In my very early teens, I had a mentor. Didn't even know then what a mentor was. Didn't know Ruth Season was a mentor. In fact, I didn't know too very many words in English, and that was the reason that I, at age 13, was placed in 4th grade! My mother, brother and I had recently arrived in the United States from Holland, having lived there for some 3 years after the Holocaust.
My previous address was Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp.
With very little money to pay bills, Albert, my bother of blessed memory, my mother, Ruth, also of blessed memory, and I worked long and hard, and pooled our monies together. Of course at my tender age, I was certainly not the biggest breadwinner of the family. We learned to conserve our resources. A bus ride to school, for me, was costly, so I walked. Didn't realize that the shoe resoling would be so expensive.
In addition to working a split-shift at Szold's Department Store, and at a laundry, I "baby-sat." I worked for a wonderful family by the name of Season. And Ruth Season, almost immediately, took me under her wing.
Coming to this country, I discovered potato chips. And I
discovered they tasted even better dipped in mayonnaise. I
quickly became a pretty wide young teenager. You have to understand, that at the age of almost 11 years, upon liberation, I
weighed only about 35 pounds. My Mom would never ever deprive me of anything to eat - even those potato chips. But Ruth, my mentor, gave me a stern but gentle lecture on why I had to resist and desist from eating these delicious chips.
Five years later, when I was about to be graduated from Peoria Central High School, I very much wanted to wear a class ring as did the other girls. When Ruth understood that I could not afford to purchase one, she gave me her very own PHS class ring! It is something that I have cherished now for over 65 years!
Ruth & I stayed in contact for many years, and when I had occasion to make a trip back to Peoria, I always made it my priority to pay a visit to my first mentor.
In September, on our last visit back, Ruth was in hospice. Susan Katz, Executive Director of the Peoria Jewish Federation, who had been in constant contact with Ruth for a long time, brought us to the facility where she was located. I tried my very best to communicate to her my love and deep appreciation for all she had done to make me into a "lady." For Ruth, herself, was a refined and polished lady to the nth degree.
Sadly, Ruth passed away just a short time later.
May Ruth now enjoy eternal rest. May her dear family be consoled among the mourners in Zion and Jerusalem, and may her memory serve as a blessing to all those who knew her.