Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Mothers offer words of wisdom

'Mom-isms' help us to be our best

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    Lori Ferguson and her mother, Mary Ellen Warner.

  • bell-mom

    Mayor Mike Bell poses in his office with his mother, Ora Bell.

    The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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Mayor Mike Bell poses in his office with his mother, Ora Bell.

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Many people whose mothers raised them with a firm, loving hand can hear their mom's words, guiding them through life.

Often those "mom-isms" are solid instruction that become the foundation upon which some build their lives.

"Don't say anything bad about someone that you won't say to that person," keeps you from being considered a gossip. "Don't practice in private what you don't want to mistakenly perform in public," eliminates the idea of living a double life. Or, for another way of saying "the early bird gets the worm," here are more words of wisdom from mothers: "Get going early; half the day is gone by 9 o'clock."

For this Mother's Day, notable current and former Toledoans fondly recall what their mothers told them that helped in their lives.

YWCA of Northwest Ohio CEO Lisa McDuffie's mom, Martha Hester, often said, "Smiles open doors" and "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." And one of Ms. Duffie's mother's remarks that was sure to help youngsters settle down and go to sleep is: "No sleep, no dreams."

Toledo Public Schools Superintendent Jerome Pecko recalled that when his mother, Ann Pecko, announced that, "'You're going to get a lickin!" that was enough to make him and his siblings, who lived on the south side of Akron, straighten up. Another motherly remark that Mr. Pecko -- who had three sisters and a brother -- said took him some years to figure out was this one: "Treat every girl you go out with like she's your sister."


Lori Ferguson and her mother, Mary Ellen Warner.


Lori Ferguson, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at ProMedica Toledo Children's Hospital, remembered her mother's "Kill them with kindness," because you can never go wrong being nice to someone and you never feel badly about it, Ms. Ferguson said. Her mother, Mary Ellen Warner of Toledo, embraced a saying from her grandmother that was passed on: "Never be the first one to let go when you hug your child." Ms. Ferguson said doing that gives a child the extra touch of love that they may need for the day.

Rutgers University Professor Stanley Cowell, a former Toledoan and composer and pianist, said a statement from his mother remains true about life: "Life is like this: Just as you get comfortable thinking all is going well, something unexpected happens. Do not become complacent."

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) recalled these very familiar remarks from her mother, Anastasia Kaptur: "It isn't what you say, it is what you do," "Don't judge a book by its cover," and "The strongest steel goes through the hottest fire." And for more common sense from her mom, she instructed the congressman to hang up her coat when she got home to avoid having to expend more energy later to pick it up. "And always put your gloves in your pocket; that way you don't forget them."

Toledo-Lucas County Public Library Director and Fiscal Officer Clyde S. Scoles remembered this as one of the best quotes from his mother, the late Edna Mae Scoles, who lived in Columbus: "Don't let other people make choices for you and don't let others push you around."

Executive Director and CEO of the Toledo Zoo, Anne Baker, mentioned a couple of statements from her mother, Alberta Baker, who was 97 when she passed away last year: "Beauty is as beauty does," which Ms. Baker explained meant "What you do is much more important than how you look. I suspect I needed to hear this because I wasn't very happy about having red hair and freckles," she said. Another from the zoo director's mother is one that's applicable today in light of the plethora of problems that result from bullying: "Sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you." Ms. Baker added, "This is probably even more relevant today. Kids can be mean and hurtful and mom tried to help me understand that I had control over whether what others said was only hurtful if I let it be."

Toledo Mayor Mike Bell remembered his mother, Ora Bell, telling him to "Be kind to everybody because the same people you meet coming up you're going to meet on the way back down." As mayor, he said that is especially insightful, because "your time on top is short lived and you'll be no different than those you serve." Another famous mom-ism from Mrs. Bell that other mothers have stated is that "A hard head makes for a soft behind."' "That was her way of saying 'even if you don't get it, you're gonna get it,'" Mayor Bell added. "I think both are true. They helped me develop as a person and influence who I am today as mayor."

Dr. S. Amjad Hussain, Blade columnist and retired Toledo surgeon, recalled a lesson in humility that his mother, known by the family as Aapa, taught him. While practicing in the 1970s in Pakistan, a street sweeper showed up at his clinic and jumped in front of other patients. At the end of the day, he complained about that to his mother, and this is what she told him: "[She] told me not to forget my own humble background. I was a surgeon because of those poor people," he said, referring to what in those days was his nearly free education.

Contact Rose Russell at: or 419-724-6178.

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