Maureen Rank and Holly Justice

Recorded April 22, 2007 Archived April 22, 2007 01:19:57
0:00 / 0:00
Id: GCT003762


Maureen remembers her mother’s life.

Subject Log / Time Code

Maureen bumped into a neighbor who credited her mother for inspiring him.
Her mother kept notes for self-improvement.
Maureen and Holly walked the same fields that Maureen and her mother had.
A testimonial.


  • Maureen Rank
  • Holly Justice


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00:04 My name is Maureen rank. 59 years old pushing 60 today is April twenty to 2007 where in Grand Central Station in New York City, and I'd like to introduce my partner.

00:19 I'm Holly Justice. I'm 29 years old and this is April 22nd 2007 where at Grand Central terminal in New York City and I'm here with my mom worrying.

00:32 And that we're going to talk about her mother Ada Gruden boom Johnston, and I never knew Grandma Johnston and only by photos then and a few stories that I really don't know very many and so I'm just just curious for you to tell me about about her life and an issue with you and I thought maybe we could just them.

00:56 Start with what she was like when she was young and where she was who she was.

01:03 My mother was the youngest of nine children and the groom a boom part of her name means he was Dutch Dutch word. That means Greentree her father Hendrick actually came from Holland is an immigrant. So the fact that she was the youngest of this large family and they were Dutch people is a big part of how to grow up and who she was her own mother died when she was 5 years old and breast cancer. So when my mother described her childhood she described a time when she have a lot of love and she was frankly kind of doted over I think because most of her older siblings were sisters and she was cute and kind of smiley kids. We see pictures of her when she was small and kind of just one of those sweet adorable types you wanted to love on

01:54 But in context her father, I think must have been sort of a migrant farmer as I understand it and they never really had much money. So a poor family and often in Dutch communities where acceptance or being worth something meant you had more materialistically and you were very neat and life was very well order didn't even though she had older sisters without a mother the family just didn't have that same kind of discipline about them. So I think they were close to each other and she was she was a door by the sisters growing up but outside their own family never could really knew a place of of a lot of acceptance and where did she live a lot of their life growing up was in Missouri actually and then I think maybe in Iowa

02:51 Your father moved to different kind of farming situations.

02:56 How about as she grew into her teenage years and an into being an adult? This is a big turning point for her because she's she was I think kind of cute and pretty even the teen pictures. I see of her she met my father who lived in this Iowa Community where they were living at the time he was a sailor home from the Navy and you know tall and good-looking and the way he always was to his life. I'm sure just very kind of going and lots of stories and they were just quite taken with each other and I think

03:33 It was a real clear kind of how the story developed but I think they may have dated and then he went back in the military and then came home on leave so that relationship grew but they wind up getting married. Actually. They had to get married, but she told me we were engaged anyway, and it would have we would have married. Anyway, I think she wanted to make sure that we knew that that it wouldn't have to situation all those kind of look like it was so then they married and

04:04 You know, I don't I don't sorry. I'm question and it's funny that I don't but I'm at the end of almost have six children. I'm number five of six in my oldest brother. I was seventeen when I was married. So some of my want to capture her story is it a lot of this was so distant by the time I was born in the family that it's not something I hold two very closely with the young young Brides baby. On-the-way 18 years old that are 21 year old husband without many resources.

04:37 Who is the beginning of their married life like they started out. I think trying to farm didn't work very well on this was oh my goodness. It was supposed to press him. But you know, this was World War World War II and not much money. So my dad.

04:55 Through his brother-in-law got an entry-level job at the VA hospital in Knoxville, Iowa, and I'm sure he started I'm not sure if it's called an orderly or whatever the lowest emptying bedpans whatever kind of job it was and I remember her saying they had to borrow a white shirt for him to go to to do the interview because he didn't have one through which you know just tells you how starting out they really were but he got this job and it began to build a little bit of stability for them. He work nights, of course because it was the lowest level job and then through their lives it wasn't long before they had a little acreage and he was doing farming during the day just the story of their life together in our life is a family was really about lots and lots and lots of hard work to try to make life work. So in those early years she was alone a lot at night with by then two small children while my dad worked but and in the day they worked in Kansas farming situation.

