Today is the day to thank the singers of lullabies, the kissers of skinned knees and the loving dispensers of good advice.
It’s Mother’s Day, the time for bouquets, breakfasts in bed and big red hearts drawn in crayon on construction paper.
To help celebrate the women who gave us life and served as our first teachers, the MDJ reached out to prominent Cobb residents to ask the most important lesson their mothers ever taught them.
Sean Rowe is the son of longtime volunteer Barbara Hickey, who died around the start of the year.
Hickey’s list of credentials includes work with numerous civic groups and the founding of major initiatives, including Cobb Diaper Day, a diaper drive for families with small kids, and Operation Warmth, a coat drive for Cobb and Marietta students in need.
Rowe said Hickey’s spirit lives on through her good deeds and the lessons she instilled in her four children. Her most important lesson: always be kind.
“Especially with Barbara Hickey, it was kindness and consideration of others,” Rowe said. “That’s what instantly leaps to my mind. She always was considerate of others, and we found in ourselves that it’s rubbed off on my immediate family. … There was something she used to say all the time: ‘Be kind whenever possible, and it’s always possible.’ Those were her words to live by, and anybody who knew her would agree that’s Barbara Hickey in a nutshell.”
Cobb Superior Court Judge Tain Kell
Judge Kell said the best piece of advice he got from his mother, Carole Kell, was simple: “Always do your homework.”
Carole Kell, a longtime educator and former principal of Dickerson Middle School, was his eighth grade English teacher, Judge Kell explained.
“But she taught me long before that that when you go into any situation, you might not be the smartest person in that situation, but you can always be the best prepared. And that advice has probably served me as well as anything that Mom ever taught me because I’ve tried to go into everything I do being as well prepared as I possibly can.”
Carole Kell said she also stressed being prepared and on time to her son.
“No messing around or fooling around. You’ve got to get your stuff done so that you are prepared when you go into anything. I think he pretty much has followed that,” Carole Kell said.
Marietta Councilman Joseph Goldstein
Councilman Goldstein is, to all appearances, a serious fellow. He’s the second-youngest council member in the city’s history, owns his own real estate business and was the youngest in his class to graduate from the University of Georgia School of Law.
But stop by Elise and Philip Goldstein’s historic Marietta home while Joseph Goldstein is visiting, and you’ll see the young councilman let his hair down, laughing and joking with his mom.
Elise Goldstein has long been an advocate for the arts in Marietta, and is a talented pianist.. Her signature song is Beethoven’s “Fur Elise.”
Goldstein credited his mom’s influence with keeping him steady. Her advice: “Be kind, make good decisions and find the humor in life.”
The former Powder Springs mayor said her mother taught her the importance of “work-life balance” before that even became a phrase.
“My mother graduated college in the ’40s, and she went on to be a teacher and have a very successful career,” Vaughn said. “However, my mother taught us never to put work or anything else before family. Even though she worked and my father worked, every meal was together. Family time. Every spare moment was dedicated to family, and I think that is the most important lesson I learned from her. … I’ve tried to carry her values on through today: putting family first and always having meals together.”
Cobb School Board Chair David Chastain
Chastain said his mother, Shirley Chastain, a nurse and nursing teacher, taught him the value of working for his dreams.
“I think it would boil down to self-sufficiency, wanting to be independent,” he said. “She would never call herself a feminist, but I never saw my mother acting like gender was an issue when she was trying to access something.”
Chastain’s father died when he was about 20. His mother went back to school and got her master’s degree around the same time Chastain earned his bachelor’s. She was also an active volunteer in church and youth groups.
“It’s amazing how many things my mom was involved in, then to watch mom pick up her career after my dad died. It’s incredible,” he said.
Pastor and MUST Ministries CEO Reighard said his mom, a homemaker who played a mean bluegrass banjo, inspired him to become the man he is today.
“The most important lesson my mother ever taught me was to be able to look at people and not judge them based on their appearance at the moment,” he said. “A lot of what I do at MUST Ministries really comes out of the heart of my mom.”
Reighard said he grew up in Atlanta near a rail yard where hobos were known to gather.
“My mother would always feed them, and I think they actually had our address back there in the little hobo village,” he said. “When someone wanted a sandwich or milk, they would come to our house. … Some of the other neighbors were concerned or felt like she could get harmed. … She would always say ‘Well, I know that’s somebody’s son, it could be somebody’s dad, it could be somebody’s brother. And I’ve got all three of those, and if one of mine was down on their luck, I sure wish somebody would be there for them.’”
Cobb School Board Member David Morgan
Morgan called his mother Gail Morgan, a lifelong educator who continues to work in the field, “hands down the biggest reason” he decided to work in education.
He said the most important lesson she taught him was the importance of being a good parent.
“There is no more important job or responsibility that I have in my life than being the best parent I can be. … She taught me about respect, respecting myself, respecting others, but when I think about all the lessons she taught me in totality, I think the one that stands out above all is imparting the values within my children that will hopefully allow them to be what God has created them to be.”
Cobb School Board Member Brad Wheeler
Another longtime educator, Wheeler said his mother, Wilhelmina Wheeler, a banker from upstate New York, taught him a simple but valuable lesson.
“To do the right thing,” he said. “And I guess you’d say be honorable. That was kind of her. Just my whole life it was that way. Don’t bring disrespect upon yourself or your family. Do the right thing. It wasn’t said in those words or in any special event, but that’s what I remember coming from my mother.”
Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon
Mayor Bacon followed in the political footsteps of his father, former Mayor Arthur Bacon, but Mayor Bacon said his mother, Dorothy “Dot” Bacon, had a greater influence in shaping his life and politics.
“She taught me always to be yourself and don’t ever try to be somebody that you’re not,” he said. “She probably had more impact on my life than my father did. She was pretty constant about life in general. She was raised in the Depression, so she saved everything and always watched everything that she bought, a very conservative kind of person. … She was just a great woman and taught me a lot of values.”
Commissioner JoAnn Birrell
Commissioner Birrell said she considers herself blessed to still have her mother around at 94 years old.
Agnes Kanan is a retired bookkeeper from North Carolina. Birrell said her mom taught her many lessons, but the most important is respect.
“To do the right thing and respect others,” Birrell said. “Put others first and be respectful. Her example in the way she lived her life is a reflection on what she taught me, and things that have stayed with me through the years to do the same thing.”
Acworth Police Chief Wayne Dennard
Chief Dennard’s mother, Madelyn Dennard, an accounting clerk for Atlantic Envelope in Atlanta, was a woman of deep faith.
Dennard said his mom found comfort in that faith and taught her son to do the same.
“She always said that everything works out for the best,” he said. “She got that from Romans 8:28, which is my favorite Bible verse and says ‘All things through God work for the good,’ so that’s where that came from, and that’s probably the No. 1 piece of advice she gave me.”
Cobb NAACP President Jeriene Bonner-Grimes
Bonner-Grimes’ mother, Deane Bonner, is also a major figure in Cobb County. Bonner is the former longtime president of the civil rights group and has been involved with Cobb government for decades.
Bonner has a reputation as a woman who is never afraid to speak out when she senses injustice, and Bonner-Grimes said that is part of the most important lesson she passed to her children.
“Be true to yourself,” Bonner-Grimes said. “She taught me that God created all of us as individuals, and so you should be your true, authentic self that He created you to be. Be fearless, be up front and faithful, and don’t be afraid of being who god created me to be.”