I felt a lot of pressure when I was writing this piece – all internal of course. It’s hard to write about such amazing, empowering women.
But what you’ll come to learn, as I have over the past 23 years, is that no matter what I do, my grandmas are always going to be proud. It’s this really cool thing called unconditional love and Dot and Joy excel at it!
So, here’s my attempt to portray my love and admiration for these two women. I hope you enjoy this Women Wednesday!💗
Dorothy Irene Belleville Chouinard
Brave, Smart, Funny, and the opposite of Self-Conscious.
My Dot Mémère, born on February 22, 1943, grew up in a solely French-speaking family in Lewiston, Maine. Her parents were immigrants from Quebec, Canada. She attended a Catholic school in her younger years and then transferred to Lewiston High School, where she met John Marcel Chouinard.
Mémère and Pépère got married at the young age of 19, moved across the country to Arizona and lived there while Pépère was in the army. They later moved back to Maine, once Pépère was out of the service, where he found a job at the paper mill.
My family always thought my obsession with paper was strange but can you blame me?! I had two grandpas in the paper mill. My dad has worked for a paper company since before I was born. And, if ya didn’t know, I followed in his footsteps. I can’t be blamed !!
Like many women of the 60’s, my Mémère stayed at home with her two children, my mom, Pamela, and my Uncle Johnny. However, once both kids were in school, Mémère went out and found herself a job as a secretary at the University of Maine Farmington.
Ladies, get you a man who still looks at you like this after 50 years!😍
Joy Alice Lary Heird
Driven, Focused, Beautiful, and Strong.
My Grandma was born on April 30, 1935 (she didn’t willingly give this year out…) in Old Orchard Beach, Maine.
When she was 15 years old she moved to Arkansas where she met Vernon Toby Heird at a roller-rink. After 5 years of “the chase,” the two married on May 14, 1955.
While in Little Rock, Grandma went to business school and received her certificate as an executive secretary (what would now likely be considered an administrative assistant). A year into their marriage, Grandpa started college at the University of Arkansas.
The two had their first child, my Aunt Sue, before Grandpa’s sophomore year and their second child, Uncle Jim, in August before Grandpa’s senior year. In Grandpa’s 4-years of college, Grandma worked several jobs to pay for his schooling, while taking care of two babies AND writing up all of his engineering work on their manual typewriter! I asked her how in the world she managed that and she said: “well, I don’t really know.”
I guess you can do miraculous, impossible things when you are determined, and quite literally have to!
And as the youngest sibling myself, I need not leave my dad out of the story. Dad was born 5 years after Uncle Jim. Not a mistake, I made sure to ask. 😉
In 2010, not long after my Mémère retired, she received the news that she had breast cancer.
We were beyond lucky. It was caught early, stage 1, and was just the size of a pencil eraser. She went through radiation and it was gone!
Up until that point, we always had a rather healthy family and hadn’t been affected much by illness or trauma. But my family does this thing where they don’t tell us about issues until they either have better news or we figure it out ourselves. (Like when my childhood dog died and they didn’t tell us… No, I’m not holding a grudge.)
Anyways, I’m not sure I even really knew about it until it was over. But only one year later, my Grandma was diagnosed. Having a strong family receive two cancer diagnoses in one year was tough to take. But we were lucky once again.
When you think about Breast Cancer, you think about finding a lump and having it checked. But Grandma’s wasn’t a lump, it was a seed-like tumor, not easily detected. The tumor was found while still in Stage 1 leading to a single mastectomy, and no radiation or chemo needed!
Did you know:
- A woman’s risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Less than 15% of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it. – breastcancer.org
Have you conducted a Breast Self-Exam recently? Click here to learn more about how often and how to give yourself a breast self-exam.
Learning more about my grandmas through their own stories and through my families stories makes me even more proud to have them as role models. I definitely know where I get my workaholic tendencies from. To have both my grandmas focus their lives on being full-time moms as well as full-time workers is empowering and motivational!
Where are they now?
Last year, in June, my Mémère had a stroke and has been slowly recovering since. Talk about inspirational! She is still trying to do everything herself, even when she has all the reason to make Pépère do it instead! She is amazing and I am so blessed to have her still in my life.
Grandma, on the other hand, jokes that she is only “half here.” Since her mastectomy in June 2011, she has had multiple other surgeries because parts of her body keep trying to give up on her. But through it all, she is still bossing Grandpa around like it’s 1955.
3 Interesting Facts
- She is the only person I know who eats the green part of the lobster (tomalley).🤢
- She is probably the most honest person I’ve ever known. Our cousin, Nick, always says, “you have to have high self-esteem to be a part of this family.”
- She is the PRO crêpe maker. I have literally never ordered a crêpe anywhere before because they wouldn’t even compare to Mémère’s!
- This is where I get my “bossiness” from. Grandma says it herself, she is bossy, it’s the only way to get Grandpa to keep up with her.
- She can play a mean piano. Any musical talent we may possess came from this one. But out of all the songs she’d play and sing, I will forever remember her rendition of “Willie the Weeper.”
- She is the PRO poundcake maker. This may be the ONLY time in my life I use this word because let’s be honest, no one likes the word, but Grandma’s poundcakes are so MOIST and delicious. You might gain 10-pounds with one piece but it is so worth it.
I am honored to get to write about my two badass, breast-cancer-surviving grandmas. We’d love to hear about your family and/or role models! Leave us some comments below.💕