This is the first of the ladies' stories to be published, and rightfully so, it is in celebration of a lady that we all hold dear and love mightily, Joyce Cook. In fact, she was one of my main inspirations for this collection.
I started this project a couple of years ago with the intent and purpose of recognizing and celebrating the many women that have dedicated their adult lives to the service of others in our hometowns and extended communities. I originally thought this would be a short-term project, but instead, it has stretched over many months and one that I don't think I am finished with just yet. In that time, I have interviewed and photographed dozens of ladies that we all know and love; it has been a heartwarming & humbling experience to hear, and now share, their stories of triumph, tragedy, and everything in between.
Each of the articles is written by the lady being recognized. They are unedited and published as I received them. I gave each of ladies the same set of basic prompts and ask them to share whatever they felt led to share. I was keenly interested in learning who the main influencers are/were in their lives, their challenges, and where they find their inspiration. It was also important to me for them to share a message of hope to the young ladies that will follow in their footsteps one day.
Miss Joyce captured our hearts when Chuck taught at PGHS. She kept a watchful eye each afternoon as our youngest son got off the bus from the elementary school and made his way to her side for a hug and a snack before heading down to his dad's classroom. She guided each of our children through their years at PGHS and she did it with boundless love, kindness and generosity. I know we are not the only family that owes her a deep debt of gratitude; one we pay willingly with hearts full of love. And now, let's hear from Miss Joyce...
One important thing I have learned is that the smallest of things that we say and do have a ripple effect on others and the world, especially if we interact with children! Most of us cannot comprehend our own effect on others. I know I cannot.
I grew up in the small town of Maud, surrounded by family and friends. I attended all 12 years of school at Maud and graduated 3rd or 4th in my class (I really can't remember). My Dad worked at Red River like so many other Dads in our community and my Mom was a stay at home Mom, so we didn't have a lot of money. I always wanted to go to college, but finances were an issue and my family had never gone to college so the support or prompting was not there for me. I married at a very young age of 18, but I was a very mature 18, and I'm happy to say I'm still married to the same person 46 years later. He was a keeper and is one of the smartest men I know!
My husband is a couple years older than me and had joined his family's Marine business. I first went to business school, then began college and working for an Insurance Company in Texarkana.
Later, I became part of the family Marine business as well and I sold boats and motors, lawn and garden equipment, go carts and managed the parts department. Later I learned to do upholstery work on boat seats and took on the bookkeeping end of the business as well. We worked along side each other for many years and we raised our daughter in the business as well. Before school age, she went to work with us daily and as she grew, she learned the trade of selling and managing a business right along side us. I've always been a multitasker and was able to work several jobs at one time. I purposely took on part time jobs on weekends in which I felt I needed to experience. I'm not an animal lover by nature, but I felt the need to learn some aspects of animal care, so I took a part time job at a vet clinic. I worked with a dedicated veterinarian and a great staff and learned a lot. I've also worked for a plastic surgeon and learned a a lot there too.
Previous PGISD Principal, Kelly Rodgers approached me and asked if I wanted to work for Pleasant Grove ISD as Principal Secretary. I have always loved school and I felt it would be great working where our daughter went to school, and I knew she would be very involved in school and extracurricular activities, so I accepted.
First I worked at Pleasant Grove Middle School, but had to leave when my Father in Law had to have major surgery and I had to go help run the business, but I returned to PGISD later and was placed at the high school when long time Principal Secretary Frances Brown retired and I've been there ever since. I also continue to help my husband with his business.
As I look back today, I feel I have always been led to work the jobs I've worked. I'm an organizer and a multitasker by nature and I love and appreciate kids! I also feel every person who I have ever had the pleasure of working alongside was put in my path for a purpose. Some arrived right on time to teach me things I've needed to learn, and sometimes I've been lucky enough to empower others with things I've learned along the way. I feel we are all connected. I feel connected to the kids who have passed through our school and I continue to pray for their success. When I read later about their successes or families on Facebook or other social media, I'm grateful that I knew them. I interacted with them in a different way than a teacher, but we were connected. The staff at PGHS are my friends and my family as well.
The people who influenced me to choose the job I have now was my child and my husband. I have always tried to incorporate my skills of earning a living along side of being there for my family. Since I was only lucky enough to have 1 child, I never wanted to entrust her care or upbringing to someone else.
I admire just about everyone! I look up to people who make others feel good about themselves, who emit light and kindness to others, but who also hold others accountable. If I have to name a person I most admire, I'd choose my husband Chris and my daughter Robin. They have very strong personalities, a strong sense of loyalty, a deep abiding kindness for others and they have the biggest hearts! They are driven individuals and they influence me to look at the big picture of things.
I do what I do because I feel it's my mission. No matter if I work for a school, a business, or another place, it would still be the same mission. Show up, do your best, make a positive difference, try to make life easier for others, and be grateful for the gifts you've been given.
Challenging moments........Nothing has deterred me, but I've had my share of challenges. Health scares for myself, my family, ailing parents, death of parents, fear.....challenges everyone faces at one point in time. I don't like to dwell on those. I don't like going through health crisis, but you do what you have to do, you pray and you have faith.
Luckily, I've had friends and my husband and a daughter and son in law who helped me when I needed it. I’m not one to reach out to others outside of my immediate family, but the angel friends Lisa, Carolyn, and Cindy who were placed in my life when I needed outsiders, helped to sustain me more than they will ever know and I am grateful for them.
My message for others is to live their mission in whatever journey it takes you. We all have different inherent skills and attributes that we can lend to the world and all are necessary. There is no ONE WAY to educate yourself and arrive at your destiny. Each choice we make can teach us something. I truly feel the education I received of working in a family business taught me skills I might not have learned going straight into college. Those skills serve me well to this day! Education is important! We all should strive to keep learning so we can remain ever advancing. One important thing I have learned is that the smallest of things that we say and do have a ripple effect on others and the world, especially if we interact with children! Most of us cannot comprehend our own effect on others. I know I cannot. When I was asked to participate in this project, my first thought was "why would she choose me?" I'm not one of the social elite or anyone of great community importance! I don't feel inferior; I just know there are others who are certainly more worldly than me. I agreed, however, to participate because Lisa Zach is also one of the kindest people I know and if she asked me to do something, I will. Also, as limited as I am, I know what true success is and the key to achieving it, and it’s really rather simple.
Bottom line is......If we all live our mission and give something positive back to the world, that in itself, is success to me.
-- Joyce Cook (submitted 11-9-2018)
" To laugh often and much,
To win the respect of intelligent people,
And the affection of children,
To earn the appreciation of honest critics,
And endure the betrayal of false friends,
To appreciate beauty,
To find the best in others,
To leave the world a bit better,
Whether by a healthy child,
A garden patch,
Or a redeemed social condition,
To know even one life has breathed easier
Because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded! "
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson ~