Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Alma Anderson, by Jesse Anderson

This is the long awaited paper that Jesse wrote. Well at least by my siblings and cousins.[with this kind of editing by Edna and Alma] I copied the whole thing even though I don't think the whole thing was read at the funeral. You'll have to edit as you read and I'm sorry that I haven't yet learned how to do that line-through edit thing.

Jesse Anderson
SC 312
Final Paper

An American Leader

Along the Beeline highway in northern Arizona, thirteen miles south of Payson, a small town named Gisela rests in the bed of a valley. Gisela is the home of approximately 2100 people and for the past thirty years has been the home of Alma Anderson. After the death of her husband Joseph Anderson, Alma decided that she no longer needed to stay in Phoenix where her adult children lived. Instead she chose to retire to the small community of Gisela where she could live out her later years in peace tending to her garden and helping the local community where and when she could. By making friends with neighbors and volunteering her time to the many community and church functions held in Gisela, Alma created a respected name for herself within her community. She is a humanitarian by nature and, unbeknownst to her, Alma has become a leader to many of those that she would humbly consider neighbors.

Alma’s style of leadership is a product of her upbringing and the values that she has maintained through her adult life. Born in Duncan Arizona in 1921 to Katie [Harrison] and John Harrison [Raburn], Alma spent the greater portion of her childhood on her family’s homestead on the Arizona/New Mexico boarder. John held a veterinary license but also did construction work for the railroads and dams in the surrounding country, Katie tended to the home and children. When John died in 1933 Alma’s mother Katie was forced to work to support the family. Katie worked in many fields during that rough period in the beginning of the great depression. Serving and cooking in restaurants, cleaning houses, nursing the ill and milking cows were among the many jobs she held to make ends meet. “My parents were hard workers,” said Alma during an interview in late 2007 “they were a big influence on me.”

In 1938 in Las Vegas Nevada, Alma married Joseph [Lawrence] Anderson at the age of seventeen. They stayed in Duncan for a while where Alma gave birth to her first two [three] children with Joseph: Joe [Joseph Edward] junior and Elaine [and Edna]. Soon after they decided to move to Park City Utah, where Joseph could work and Alma could raise the family. Joseph began work in a coal [silver] mill as an assayer on the outskirts of town. Because the mill was a few miles away from Park City, Alma and Joseph decided to live in a tent close to work provided by the milling company. The tent had a dirt floor [this tent was in Duncan or East Camp and the tent was one of the only ones with a wooden floor] but that didn’t bother Alma; she had two [three] small children to keep her occupied. While in Park City Alma and Joe had three [two] more children, Edna, Alma Rae and Raburn. Times were good in Park City until tragedy struck. Park City had just opened a new public pool and Alma decided to take the family out for some swimming. When it was time to leave the pool, Joe junior, the eldest son, was nowhere around. Joe junior had epilepsy, Alma speculates that he had a seizure while swimming, bumped his head, and drowned. He was fifteen years old.

Soon after their son’s death, Alma and Joseph left park City and resettled in Phoenix Arizona. Joseph found work as a machinist in an engine repair shop and since all of her children were old enough to either be in school or take care of themselves, Alma decided that it was time for her to get a job as well. For 25 years Alma worked as an employee of the S & H Greenstamp Company in Phoenix. She held many managerial positions during her time there and was responsible for opening many of their expansion stores. After Joseph’s death in 1971, Alma stayed in their home and worked until she retired in 1983. Alma’s older sister, Elaine senior [Laverne], had found a small town in northern Arizona named Gisela to which she planned to retire. Alma visited her sister in Gisela and liked it. She sold her house in Phoenix and bought the acre plot next to her sister’s where she has lived ever since, hosting holiday functions for her four children, thirteen grandchildren and 45 [36] great-grand children [and 1 great-great-grand child].

In the book “Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life,” Robert Bellah et al explore the lives of many different Americans while comparing and contrasting their ideals, values and ideas of success. Joe Gorman is one of the many people Bellah interviewed. Gorman’s values and ideas of success are highlighted in “Habits of the Heart” because they mirror the values and ideals of many Americans today including Alma Anderson. Joe Gorman believes in the idea of the “Public Good” which is defined by Bellah et al as “that which benefits society as a whole and leads to what the founders of the American republic called public happiness. It includes everything from adequate public facilities to the trust and civic friendship that makes public life something to be enjoyed rather that feared.” (Bellah et al p.335) Joe Gorman upholds this ideal by taking an active role in community functions like his towns annual anniversary celebrations.