05:55 How to make a go of it for all of us

05:58 Now was your father that's as well. He was not his Heritage is Scotch-Irish. So was never part of it at Community. Do you think that she kept many Dutch Traditions Through The Years or no and interesting like the whole touch part of her wasn't something she ever identified with very much I think for her.

06:19 It wasn't a proud thing because they didn't fit very well in the Dutch Community because I didn't have the resources and they weren't need to know all of that. But the aunties all her sisters were they would talk touch when they were together in and I remember that permit interesting in my brothers have later in life when some of them have traveled have when they've been in the Netherlands try to find her family background picture showed up very well, but they did look,

06:47 Tell me about your brothers growing up.

06:51 There were four of them in this family of six. It's for boys and two girls in the boys were all together and I think because my father worked so much to try to make a living for us to the VA and then with us, you really had two full-time jobs almost his whole life with the farming and then the VA.

07:12 She was really alone a lot. And after she died. My dad used to say the kids turned out well, but Mom raised the kids and the boys were just Rascals just bought all the time and noisy and pushy and always in trouble and there she was this very young mom with these for they should probably would have been early 30s by the time my fourth brother was born but managing basic lease for noisy Rowdy Boys by herself and they were living a little acreage outside of this small town as the boys begin to get a little older and moving to high school and they purposely decided to sell that place and move to farm in the country about 5 miles out of town because

08:02 I'm not sure how much that this was my dad. But my mom protectli was worried about the boys getting the high school and getting into trouble and they thought being on a farm and being up there and having to work really hard to keep them out of trouble and it did they all turned out pretty well. They did so later. You came along. Yes, I was born on. My mother was recently my sister two years later. So my middle name is Joy. But my mother said at the time, you know, after those four boys to finally get a girl with a Joanne glad that my middle and could have been relief. I think your Brothers Osborne kind of the end of the time they're on the acreage and then we moved to the farm when I was three or so in the years when my sister and I that my brother Charlie my sister and I are kind of the second group in a sense and our life together was the life on the farm.

09:01 And my mother was not not a well-educated woman. That's funny. I don't remember this, but I'm not sure she graduated from high school, but was always a learner.

09:14 And an amazingly big thinker and I remember in those years when we were on the farm and you can imagine how few resources she had it hurt Expo as her.

09:29 The word it hurts posle, but she would listen to the radio every day and she was a deeply committed Christian and there was a radio broadcast called back to the Bible every day, but it was teaching the Bible teaching every day every day. She would listen to that program and then she would order their study books.

09:49 And work through them and we sort of took it as a as kind of a course of life that kind of oil. That's something she did but I think it was in her heart to really want to learn and grow and you know, they're choosing to have adult education. She just didn't have access too much and that radio she could get the radio and that we know her life in Christ was important to her until that was a place that she just took it and when I had to learn and you know it as an adult my brother and I have written three books together and I wrote another nine. I really credit my mom you don't have so little education with the fact that we did that because she read and she learned from whatever resource was there. And so we grew up thinking words in books and learning more important even though she had such a limited resource to give to us and that she took what she

10:44 She took what she had and made something more of it and then gave it to us. You told me a story about her teaching piano lessons and that seems to tie in. Well, could you share that?

10:58 Yes, because I'm a couple of the real strengths of her life had to do with her willingness to serve others, but then somehow in the middle of things she could see potential in other people and want to develop it which amazes me as I look back because nobody ever really developed her or or had that kind of heart for her.

11:20 But we had a boy who lived in our neighborhood a farm about a mile away.

11:26 And my mother and her sister again Farm Life issues with almost no resource decided the neighborhood kids needed more education and they needed some Christian training. So they started a little summer week-long Bible school at this tiny church that they weren't even church services there. They just got access to it and use it as a meeting place would have this week-long Bible School David order, these will materials and come and teach and do refreshments and games but there was a boy who attended there from a farm about a mile away and when my mother got to know him she could see he was really a very very bright kid. He was probably 9:00 or 10:00 at the time and usually bright his parents. He was born to parents who only have one child. It was later in life. They bred very very well exposure and she could see that he wasn't going to get the encouragement that could help him grow had some interesting music sociopath volunteered to give him piano lessons.

12:25 She could play the piano but quite honestly not physically but she got some little books and stuff and his mother agreed. Of course free piano lessons sound like a fighting and he come to our house once wait for these piano lessons. My mother wasn't doing that about piano lessons at all. It was because she wanted to help him know that that he had more to give and that he was smarter than other people and that he could be something really great if he understood this and did something with it. So while they were doing these lessons she would have these little talks with him.

12:59 I saw him in the post office about 10 years ago today happen to meet a stranger really and he realized that I was the daughter of this woman. He's gone now to two excellent education than a big contribution and he said to me that all started with your mother because until I met her I never knew I could be anything more and a little lady told me that I could be.

13:27 And he said it made it made my life go where it's gone today. So amazing that is that a woman who had no education herself really and no one to develop her.

13:39 Look and saw this child and made him something more than she did that for us as well.

13:45 What are some other memories you really love about your mom?

13:54 It makes me laugh as I look back now.

13:59 That she was sort of paying attention to herself on the kitchen cupboards. If you open up the doors on the inside, there were these little reminders our little notes that she had written to herself about things that she wanted to be or do that again. I don't think this is something that anyone ever told her to do is just in her to want to want to be better.

14:23 But some of them were little saying maxon's about when you get old things that make you annoying to other people like telling stories too many times or that she had written reminders to herself not to do this. Well goodness. She died when she was 61 and I can remember these things being there. Maybe when I was in high school, so you must not even have been probably in her 50s 1950s at that time, but the fact that she was looking ahead and thinking okay. I'm eating all the people know her really annoying and I don't want to do that. I'm going to put these up. It's up to help me remember not to do that when the time comes and makes me laugh now to think that she was trying to tend to that.

15:07 How can you see your mom in you? And do you see any of her in me?

15:25 How I see her and me what one of the funny things is O / frugality bless her heart. She did this because she had to they had so little resources and she really wanted to send us to college and pay for it and they did with everyone of us who wanted to do that and my older brothers had the GI Bill and some other things but they did that for all of us who wanted their college education but to do that was almost unbelievable with their resources. So she used to there was a rummage sale at the courthouse basement every Saturday and I remember my sister and I going with her to that rummage sale on Saturdays and she'd go through all this stuff and then bring stuff home and do little fixing to it or or whatever. It was a way to make ends meet. But at the same time there was some part of her that was it was kind of a creative thing sort of a challenge to say, how can I take what's here?

16:23 I have all this stuff choose the stuff that's a little better and even make it into something a little bit better. But the frugality of her is I laughed cuz I see that smoke so much a part of the events good sometimes not so good but one of the things in her I see in you it

16:45 Either your artistic abilities always amaze me because I have -4 and I think are you a cheap mutation will know you're not some of that was my mother. I think it was totally undeveloped because she never had access to very many resources, but the way she the way she looked at the thing she has a sheet upholstered furniture. She would take old furniture and reupholster of her house.

17:10 And these things that you did with the clothes and his we got a little older she found a place in Knoxville that had this wasn't polyester was really big and she found polyester for things like 99 Cents the yard, and she even though it didn't have much passion exposures. Somehow could watch just TV and things around her and sort of choose things that were stylish and then she just buys material and manufacture them in quantities for the grandchildren than in others, but she had really all that was undeveloped.

17:42 Kind of an amazing artistic. I that played itself out in very homely ways and I think some of your capacity to see design all around you and even the fact that instead of funeral fine artist or graphic designer.

17:59 What kind of takes some components that are sort of there already to Ward an end. Practical? It's okay with you that it turned out to be Hallmark cards or you know, it doesn't have to be just a Christine Fine Art thing. That's that would be how my mother would have approached it. It was with an artistic eye, but it needed to have sort of some practical use. Just cuz our life required it because it was because it had to be for something and then in the context of her life she's able to do that.

18:31 Do you recall a memorable conversations with her?

18:37 Yes.

18:42 When

18:44 When I was little on the farm, it's hard for me to remember to hold I was I would look back and think I was probably eight or nine.

18:52 But I remember a summer night and we were in love those warm balmy humid, Iowa Summers that we were outside off the front porch of this more mask laying on a blanket looking at the sky and it was dark knight and we're looking at the stars.

19:11 I think there must have been other family members out there too, but that's a little hazy to me. But I remember my mother and I lying on this blanket. I'm looking at the stars and I remember telling her that when I grew up I thought I wanted to be a missionary in Africa.

19:29 Now, of course in the church context that we were that would have been, you know, just a place of great service and if your heart was toward wanting to serve God that would be a very huge wonderful thing to choose and I wanted to do something like that with my life, but I look back now and think little girl from a farm in Knoxville, Iowa who never even knew it was sent to Africa could have this Insider as a dream when she was 8

19:59 You know now it makes me kind of laugh. I think boy that's pretty ambitious for a kid whose parents and never got anywhere or done anything but it was okay to tell my mother that and she received it. I look back at the end. She didn't say much kind of like well, that would be a great thing. It was reinforcing. I think now I would love to ask her if she remembers that moment and what she was thinking when she heard that, you know, she could have laughed at it. She could have told me how it really was a stretch that was in light of the life. We have I think what I treasure about that moment now is that she didn't do any of those things and I remember High School telling people. I wanted to be a translator for the UN years of Spanish in a town of 8,000 in Iowa, but somehow in all of those moments, I never heard from her that those weren't worthy things to think about doing even though her when she never really

20:58 Travel that the time I'm not even sure she been out of Iowa. She thought that sounded fine and we should go ahead and figure out how to do that.

21:06 Do you find it ironic that you did end up going to Africa? Yes. I do. You know two years ago when I did go to Africa. I thought of her and I actually remember that moment. I thought how wise and loving it was of her did not let her own limited life limit when I could dream it how grateful I feel cuz he do there I was and probably some place in her heart. I suspect she probably thought well.

21:33 I think that could happen.

21:36 You and Dad raised Scott and I in the same farm house that you grew up in. How does the farm house and and just being there with your own children?

21:53 Bring back memories or reflect your childhood.

22:00 Oh that's such an insightful question because that time in the farm house is really important for me.

22:07 The underside of my mother's life was

22:11 Yeah, she gave a lot to other people but I think my dad didn't really understand what she had to give and maybe respect her in the ways that she needed it as much he learned later in his life. Actually after her death. I think to say he understood our life better in the value of what she brought but you know, she's always going to overweight and our house wasn't the neatest and he was very very nice and very disciplined and I think I think it didn't see the value of her and so part of when I left home I inside me I thought well

22:49 I'm going to do something with my life that there two things are never going to do. I'm never going to work at the VA like my dad and I never going to be a farm wife like my mother in a little town like this so you don't get a university of education and to travel and that was a little reactive but when you were too and we actually moved back to Iowa and because of circumstances moved into that very farm house where I grew up for me and was coming back to that again and saying, okay.

23:21 Could have put away my mother's life I think and and thought well there lots of foot she is I'm not going to be

23:29 It was her son. What did I miss in her? I mean do what? Is there a way I need to connect with who she was and I think it was during that time and I started to see her differently and see the sacrifices she made for us in that while she was living in that Farmhouse. You know, it's all good night with the dairy operation with the cows and she had to go out and wash those milkers every day. It was just yuck for who she is and she did it and she did sing while she did it and I said her once with all that singing while you're washing those milkers and she said, oh my hands are washing the milkers, but my head is going around the world.

24:09 And I think of that time on the farm it was for me to get to go to her exact life, you know you and I walked in the same fields that she and I walked in when I was little and to do it that you guys played in the same that shed afterwards that that Margie and I played in when we were little and it made me look at her life differently and I think it was important to me to say, okay. She looked on the outside like a farm life wasn't really respected by her husband and some things I don't want to be but there were a lot of things in her that I really do want to be and I'm going to say yes to this and when the farm house burned when you were third grade third grade

24:53 And of course we left there. I remember the month after that was just morning for me. I was just going to stand around and I thought what the big deal win on that house it was because it was the kind of this the physical side of my mother that was kind of the last

25:10 Theme that I had I thought the kind of physically connected me to her and I said sorry and it wasn't the house the connected meet her, you know, it's who she is it lives in me. But that Farmhouse time was really important for me inside the connector herbatint also to get to do our life my life with little children in a way that she would have liked to you no more connected to a bigger world and I was reading books by that time and you guys were involved in a lot of stuff that I know she would have left for us when we were little Sosa almost a little bit of a chance to do her life in the way. She might have enjoyed doing it if she'd had more resources and freedom.

25:51 What are some things that you would say to your mom or do with your mom if she were here now?

25:59 For Christmas, I give her a trip to do just like you did for me. That's what I would do. I would take the world that I have now.

26:12 And I would bring her into it.

26:17 Because she would follow the world. I live in she would love the beautiful house. I have she would resent it. She would just think it was the most fun. She would love it and she would love the places I go and and the people I meet it would just be and having Adventures she would just love it I would do for her what you were doing for me and we would we would share these things together. If I had any sense I'd take her to storycorps to tell the story just I would honor her the way you honor me and she died when I was 27 and I was too young at the time to really understand her life and what she brought and I think I didn't know her as an adult. I never got to honor but really a great woman. She was and the people she helped at all. She gave me I would do for her what you do for me.

27:22 Are there any other?

27:26 Memories or people that she impacted

27:33 That you would want to Tribute.

27:37 Oh, I have some other things about her that I looked at their stories that I tell other people about her.

27:46 Because they're so funny to me for a lady.

27:53 You should have known stuff like this and knew it.

27:57 When you do in the sixties, the long hair for guys things started and we were any of us give us a hippie thing put this in context in a little town Farm Town in the middle of Iowa and we were always meant a pretty conservative churches. Oh, you can just sell imagine what the perception was of these folks of men who grow their hair boys who grew their hair long or just admit you were just entering a life of drugs and crime and it was just so black and white

28:39 I just left my mother her response to that whole thing was.

28:44 She decided to start teaching the high school Sunday school class in our church and

28:52 She had a very dry wet and sort of a not a very pushy woman did more by asking questions and by saying things.

29:00 One day to the Sunday School class of teenage mutant teenage boys in the class. She brought in a book that had pictures of the presidents of the United States. Of course, if you look at the pictures of the presidents way more of them have long hair that had the kind of, you know, the fifties crew cuts in and then 62 Shorthair weigh the largest proportion of the leaders of our country had this very long hair.

29:30 She was brought in this book and laid it down and just kind of started talking to not about hair but first is kind of about pictures of the presidents in about greatness and Holly become great people in our country and all of that and there was just kind of a gentle little Rye question. I don't even recall what it was segwayed over into pointing out. Just so gently I lost all of them had long hair and if they were around today, what do you think people would think of them laugh?

30:04 At what a credibly bowl thing that was to do the reason somebody in her place. Even if he hadn't such an idea would have done it because you know, all those kids were going to go home and say a prayer for you know, that, Jackson has long hair. I think it was kind of her playful way to push back at what she thought was was ridiculous in the bigger scheme and to be honest. It was ridiculous in the bigger scheme but a lady without many ways to know that could see through it. She could see was bigger Jump Ahead great sayings he was one of her sayings.

30:44 Raising children is like

30:48 You have to do it in the same way. You do it when you're holding on to a bar or wet soap.

30:55 If you hold him too loose they fall out of your hand, but if you hold them too tight, they squeeze right out of your hair.

31:05 And I've often thought of the Borowitz soap as an awful lot of wisdom to it and she had huge huge wisdom. I always thought in and give me a call this a little more loose than if there was a Continuum a little more to that end. But again over time it turned out none of us were

31:24 Wherever tremendously rebellious cuz there wasn't a whole lot to rebell against but there was enough structure where there was enough of that holding tight that we didn't seem to fall out of anybody's hands either and it made me smile that she could see that wisdom.

31:40 Here's a question. Did you ever get in trouble with your mom?

31:47 Yes one time.

31:51 The important thing is that over a lifetime. I can only think of one time and that doesn't have to do because I was so perfect.

31:59 It had to do with the fact that she was so careful. Especially we got a little older about what thing she made issues about.

32:09 I think she was really wanted to be sure that we stayed connected and that we were willing to talk to her about things that you can make issues about much but when she was dying, she died of pancreatic cancer and she had it a cancer episode. I think maybe it was a year before she actually died and she had surgery and some other things and I remember going to see her the Pella hospital when she was there and come in the wake of the surgery now that we've gone your dad and I had gone to The Farmhouse and we're staying at the farm house at that time and her green beans were coming on because she gardened

32:50 So I thought well, here's a way to help so I pick the green beans.

32:55 And I froze them.

32:58 I Frozen because I never really understood canning and it looked too hard but I could freeze things. And so I froze these green beans and this was kind of my way to help went to the hospital to see her and when I told her that I had Frozen the green beans.

33:16 She was angry.

33:19 And she was angry because green beans that are frozen are tougher than when you can green beans to get very very soft. And so they're very chewable and she was dead. They grew up with canned green beans dollar life. It can green beans and she was angry that I have Frozen those green beans. Oh really hurt my feelings.

33:43 Because I thought you was trying to do this thing for you, you know and you are pleased with it, but I came away with two things from it one was it hurt my feelings because there was hardly anything in a pool in 20 years, or I could think of that she ever expressed displeasure with me. I mean imagine that so that's why they stood out to me and I was sort of unprepared for it, but the other thing was

34:11 It was such a small thing all she was trying to do with Express a preference and she also throughout her whole life has so rarely ever expressed her own preference or demanded her own way it took dying I think and all her defenses being down to finally be able to send moments to say. Hey, I have a preference in this and

34:35 And I have a right for someone to listen to this and a right to be angry if it didn't work out that way and kind of made me sad that took so long if I could give her a gift if she was here and she was young and I could bestow a gift on her. That would be the gift. It would be the gift that she would know that that having preferences of her own and speaking with her own voice. But that was all right, that wasn't unselfish because she lived her life in such a selfless way.

35:05 Tell me about the final years of her life you were in adults. She had cancer and

35:16 Share with me about that. It was about at a two-year ordeal of her dying and she died as I said of pancreatic cancer. She was 61.

35:27 And of course at 27, I sort of thought well, I guess you get old and you die. You know now I think 60 what is not so old that she was she never really Express much to stress about it. She was pretty cool soccer goal didn't speak much about it. I think maybe to her sister she did but to us not much held at herself, but I remember staying with her at the hospital when I think was the second major cancer surgery when she was in the process actually of dying and she said to me one night, you know, some people when they get this place they say why is this happening to me?

36:06 And she said it I think well, why not?

36:12 Oh my goodness. That was a huge wisdom. She started looked at life and thought well.

36:18 Good things and bad things both coming and you just take bothan you go on to the next thing and I thought that different times sometimes it'll ruin the railing at the ui's is happening me that I think I think just happened in life. And so, you know, we pick him up and we go on we make something out of it.

36:46 I think it's my turn to ask you.

36:49 Okay any thoughts about your mother or a things you can hearing this story that?

36:58 Now make the pieces or a piece make more sense of that surprised you about your grandmother or that you want to hold from this I think in the same way when I tell people about your background and where you are and who you are. Now, there are always shocked. I think I feel the same way about Grandma Ada stand that you know, she was simple and I dreamed bag and maybe she didn't have the years to see some of those dreams come true, but I really think that so many of them have been through her children. And when when I tell people that that your degree is in home economics from Iowa State University and then and you raised us in a farm house that you grew up in and

37:58 In rural, Iowa and here you are working in a large corporation as a contractor culture developments in

38:14 And change management and and really have made contributions around leadership than integrity and Leadership and positive change not just in the companies you worked in that in coaching many people and I think you know, you've really carried on the Legacy as as what you were raised with stand and I think of that same spirit that that she had and that

38:48 Being from a small town and being from the family without a lot of means is no limit to what you can do it. I just really think that you've

39:02 Understood

39:04 The Creator picture in in gifting that that God has given I think she understood that to then it was so much more about gifting than about.

39:16 Worldly assets. So thank you and the joy of his today is

39:23 My mother who you know read a lot of books and courage my brother and I to write books and dreams big things for us. And today we're going to honor her with her story is a woman who in her lifetime never imagined that her story would be told anywhere I think or mean anything to anyone and we honor Her Today by putting the gift of her life in the story of her life in a way that's preserved and shared with a lot of other people.