My mom came for the ice cream; she stayed because she fell in love.
Forty-five years ago, my mother and father brought their burgeoning family from Cincinnati to Troy, where my father had recently been hired at the Friendly’s Ice Cream corporate offices, which used to be located on the west side of State Route 41.
I’m sure it had to be something of a culture shock for both of my parents, who had only lived either in metropolitan areas prior to their arrival in the bucolic ‘burb we call home. The fact we were one of the only Asian families living in Troy in the early 1970s probably made things a little more awkward.
But where my mother may have had trepidation, she found acceptance. The small-town hospitality was a nice match for my mother’s generally outgoing personality,
It wasn’t long after we moved here that my mother started putting down roots in the community she would come to love and spend the second half of her life.
Although she had never experienced anything like it before in her life, I think Troy fit my mother’s laid-back nature. She never locked her doors at night — and truthfully, only locked them when she went on vacation at the insistence of my father, who was, shall we say, not quite as laid-back as my mother.
My mother — who stayed at home to raise her children for her first 10 years in Troy — quickly became part of the community. She was a fixture at all of her children’s sporting events, something she would continue to do when her grandchildren started playing sports in Troy. She volunteered freely of her time at St. Patrick Church and elementary school.
Once all of her kids were enrolled in school, she would return to teaching, where she would have probably her greatest impact in the community, educating hundreds of children over the years as she would continue to teach well into her 70s, with only a massive stroke, followed soon after by a broken hip, bringing her teaching career to an end.
She demanded excellence of her students, and got it through equal parts discipline and compassion. And her students loved her for it. So did their parents and her fellow teachers. My mother was a fixture in this community.
I was reminded of this last week when hundreds of my mother’s former students, her coworkers and community members showed up for her viewing and subsequent funeral. The reminders have continued pouring in every day since her passing, as I have received hundreds of cards, letters, emails, social media posts and face-to-face comments.
Not a day has gone by in the past two weeks in which someone hasn’t mentioned to me the impact she had on their lives. I assure all of you that you had an equal impact on her life. Growing up, I know my mother never expected to live here, but I know she’s glad she did. She may not have been born here, but was a Trojan to her very core. You have all expressed your love for her, so I only feel it’s right to tell you how much she loved this community.
And I know her final message to the community she loved would be a robust thank you.
If I were to individually thank every one of you who has reached out to my family the past two weeks, it would fill every page of this newspaper. Thank you to the medical staff at Upper Valley Medical Center. Thank you to the professionals at Baird Funeral Home for the compassionate way in which they handed her arrangements. Thank you to everyone in the St. Patrick community, past and present. Thank you to all who helped keep my massive family fed in the week following her passing with your kind donations of food.
Thank you to all of my mother’s family and friends who have shared their memories and stories of my mother, which, considering her brash personality, are multitudinous. Thank you to everyone who attended her viewing and funeral, and those who sent their regrets because they couldn’t be there in person.
Thank you for everyone who has been patient and offered me a shoulder to cry on when I needed it, but also made me laugh and cheered me up when I needed that, too. Again, I wish I could thank every one of you individually. Know that our family appreciates your love and support.
As this community often does for one of its own sons or daughters, when we needed you the most, you gave your very best.
My mom is gone now, so we’ve all started trying to find a new normal without our matriarch. I can’t think of a better place to do it than my hometown and my mother’s adopted hometown.
Troy’s very own David Fong appears on Thursdays in Miami Valley Today. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong