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Strong Women


Sanford family circa early '50s.

My family boasts a lineage of formidable women, particularly traced through my mother's side back to 1680s Scotland. Her grandmother was a pivotal figure in Detroit's religious and philanthropic spheres during and after the Civil War. As the daughter of a minister and granddaughter to the chaplain of the Continental Congress, she viewed service as a divine calling, founding homes for unwed mothers and elderly widows, and helping to establish the Detroit Association of Charities.


Even more remarkable was her adventurous spirit. In 1872, just three years after the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, she left her five children with her husband and ventured to California with her friend Bessie. Her journal entries from the trip showcase her awe of Yosemite (which took days on horeseback to get to), her candid prejudices, and her memorable first taste of a fresh California orange near the San Gabriel mission:

"I could never endure an orange; it is either a dry, pulpy, stale chip, or a sour, fermented affair that disappoints me in some way. Hence I was loath to taste the great yellow globe that I held in my hand; but a penknife soon severed the peel into sections, and then – well, then, I ate six in succession."

This wanderlust and flair for writing were inherited by my mom who, along with my dad, traveled to over 80 countries. When I was in fourth grade, she decided we'd learn more about the world on the road than in a classroom, leading to a month-long family expedition through Mexico in an old Pontiac station wagon. The trip was deemed so successful that we repeated it two years later.


When my dad joined Rotary in 1950, my mom chose a different path, becoming a President and then District Governor of Soroptimist, rather than just a "Rotary-Anne." Continuing the family legacy, my sisters Pat and Nancy have deeply engaged in both travel and service.


Pat, a past president of the Mercer Island Rotary in Washington, participated in a polio immunization drive in Ethiopia. Nancy, a member of the Eugene Southtowne Rotary in Oregon, founded StoveTeam International, an organization that has helped over half a million people in Central America by building fuel-efficient stoves. She's nearly matched our parents' travel record.


During my teens, I once asked my dad how he managed with mom always seeming to get her way. He joked, "We have an agreement. She makes all the small decisions, and I make the big ones. Luckily, there are very few big ones. Besides, I'm along for this very exciting ride."


Happy Mother's Day.

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Guest
7 days ago
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Beautiful Ray!

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Guest
7 days ago
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Not to mention you and Bob. The apples did not fall far from a fruitful tree.

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Guest
7 days ago
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Beautiful story, Ray

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Guest
7 days ago
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Thanks for the memories, Ray

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Guest
7 days ago
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Very smart father!

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