With Women’s History Month almost over, we want to reflect on some of our female Amazing Seniors that have been included in our previous editions. These women are an inspiration to all from their grit and hard work to the way they nurture their families, communities and all who are around them. We are happy to be spotlighting Cheryl Jenkins, Barbara Andersen, Melanie LaJoie, Maria Chaviano, Mirta Ramos and Phyllis Lozeau, who have all walked through various situations in life but stayed strong and persevered.
When we see others go through adversity and turn it into a positive, it always shows more about who that person is than anything else. Cheryl Jenkins went through hardship in a very short timeframe with a diagnosis of type-1 diabetes at 51 years old. During that time, her mother needed hospitalization and rehabilitation while being hundreds of miles away. Relocating an elderly person is no easy task and doing it mostly alone is even more difficult. Instead of sulking and complaining, Cheryl decided to write a book about her experience as she understands many others go through similar situations. This has helped many people understand the steps it takes to relocate a senior from their home and how to do it in the best way possible. Her selflessness in writing this book and telling her story is what makes her a wonderful woman and someone worth celebrating.
Barbara Andersen, who was featured twice as Amazing Senior, has incredible drive and ambition. Since she was young, she worked her way up to be a Corporate Executive Treasurer at a company where she was the first female to do so. She moved to Florida, started a venture at the Daytona Flea Market and later starter her career in real estate that lasted more than 30 years. Due to a few circumstances recently, she is unable to work at the capacity she once did, but she still keeps moving whether she is cooking or helping friends and family with their various ventures. Whoever she meets, she becomes their best friend and she makes the world a brighter place for all.
A woman who lives life to the fullest, Melanie LaJoie has been a dancer her entire life and made a career of belly dancing. She has seen the world as a performer in places like Morocco, Europe and Egypt. Opening a studio in Orlando 25 years ago, she has brought many people of all ages to love belly dancing and passed down her knowledge to the younger generation. While she no longer performs for crowds, she has not let her age stop her from instructing others and staying active. She enjoys watching young dancers blossom and find their passion, which she says is an uplifting feeling.
Maria Chaviano was 16 years old when she had to leave Cuba. Leaving behind her brother, who was forced into the military, she went to New York with her grandmother. To make ends meet, she had to drop out of high school and work up to three jobs at a time in order to support herself and her grandmother. She worked hard, getting better paying jobs as time went on. In 1977, she had a son and did everything she could for him. She learned English, studied and found work at an American banknotes factory. She was able to put her son through private school even after separating from her husband. She is now a proud grandmother living in Florida and enjoying the benefits of her hard work and perseverance.
Mirta Ramos was 23 when Fidel Castro took power in Cuba. She experienced the country quickly go from a vibrant and a tight knit community to tense and fearful. Food dwindled and meat became a rare commodity with grocery stores going away and necessities becoming non-existent. She knew that her family with her husband and two daughters had to leave but it took eight years to get out. The only way they could go was if her husband and two daughters went to Miami and her and her mother went to Spain. After eight months, they were reunited in the United States. It would be four years later that she found herself divorced as a single mother working as a maid in a hotel in Miami Beach. Her toils never ceased but her strength and determination never diminished. Today, she lives with her eldest daughter in Ormond Beach with four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. A true role model and Amazing Senior, she showed bravery in her actions and continues to educate others on the dangers of communism and what happened to her in Cuba.
An incredibly strong woman, Phyllis Lozeau knows what it is like to go through a series of hardships and still manage to stay strong. A devoted wife and mother, she put her family first before her career to raise her children and assist her husband with his pool business in New Hampshire. When hard times hit for the business, they filed for bankruptcy, sold all their belongings, and moved to Florida to start over again. Not discouraged, Phyllis became a realtor and worked part-time at a local hospital. Unfortunately, things took another turn when her husband, Robert had open-heart surgery and his personality changed. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and passed away four years after the diagnosis. During that time, she never gave up hope and continued to push through for the little victories that came along. She decided to write a book, Married to a Stranger: An Alternative Approach to Simply Coping with Alzheimer’s Disease, to tell her story and shed some light for those who are going through similar hardships.