North Dakota Struggler

Matthias - Ketchum, Idaho
Entered on June 9, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

She was born without a doctor, in the middle of a blizzard, in Bentley, a small ghost town in North Dakota with no more than a hundred people. She had no idea what a tree was until she was forced to learn how to spell the word. She was taught in a two- room school house where the teachers lived in the basement. No one ever predicted that this girl would achieve such unprecedented heights, much less acknowledge her for it, but these are key traits in my grandma: patience and not expecting to be rewarded.

Her name was Lucille. Being a small woman of only ninety-five pounds, they said she was too little to become a nurse- so she became a doctor. She was able to study at University of North Dakota and the Women’s Medical College of Philadelphia and after years of hard work earned her M.D. at the age of 23 with a graduating class of 18 women. She even tried to join the army to help medically in World War II but they again said she was too small. She explained to me, “There weren’t many things a girl could do in 1933, especially amid the Depression.” She moved around the Midwest where the illiberal people were not very open-minded and tolerant towards women in jobs such as doctors. After marrying in 1945 and having 4 children, the family moved to Palm Springs, California where Lucille was the first woman M.D. ever to work there. It was unprecedented during that time but just water under the bridge for her. Times were still changing rapidly and things were looking bright for my grandma’s future in Palm Springs.

Lucille’s life in Palm Springs was plagued with unfortunate events including becoming a single mother taking care of four children, having to fight off breast cancer, losing her father to prostate cancer, and most of all, losing her 17-year old daughter to brain cancer. She still fought hard to keep providing for the family and didn’t retire until the age of 76, with this impressive statistic, “After [delivering] 6300 babies, I stopped counting.” She set up the first breast cancer support groups in Palm Springs and continued to conduct them into her late eighties. After ninety years of fighting through the hard times and doing all she could do to help other people she still says, “One never does these things expecting accolades, and no one can do it alone.” After receiving the American Cancer Society’s highest volunteer award last year, and even having an Angels baseball game dedicated to her which she attended at the age of 90, she still never forgets what she had to go through to achieve such prestige.

In the past century alone, society has evolved in our culture so that as a whole, we can finally acknowledge people’s greatest achievements no matter their sex, religion, race, etc. I know everyone has heard that a million times, but for me, experiencing it first hand has changed my life significantly. What most people don’t know is what I believe: that no matter the oppression or lack of other rewards that will inevitably come from doing what you know is good, you must keep going because good deeds will never be forgotten. Goods deeds may not even be acknowledged until after death, but to be remembered eternally for respectable actions, I believe that that is what every human being should strive for.