Do you know my M.O.W.? Are you sure?

Hi everyone,

Although sometimes I refer to Sandy as my M.O.W. many of you know what a wonderful counselor she was, first at Cherokee Middle School and then at Kickapoo High School in Springfield. She graduated from Drury University and later earned her masters in Guidance and Counseling from University of Missouri in Kansas City. Her first teaching post was in Evansville, Indiana where she taught high school English and Spanish. When we moved to Kansas City, she taught and began her counseling career there. One of the cancelled events that I hated most was last month when Sandy was among a handful of past teachers at Kickapoo who were to be honored by popular vote from alumni of the school. I hope they will reschedule the event.

What you may not know about Sandy is what an important role she played in shaping and leading a movement that began in the 1960s and changed the educational landscape of America. What became known as ACLD, an acronym for Association for Children with Learning Disabilities (later changed to ALD), began when parents and teachers scattered across the country became aware that some children struggled in one or more areas of learning although in many cases they were normal otherwise, yet there was no formal recognition of the problem or system in place to accommodate the special needs of those children. Something needed to be done and it was mostly parents who led the way.

One pioneer in the movement to recognize and deal with the issues associated with learning disabilities was Janet Trotter in Springfield. In a few short years other strong leaders appeared in Missouri and elsewhere. In Kansas City Sandy joined the movement and from 1972-75 served as President of the Missouri chapter of what was rapidly becoming a national organization. Janet held the office previously. In 1978 Sandy was chairman of a 4-day International ACLD Conference held in Kansas City, which drew 4,500 people from America and abroad to hear hundreds of speakers from the fields of education, psychology, psychiatry, and medicine. It took 27 people on the Program Committee and 19 on the Arrangements Committee to pull it off. I’ve forgotten how much money the conference earned for the organization but I think it was more than $85,000.

In 1982 Sandy and Virginia Anderson put together a 196-page cookbook called THE ACLD PANTRY COOKBOOK, which included favorite recipes of famous and not so famous cooks across the United States. The Christmas before the book came out we didn’t even get out tree up. It was all hands on deck to sort and prioritize recipes from everywhere that were layered on every conceivable surface in the house. Again, I don’t remember how much money Sandy and Virginia earned for ACLD but it was substantial.

Sandy was elected to the national board of directors and became deeply involved in taking the cause to Washington where she sat in a meeting at the White House to lobby for action and support of a bill that eventually was passed into law and at last gave official recognition and legal rights to untold numbers of young people then and to all who would and will follow. The impact of those years and those women and men and that law are hard overstate. Many fine people were involved in that movement, including Arthur Mallory, former president of Missouri State University and Commissioner of Education for the state of Missouri who took a leadership role. Professionals in many fields became involved in the cause and spoke out to help get something done. But it was parents who led the way, moms and dads and friends who volunteered untold hours to help make a difference.

I have been privileged to know Janet Trotter and other tough, don’t-tell-me-we-can’t-do-this women who led the charge during those critical years: Elinor Burstein, Jackie McKinsey, Elaine Fry, Jane Fast, Juanita Blevins, others. When Juanita died two years ago we drove to Kansas City to attend her funeral.

Sandy has been recognized on two occasions for what she helped accomplish for children everywhere. Drury gave her an Outstanding Alumnus Award in 1979 based, in part, on her involvement in the movement, and Missouri ACLD gave her a bronze statue that rests quietly on a window ledge in the hall to our bedroom. But I think she ought to have a life size statue on the public square. I think all these wonderful women should. They are heroes that history will overlook if someone doesn’t write a book about them or bring together a museum-quality display of the evidence of their struggles and triumphs when everything was on the line.

And that, friends, is my M.O.W.

P.S. I was so focused on Sandy’s accomplishments in education that I neglected to even mention her thirty-four years as a business woman. In 1984, Sandy and I became partners with Maryann and Larry Wakefield to purchase an outstanding gift store in Springfield called Gamble’s. A few years later we bought the Wakefield half and became full owners. After school until she retired and full time after that Sandy was at the store or on buying trips to Dallas, Kansas City, Chicago, Atlanta, Las Vegas, and anywhere else she could find unique and beautiful products for the store. Gamble’s stood for excellence, quality, customer service, and Sandy’s passion for Waterford Crystal, Baccarat Crystal, Lladro Porcelains, and dozens of other lines, many of which only Gamble’s was licensed to carry. Just a little something she did in her spare time for 3 1/2 decades.