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October 21, 2010

More Important Than Politics

Amanda Haddaway

I love local politics. I love the drama. I love the excitement. I even love the fast-paced and often frenetic schedule that comes with working on a campaign – or being a candidate. However, there are some things that I love more than politics, my family among them.


Instead of writing yet another column on the importance of learning about the candidates, the issues, or heading to the polls on November 2, I'm going to tell you about the person who instilled in me the value of performing this important civic duty: my grandmother, Clara Wagner.


Last weekend, we celebrated Gran's 84th birthday. One might think that her increasing years would make for a stereotypical grandmother figure, but I'm here to tell you that Gran is just as feisty now as she probably was as a teenager. My mom says that we're two peas in a pod and I'll take that as a compliment.


My Gran was a bit of a pioneer in her younger years. She served with the U. S. Public Health Service’s Cadet Nurse Corps during World War II. She stayed stateside and worked in the Charlotte (NC) Memorial Hospital, but she was prepared to go to war if called.


The military quickly realized that they weren’t prepared with enough nurses to handle the extensive injuries sustained by soldiers fighting in the war, so the Cadet Nurse Corps was created by the Bolton Act of 1943. Gran served in the Corps from September 1, 1943 until June 17, 1947.


Due to her service, she is now included in the World War II Memorial registry, as well as the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, both in Washington. Her wartime reminiscences are also included in the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.


Since October is breast cancer awareness month, it’s also fitting to note that Gran is a breast cancer survivor. I’m sure she was scared, but it never showed. She went through a mastectomy and is now cancer-free. She endured losing my grandfather too soon, as well as my uncle (her oldest son). She has always faced adversity head on.


Gran is one tough cookie. She also taught me that you can do almost anything you set your mind to, and I admire her strength and tenacity. She was always a working mother before there was such a label. She juggled her husband’s and children’s schedules with her own career while also raising award-winning vegetable gardens and flowers. Her public health nursing career has always been a source of pride for our family.


On election night, it's almost inevitable that not all of the candidates who I want to win will make the cut. In the back of my mind, I'll have to remember Gran's favorite quote: "This too shall pass." Gran has some trouble getting around these days, so she has already requested her absentee ballot so she doesn’t miss out on November’s election. And I cannot forget that her mother, my great-grandmother, never missed an opportunity to vote after she was given the right, even though she never had a driver’s license.


I'm not sure that my Gran ever told me that I must vote, or even that I should vote, but I somehow learned by watching her that it was the right thing to do. We may not agree on party or candidates, but that doesn't matter. There are just certain things that you must do in life because you have a responsibility to do so. I wish everyone had this "call to action" inside of them at election time. I also wish everyone had a Gran like mine.


WWII Memorial registry entry for Clara Wagner:


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