Posted by Editor: Erik Piro
May 9,  2019
Honoring our Mothers for Mother’s Day
Article by  Susan Kealey
Photos by: EJ Dieterle

Our exchange students, Lukas Kruse and Giana Maria Perrero were today’s program.

Lukas is from Bassum, Germany. He is almost 19 and has a brother, 21, who is disabled. They have three exchange students at his home right now. They are from Argentina. The pets in his family are a Maine Coon cat and a dog. We got to see several pictures of home, family and his travels. Lukas likes sports, especially windsurfing and diving in the Caribbean. He also likes running. He is a bit of a nerd, like his dad. His travels have included exploring Germany, Croatia, Russia, England, Holland and the Caribbean. He thanked us and his host family and says he has really enjoyed his stay.

A brief question and answer session followed his presentation.
Q:  Did you try out for any sports at school?  A:  He tried track but had to give it up.  
Q:  What are your plans now?  A:  He is considering coming back for college.
Q:  What was the hardest thing for you here?  A:  The language. 



We had a moment to hear from the host families.
Q:  So, how was it?  A: (from the host family’s son)  It was great, we watched all 21 Marvel films to catch up. After being a host, he’s caught the bug and plans to go to Belgium, near Caroline. All three of his future host families live on the same street.



Rotarian and host Lisa, likes the program a lot. She especially appreciates the network of other families and students. She recommends it and emphasized that there is a lot of support. The transition from house guest to a member of the household was interesting, but not a problem. 

Giana Maria Perrero, is from Italy (dad) and Holland (Mom). Her Italian home is in Alessandra, a place known for its two day chocolate festival, fun costumed foot race and other festivals. For instance, the defeat of Napoleon is celebrated every year. Her other home is in Utrecht, Holland. Things that Holland is known for are bulbs, food, shoes, flower markets, cheese markets...  Her Mom has a restaurant. She also shared pictures of family, friends and her travels. Her family pet is a cat named sausage. Several members of her family and friends have done exchanges which was her incentive. School very different here. In Italy they are in one room for five years. She has been to London, Hawaii, Africa, Thailand, Bulgaria. Her hobbies are cooking, comics, repurposing things and making them pretty. Giana wants to become a doctor like her dad who specializes in treating patients in vegetative states. She did this trip for personal growth.  While at HMB High School,  she participated in tennis, the play Mama Mia. Other activities included skiing and s trip to Yosemite   She now has a huge exchange family that she treasures. She will return back to Holland in one month and 25 days.

The meeting ended with President Paul sharing a personal Mother's Day story, titled "Jessie".  The full transcript is below:

I was adopted. I was born on Staten Island, New York. My new parents made me a part of their family while I was an infant. My adoptive father always told me that I was the littlest baby in the place and it looked like I really needed a home so my parents took me in their welcoming arms to begin a new life. It was a good stroke of fortune for me, maybe too good.

At age four, I awoke one morning and heard voices coming from downstairs in our house in White Plains, New York. People were crying and I went to see what the hubbub was all about. As I entered the room, there was an instant hush followed by some particularly fervent hugs and then the awful words, “Mommy died last night.” I wasn’t sure what that really meant but I knew it was bad. My mom, still in her thirties, had died of a brain aneurism at White Plains Hospital. I would never see her again. In some ways I didn’t really know her but not a day passes when I don’t think about her.

But life went forward. My heartbroken father soldiered on, commuting to work and doing the best he could to create a home for my sister and me. At an early age, I became accustomed to filling out the student data form every year on the first day of school and writing the word “deceased” next to “Mother’s Name”. It always made me feel different and a little sad. Happily, there were others who helped me through those years. My best friend’s mother, Jane Schwarz, was always there to lend a kind and helping hand. My Aunt Ellie was as good an ersatz parent as one could ever hope for and there were others not the least of which was my older sister, Jacquie. But there was one person who changed my world forever. It was Jessie.

To help around the house my father had hired Jessie High, an African-American woman who was, in the parlance of the day, a live-in maid. She was so much more to me.

For the next fourteen years, Jessie was my comfort and much of my strength. She, as much as anyone, raised me and gave me the priceless gifts of kindness, decency and a respect for human dignity. In a forever changing world and family situation, Jessie was the one constant who helped me to keep my balance always wrapped in a cloak of a transcendent optimism that has never left me.

Jessie would tell me stories about her earlier life in the south and her forebears whose roots went back to the terrible days of slavery and the bitter after-taste of Reconstruction on the culture of her youth. She had known and had lived with discrimination every day of her life and yet somehow she had endured. I would sit in the kitchen with her as she prepared another meal for the family. I loved listening to her hum in a soft, sweet, somewhat raspy but always on key voice, the songs of her youth and her church. I still hear them echo in my mind to this day. And when my parents were out as they often were after my father had married a somewhat troubled and difficult woman, Jessie and I would go upstairs to watch television and some “rasslin’” which was her favorite. We spent hours together jumping up and down as Gene (Mr. America) Stanlee, Gorgeous George or the bare-footed Antonino Rocca and others did their thing against some really bad, usually large and often hooded opponents. In those days the good guys always won.

When I was a kid, I was usually a mess. I recall coming back from a typical day in the woods with so much mud on my shoes that I could barely walk. Jessie would stop me at the back porch and say, “Lan’ sakes, you ain’t comin’ in here with all that mud. You get out of them clothes.” I entered the house many times in my underwear or less having left my mud-caked shoes and clothing often reeking of skunk cabbage on the back porch. After changing, I would come downstairs to raid the fridge and Jessie would be there, her usual genial self. There was never any after-effect of an emergency laundry dump. In fact, in all the years I spent with her, I never, not once, ever heard an unkind or harsh word from Jessie.

I remember often going downstairs to see her but she would be in her room and I knew she was with her Bible which she read over and over learning the lessons it contained and, unlike too many people today, she actually followed its precepts and treated others according to the Word. Jessie High was as good and as decent a human being as one could ever imagine.

Sometimes around the kitchen table we would just sit and talk about her childhood and occasionally I would teach her things like multiplication and share some news of the world and always, during the season, I would bring her up to date on the latest baseball scores. If things weren’t going well for me I would pour out my troubles and she would give me a big hug and put that gentle hand on her little boy’s shoulder and say, “Paulie, now don’t you fret none. Things will work out just fine. You’ll see”. And sure enough, they did. When my often-warring parents had one of their frequent, high-decibel exchanges, I would seek out Jessie just to be with her. “Lordy, Lordy”, she would mutter. “Why can’t they just get along?” I could never have survived those years without her.

I recall with great discomfort and some lingering anger those moments when my step mother would scold Jessie for not cleaning a baseboard or dusting some remote, out-of-sight cranny. I took that personally mostly because of the master-and-servant tone which to me was utterly inappropriate in any matter involving Jessie. I resented that so deeply that it probably has had a lifelong impact on me. I have never been a particularly easy person to manage. I often push back against authority regardless of its origin, a legacy from those early years when I saw Jessie treated carelessly by others who could not begin to compare with her on any known human decency scale. Jessie could have left us for cause many times but she didn’t because of me. She never told me that but she didn’t have to. Jessie High loved me unconditionally and I hope she understood that I returned that love in kind. She was in her own simple way perhaps the best person I have ever known.

When it was time for me to go to college, we sold the house in White Plains and said good-bye to the place that was my home and to Jessie.

I visited Jessie one last time. It had been a few years since we had moved away from White Plains. I was going to visit friends and I would be in the area so a few days before, I phoned the number given to me by the information operator. The person who picked up the phone was not Jessie. It was a relative who told me that Jessie was in White Plains Hospital and was very ill. I then called the hospital and checked for visiting hours.

For me, a hospital has always been a foreboding place and it would be so once again.  Antoinette, who would become my wife a few weeks later accompanied me.   We found Jessie’s room and entered. There were three African-American patients sharing the space and I must admit, I couldn’t tell which one was Jessie.  Jessie's daughter who was standing vigil led me to her bedside.  Jessie was desperately ill. She could not have weighed more than about 90 pounds and seeing her without her glasses made it almost impossible to recognize her. But when she heard my voice a weak but unmistakable smile appeared on her face. I reached out to touch that gentle hand once again. This time it would be the last time. We spoke for a few minutes and I tried to tell her what I had been doing and what had become of me.  I told her about Antoinette who stood next to me and she tried to focus on her without the aid of her glasses.  I imagined that what she saw was a lovely woman as an impressionist might have painted her using all of the most beautiful and warm colors of a Renoir palette.  Jessie managed a weak smile because I think she knew in her own way that her little boy was going to be safe and happy at last and that I had come to let her know and to say a final "good-bye".  But in the end, the talk meant nothing. It was about the touch, the one perfect connection between us that always transcended mere words. It was now my turn to be the provider of comfort and peace.

A few days later, Jessie died. Ironically, it was in the same hospital that had claimed my mother so many years earlier. Somehow there was a kind of symmetry to that.

I still miss Jessie, that sweet, gentle soul who was my shelter from so many storms for so many years. I like to think that my life has been one committed to helping others and to sharing the sheer wonder and joy of life itself and if it has been like that, I am certain that it has been Jessie High who in countless ways has spoken to you through me. She more than anyone taught me those things and she more than anyone taught me by example the value of being a person who cares about others and who responds in a positive, non-violent way to injustice and greed and cruelty. I will miss her for the rest of my life.

I hope you will excuse this outpouring of unbridled sentimentality. I couldn’t help myself. It’s Mother’s Day.

May 9, 2019 CLUB MEETING  
Article by: Rose Serdy
Photos by: EJ Dieterle
Greeters:  Dick Charnock/ past president
Past President – Dave Andrews
Sargent at Arms – Pat Roma
Pledge of Allegiance:  Kevin O’Brien
Inspirational Thought:  Pat Roma... “time to plant your garden” – Peas, squash, lettuce, turnips and thyme.
Guests and Visitors:
Rick Chin from the Millbrae club
Warren Barmore brought his lovely Mom.
Betty Broglio
John Evans brought wife Larkin, 
Bill Johnston’s wife Ayn,
Paul Wrubel’s wife Antoinette,
Kevin O’Brien’s wife Debbie,
Steve Wilson’s wife Kathy,
Lisa Warner Carey, mom of Mika and host mom of Lukas, Brenda Oliver host mother of Giada.
President Paul welcomed back Linda Crose Anderson to the club
smiley Happy News
Irwin Cohen brought in Spalding ball to share stories of different games he played in his childhood in New York.  “Stick ball, punch ball, etc.”
Susan Kealey went to the plant sale at the Botanical Gardens in San Francisco and really enjoyed the unusual plants and recommended all to experience this event.
John Evans spent the weekend at the competition for over 1,000 athletes at the convention center.
E.J. Dieterele was in Chicago where he visited the Rotary’s first club which he understood to be in Chicago and not Evanston.
Linda Crose Anderson reminded everyone about the Relay for Life event at Nick’s in Pacifica on May 16th.  Tickets $50.
President Paul shared some cartoon humor submitted by Rosi Fontana and Joe Brennan.  Some loving images were shown thanks to Rosi: “Everyone and almost every living thing has a mother”.
Kevin O'brien announced he collected $142 from the club last Tuesday and he matched it for a total of $300 for the donations /fundraising for the Heal Project. Kevin also had lunch with his 93-year old mom. Kevin is looking for a name of our fundraising event in September. One entry was “Half Moon Bay Getaway”. They are meeting with the coordinators again.  E.J. volunteered to work on setting up the website which will have visuals of the area.  Kevin hopes to have access with the help of Mitone for the district database. Since it is close to October Fest we may have this as one of our themes.  Solicitations for major sponsors have been sent out.
Now the exchange student presentations from Giada and Lukas!
Marble Draw  surprise  No winner this week....maybe next week laugh
Our Monthly Rotary Day at the Community Free Breakfast (held at the Lutheran Church will be Wednesday, May 29.  Please sign up with Rose Serdy for a shift for future days (last Wednesday of each month.)