A Grateful Salute

It was my turn to choose this week’s topic, and with Memorial Day coming up I thought it would be a great idea for us to each write a tribute to someone. I have a couple of favorite American veterans in my family, but since next week is a free week and my next blogging day falls on the actual holiday, I’m going to tell you about them next Monday. Today I’m going to focus on two other American military vets who were a big part of my working career. To me, they embody the essence of American patriotism because they not only served in the Armed Forces but continue to contribute to their community in countless ways.

I spent twenty-eight years teaching in Coopersville, a rural community west of Grand Rapids. During that time I met many remarkable people, and even though I’ve been retired for eleven years I am convinced that I was blessed with the opportunity to work with some of the finest educators anywhere, backed up by a remarkably dedicated support staff and school board. The two people I’m featuring today are Kathy and José Gomez, two incredibly giving individuals well known in the Coopersville area due to their hard work in several areas of the school and community at large.

GomezX2

photo from Sara Gomez Bajema

Both Kathy and José are US Army veterans. They were married on their lunch hour while stationed in Germany. I had the pleasure of teaching their three children in music class. Their lovely family has now grown to include several grandchildren, and their social media feeds are filled with pictures of them all enjoying time together. They both attend and promote so many school and community events that if something is happening in Coopersville, chances are pretty good one or the other (or both) will attend!

 

Jose protest

While a student at SFVC, José (far left) joins a protest.

José was born in Ramon Corona, Durango, Mexico. He attended San Fernando Valley College for a year where he became a member of the Brown Berets. He and one of his professors started a group that was the precursor of MEChA, a national organization promoting Latino higher education, culture and history. In 1972 he enlisted in the US Army because he learned he would be able to become an American citizen without paying the naturalization fees. During his time in the service he taught a race relations class where he Jose armymet Kathy Barbey, a young lady from Michigan, and he liked her so much he failed her just so that she’d have to take the class again!  After convincing Kathy to marry him he moved to her native state, completing his engineering degree at Aquinas College while working at General Motors and helping to raise his growing family – daughters Sara and Becky and son Alex arrived in quick succession. Eventually he became an engineer at the General Motors Diesel plant, which later became Delphi. While his children were in school he served as a Coopersville school board member for at least two terms (he had the pleasure of handing diplomas to his children), and for the past 15 years has served on the school board for the county (known as the Intermediate School District, or ISD). He’s also a member of the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, a charitable organization in West Michigan.

Kathy with migrant students

Kathy (left) and some of her students enjoy Art Prize in Grand Rapids.

When I started teaching in Coopersville Kathy Gomez worked with the migrant students. Gradually, due to her skills and engaging personality, her responsibilities expanded. Eventually she headed the migrant program, going above and beyond job expectations by visiting the migrant camps regularly and ensuring the children not only attended school but had all the food, clothing and supplies they needed. Each fall, when the migrant families are ready to leave Michigan and head south, she hosts a huge farewell dinner for the families. She also edits the districts newsletter, personally attending many events and taking pictures. My scrapbooks from the time I spent teaching contain several pictures that she took and shared with me. In the past, she’s been involved with the Coopersville Circle of Friends (a community service organization) and the local recreation department. As busy as she is with school concerns, Kathy has a DJ service, providing musicKathy dancing and entertainment for special events. It is really difficult to find pictures of Kathy – because she’s always on the other side of the camera! I did manage to find the pictures here on Facebook, and there are several in a School Communications Network article about her written earlier this year. To read more about this human dynamo, follow this LINK.

 

The school has a physical reminder of Kathy’s hard work. Recently she teamed up with one of the teachers to create the Wall of Honor in the high school, which recognizes all Coopersville graduates who have served in any branch of the military going back to WWII.

Wall of Honor

Daughter Sara told me an interesting story about her mother. “When my mom joined [the army] her dad, who was a World War II vet gave her one piece of advice: Don’t volunteer for anything. At boot camp the instructor asked who knew how to drive so she raised her hand and turns out she was volunteering to carry everyone’s backpack.” Obviously Kathy didn’t follow her father’s advice then, and she continues to ignore it!

Both Kathy and José are known as generous individuals who will do anything for anybody any time. I am honored to have known and worked with them, and am pleased to have the opportunity to share with you a small sampling of what they do.

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About Patricia Kiyono

During her first career, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary music, computer classes, elementary classrooms, and junior high social studies. She now teaches music education at the university level. She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, not far from her five children, nine grandchildren (so far), and great-granddaughters. Current interests, aside from writing, include sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, and music. A love of travel and an interest in faraway people inspires her to create stories about different cultures. Check out her sweet historical contemporary romances at her Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Patricia-Kiyono/e/B0067PSM5C/
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33 Responses to A Grateful Salute

  1. J.Q. Rose says:

    Thank you for sharing this couple’s service to our country and community. I like reading about people who contribute unselfishily to the betterment of our world. I wish more people like them would be recognized in the news media instead of the sensationalized stories of criminals.

    Like

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Me too, JQ! There are so many good people who lead by example, and I agree we should be promoting them. Thanks so much for visiting!

      Like

      • Priscilla Hill Gregels says:

        Your article is brilliantly written and captures the essence of Kathy and Jose. What a wonderful tribute to them and all they do to make the Coopersville community so vibrant and inclusive. Kudos to you, my friend! Priscilla

        Liked by 1 person

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Thank you so much, Priscilla! I appreciate your help in gathering some of this info. I didn’t realize Kathy was one of the driving forces behind the Wall of Honor – though her involvement doesn’t surprise me at all.

      Like

  2. pamelasthibodeaux says:

    Thank you for sharing such a lovely post and tribute to 2 American Veterans. Please thank THEM for their service!

    Good luck and God’s blessings.
    PamT

    Like

  3. coryellsusan says:

    Fascinating backgrounds here. I highly recommend the non-fiction “Spare Parts,” about 4 Latino students in Arizona who participated in a submarine robotics contest. Shows what immigrants can achieve with very little money or family backing. Nice post!

    Like

  4. Joselyn says:

    Great post, Patty! My dad graduated from Coopersville High School and was a WWII vet. I wonder if he is on that wall. He might have known Kathy’s father also, although my dad was at the older age of the draft.

    Like

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      I’ll have to look for your dad next time I’m there! I don’t think Kathy’s dad was from Coopersville, though.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Priscilla Hill Gregels says:

        Kathy’s dad was from an area other than Coopersville. Warren Warber is the teacher who started the Wall of Honor concept. He and Kathy ran with it and it has become an ever evolving honor to veterans.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Joselyn says:

        My dad rode on one of the first ‘school buses’ in the state to get from Nunica to Coopersville. He also played football and his classmates thought he would be a novelist. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  5. jeff7salter says:

    Love that Wall of Honor — what a terrific idea.
    My respect to both of them for their service in the American Armed Forces.
    Slapping the wrist of Jose for (illegally) flunking Kathy… though I certainly understand his motives!

    Like

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      I had to laugh when their daughter related that story to me, Jeff! The Wall of Honor was a huge undertaking, but it’s a wonderful tribute.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful people! What great stories!
    Can you believe there are those who actually don’t believe that service in the military should lead to citizenship??? I have no idea what goes through their minds.

    Like

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Absolutely, Tonette! What better way to prove your loyalty to a nation than to serve in their armed forces?

      Like

  7. Diane Burton says:

    What an inspiring story! Please thank Kathy & Jose for their service–not just to the USA but also to Michigan. Thanks for sharing their story.

    Like

  8. Alicia Dean says:

    Lovely story about a very special couple. Thank you for sharing!

    Like

  9. Stacey says:

    Fantastic article! Kathy and Jose are two of the most incredible people I know, for so many reasons. They pour their hearts into our community and we have so much to thank them for! Thank you for sharing with others what a positive impact they have on so many!

    Like

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      I agree, Stacey – the community is so fortunate to have them. Thanks so much for visiting and weighing in!

      Like

  10. Rebecca Gomez says:

    What a nice tribute to my parents! Thanks for showcasing them. They give so much to the community, that it’s nice to see their efforts recognized!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Your parents are very special people, Becky, and I am so glad I had the opportunity to write about them. Thanks go to you and your sister and brother for sharing them!

      Like

  11. Terri Siebelink says:

    “Great” salute to two amazing people! Thanks for sharing this!

    Like

  12. What a great tribute to Kathy and Jose, Patty. Thanks for using your writing talents to spread good news!

    Like

  13. darcyflynn says:

    Quite inspiring! What an amazing couple. Hearing their story reminds me there are many more like them in our wonderful country. Thanks for sharing this!

    Like

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      They certainly are amazing, Darcy! And yes, there are many more whose stories should be told. Thanks for stopping in!

      Like

  14. They sound like truly amazing people who have made quite an impact on the people whose lives they ha e touched.

    Like

  15. This sounds like a wonderful couple, Patty!

    Like

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