True beauty, radiating from one of the sweetest countenances I have ever seen, struck me the minute I met Naomi Gummow at our Roscoe salon. I knew I wanted to know her better.
She suggested Tea Incorporated in Rockford for lunch. I was delighted to visit this quaint tearoom, which opened almost a year ago.
Were English in my family, she said, so we love tea. She ordered peppermint tea and a chicken salad on greens with oranges and almonds. I had Egyptian chamomile with a roast beef Cordon Bleu sandwich. Im really into things Egyptian. My first chat with Naomi, at the salon, centered on our mutual passion for Egyptian cotton sheets.
I found Egyptian towels, too, she beamed, sipping her tea. Oh, that is minty, she said, adding, this is exciting. Dont you like it in here? This is why I wanted to come here.
Will you talk to me about politics? I asked.
I just feel that if we dont win this war in Iraq and carry out our promisesyou know we promised to reconstruct that countryto give them sewage, water, do the oil wells, give them a better living, and if we dont do it, our foreign policy will be ruined forever, she said. We cannot pull out of Iraq, and I feel that this is no time to change leadership. I dont know if you remember when Roosevelt was running for his third term, we were deep into WWII, and I remember my folks talking about that, she said. I remember they said, this is no time to change leadership. You do not change horses in the middle of the stream.
She glowed talking about her father, Homer Martin.
My father was a farmer, and it was during the Depression. Things were rough. And hed lost his wife with five children. We came to Beloit, Wis., and prospered. I had a wonderful father that raised us. I had an aunt, and she wanted to take me. He said, Oh no, my children all stay together. He gave us a good home, and food, and love.
An unusual man, I confirmed.
Yes, she said. He brought us up with the idea that doing less is better. Dont live up to your means, she advised. Spend less, and then you will succeed.
What would happen if everyone did that? I asked.
Wed have a wonderful world.
Naomi studied at the University of Chicago for two years.
In those days, if a woman got two years, that was all she needed. My sister lived there, and just encouraged it, and I worked. It was fun.
Naomi views so much of life as funher life with husband, Allen Gummow, raising her children, Steve, Kevin and Susan. Her days as Picture Lady at the grade schools in Rockton. Serving on their board of education. She worked as an accountant until Steve was born.
I stayed home. He was such a happy child. Our son Steve is the happiest person youll want to meet, she exclaimed. I have had such a happy life.
It was contagious. Between Naomis great joy for life and my Egyptian chamomile, my stressed-out week calmed.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
Raising my children, she said, without hesitation.
What things did you teach them?
Having good work ethics, being trustworthy. When youre successful, be humble. When you lose, be strong. Because when you win, somebody else loses.
How did you communicate that?
Actions speak louder than words, she smiled. Its about when you say youre going to do something, you are there.
When her daughter tried out for cheerleading, she instructed: Just remember, honey, you dont always win these things. If you dont win, you should be a good loser. You go over to the winner and shake her hand, and congratulate her.
Susan did not get chosen. The teacher called to tell Naomi she had never seen such a gracious loser.
Thats a giftthat losing you can still bless someone, I said.
Youve got that right, Naomi said.
I can see you have peace, I said.
And inner spirit. I definitely have a relationship with the Lord. And I pass this on to my children.
Son Kevins daughter Katie is 8. Naomi says shes a lady, very polite.
What other wisdom do you pass to her? I asked.
To be honest and have good work ethics, she smiled.
You can just see her father, her children, and their children, smiling back.
Marjorie Stradinger is a free-lance writer residing in Roscoe. She has covered food, drama, entertainment, health, and business for publications in California and Illinois for the past 25 years.