My mom was an avid, experienced, and careful hiker. She had taken every precaution to be prepared in the wilderness and was a dedicated member and teacher to the Olympia Mountaineers. This event was sudden and incredibly tragic for my brother and I, as we thought our mom would live to be 100 due to her perfect health, active lifestyle, positive community, and devotion to nutrition. We are heartbroken, and still trying to find a new normal in a world without our mom.
But we were both lucky to know her well, and to not have regrets in regards to whether or not she knew we loved her. John and I both had healthy, loving, strong relationships with her that I feel were special since it was just the three of us growing up with her as a single mother.
Apart from fiercely loving us, she also fiercely cared for her nursing program and students. I was an angsty teenager while my mom was the Director of Nursing at Clatsop Community College, and never quite understood the impact my mom had at the college.
But now I understand her influence. As one of her past students explains:
"I confessed to Laurie once that I had always wanted to go back to school and chase a nursing degree but I felt like I was “too old”. Laurie dismissed my misgivings with a “pfffft” and a wave of her hand and told me not to be ridiculous. She invited me to come talk with her personally up at the college, which I did, and together we laid out a road map of sorts which outlined a plan to take pre-req classes and eventually apply to the nursing program. Through it all, she was so positive and encouraging and I signed up for Algebra with great enthusiasm and got down to work.
Sadly, a few short months later, my world fell apart. I was facing divorce, loss of my home and the business that I co-owned with my husband. I stopped by to see Laurie and cried my way through a box of Kleenex as I told her I didn’t think I had any choice but to drop my classes because I had to find a house and a job to support myself and my three small children. Laurie was nothing but gracious and kind and offered unconditional support to me. As I navigated those rough waters, Laurie would often check up on me and never stopped encouraging me to come back to school when things settled down. In fact, she was downright pushy at times but always in the most loving “I have your best interests at heart” sort of way. I’ll never forget her words to me as I was facing my first Christmas without my kids because that year, they were spending Christmas day with their dad…”Sarah”, she said while fixing me with her intense but kind blue eyes, “it is just a day, you will celebrate Christmas when your babies come home to you. When I was a single mom raising my kids, we had a yearly tradition of making gingerbread houses. You will think of a tradition of your own to start with your kids and your Christmas day doesn’t have to be December 25th. It will be whatever day you decide that it will be.” And so I did think of my own goofy tradition and every year afterward starting with that year, I would send Laurie a picture of me and my kids doing “our thing” and I would thank her for her sound advice and wisdom. She always responded and often told me that she was so proud of me. I’ll never forget that.
I did eventually work my way back into school and into the nursing program at Clatsop Community College. I took some A&P classes that your mom taught and was fortunate again to have her as a Pharmacology teacher for a term later. I loved her teaching style, her passion for education, her unwavering support and the way she would champion for her students. We loved to get her going on her soapbox, she always had the most interesting stories to share and her enthusiasm and energy was contagious making us all eager to learn more. I will never forget your mom and I will be forever grateful for the positive influence she had on me and for her support and encouragement, the wonderful gift of her love and friendship to me."
John and I can't think of a better way to honor our Mother's legacy than helping future nurses in their pursuit of education, and helping to ease the financial burden of tuition.
Please give what you can knowing you are helping to keep our mom's love for her students alive. We so appreciate it, and have really appreciated all your support and love during this very difficult month.
All our love,
Katie and John Choate
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