Alma also believes the idea of the “Public Good.” She feels that people should do what they can when they can if ever there is a need for their service. A community as a whole does not gain much if its citizens are not willing to contribute. The difference between Joe Gorman and Alma is Joe works on a larger scale to help his community and Alma works on a personal level, providing help and care to individuals in her community. Joe Gorman organizes town celebrations to promote community cohesion while Alma feeds and bathes an Alzheimer’s patient who is incapable of helping herself.

A major catalyst for the help that Alma provides to her community has been her church. Bellah et al says, “Religion is one of the most important of the many ways in which Americans ‘get involved’ in the life of their community and society.” (Bellah et al p. 219) This is true for Alma. When Alma married Joseph, she parted with the Baptist religion of her parents and joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the church to which her new husband belonged. The church provided Alma with an outlet to satisfy her need to be a helpful part of her community. For a short while, she was president of the Relief Society for her chapter [ward] in Park City and was a scout leader for her son’s Boy Scout troop. She continued to work with the church after her move to Gisela, joining the Payson chapter [ward] where her daughter Alma Rae attended church.

While Alma will be the first to say she is not a leader, many of the services she has provided to her community would suggest otherwise. John C. Maxwell, author of “The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader: Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow,” suggests that a person must be adept in most if not all of the 21 qualities listed in the Maxwell’s book, it is not necessary to evaluate Alma’s expertise on all 21 qualities. For this reason, four of Maxwell’s qualities have been chosen to illustrate Alma’s competence as a leader: character, generosity, responsibility, and servanthood.

“How a leader deals with the circumstances of life tells you many things about his character.” (Maxwell p.3) Throughout the 86 years of her life, Alma has had to face many hardships. She grew up during the great depression with her two sisters and remembers how hard it was for her widowed mother to keep all three children healthy and fed. Alma has suffered through the death of two of her children and her husband. During these hard times, she has had to manage not only her own grief but her husband’s and her children’s as well. Illnesses in her own life have also created obstacles of which she has had to overcome. Through all of the hardships Alma has maintained a positive attitude and amazingly, does not regret or speak crossly about these experiences in her life because, truthfully, it would not be characteristic of her.

Generosity is a quality that Alma has in abundance. Giving is something that Alma knows well. In the 24 years she has lived in Gisela Alma has donated over 116 pints of blood to the American Red Cross; that is approximately fifteen gallons. She also sewed together a quilt made out of blue jeans to donate to a local charity auction and earned them $500. But among the things that she has given to her community the most valuable has been her time. For six and a half years, Alma cared for a local woman named Myrtle who had developed Alzheimer’s. Myrtle’s husband had to work all day and could not afford a live in nurse. Alma took it upon herself to care for her and when Myrtle’s husband died, Alma packed a bag and moved in with Myrtle a cared for her until she died a year and a half later. Calvin Coolidge once said, “No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.” Honor is the only thing that Alma would ever take in return for her generosity. She was offered a boat for the services she provided to Myrtle, but she would not entertain the thought.

Responsibility has been an underlying theme in Alma’s life. When she was young, she helped with the cooking and the household chores so her mom could work. When she married, she knew she had an obligation to her husband and children to be the best mother and wife she could be. She had many responsibilities as an employee of the S & H Greenstamp Company. As a manager, Alma had to direct many employees in their daily operations. When S & H opened up their first expansion store in Scottsdale it was her responsibility to make sure everything ran well. Lately Alma’s only obligation is to her garden but it’s doubtful that it will ever get overgrown.

Concerning servanthood, Alma has served and helped many people in her life. She served the S & H Greenstamp Company as a valued employee, she served her husband and children as a mother/grandmother/great-grandmother, she served Myrtle as a caretaker, and she served Jesus Christ as his follower. The church in Payson that Alma belongs to noticed her achievements in services to her community and so recently named an award after her, “The Alma Anderson Humanitarian Award.” Maxwell says, “The first mark of servanthood is the ability to put others ahead of yourself and your personal desires.” (Maxwell p.136) Alma has always put others before herself and it might not be that she is putting her own personal desires aside to help others but rather it is her personal desire to help others.

Alma Anderson would agree that she has led a fulfilling life. Some might suggest that the sum of the successes she has enjoyed in her personal life and professional life would add up to the American Dream. Most people would not consider Alma Anderson a leader. Alma herself will tell you that she is not a leader, she and many others might only consider her to be an ordinary American woman. However she perceives herself it is evident in the views of her children and her grandchildren that she is a leader and a very good one at that. She leads by example and follows the golden rule; Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’s no surprise to her family or to those with whom she shares her time with, to learn that the Spanish word for soul is Alma.

1 comment:

Connie said...

What a wonderful tribute! It's so interesting to read about the lives of our ancestors - and others ancestors too!
Hope you got a good email from Andrew this week.


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