watched her take my father back time after time. As a teenager, I begged her to leave but she wouldn’t discuss it. Domestic violence was a shameful secret in those days, and my younger sister, Patsy, and I were her silent co-conspirators.”

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PUSHED: BULLIES & BYSTANDERS (and Remarkable Susan Wynne)

Seventy-One year old dynamo, Susan Wynne, is Chair of the Anti-Bullying Project at the Firehouse Theatre in Richmond, Virginia, and Vice Chair of the Board. The Project is a partnership between the Firehouse Theatre and The Conciliation Project, whose goal is to tackle bullying in Richmond City’s largely black middle schools. Susan brings her Civil and equal rights activities, skills learned in the recovery community, plus her adolescent development background to this important project. Empowering young adolescents by helping them develop into successful adults is one of her goals.

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CUTTING EDGE ADULT PRODUCTIONS

Because Firehouse produces cutting edge plays for adults, the partnership is a good fit for the short, dramatic vignettes from The Conciliation Project, whose performance art demonstrates bullying and tactics for handling it.

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