Oregon’s Mother of the Year

Submitted by Kay Helbling


My friend Rita’s grandmother, Della Cone McLean, was nominated for Oregon’s Mother of the Year back in the early 1900’s. Now over 100 years later, the title is still recognized with honor. Not for plunging necklines or long legs, but for their purpose driven lives.


Della was said to be strong and interesting, with joys that were simple. Even though she was very humble, there was no doubt she was the matriarch of the family.


As Rita shared pieces of Della’s life and character with me, I was touched by the profound pride she had in her as a woman. I wondered if the Mothers of the Year’s to follow shared the same determination and commitments.


This year, the Oregon Association of American Mothers has named Michele Watts, a mother of four, Oregon’s 2008 Mother of the Year. Melanie Henstrom who has six children was named Oregon’s Young Mother of the Year. As stay-at-home moms they are certainly the matriarchs of the home and they rule with a shared commitment to their families. They must not only be a mother, but have been the families chauffeur, chef, physician, coach, teacher, psychologist, gardener, maid, manager, banker, philosopher, & preacher.


Through sheer determination they are not only able to raise healthy and happy families but achieve personal fulfillments outside the home. While her children were in school, Michele attended the university and received a Masters degree in education. Melanie obviously understands her gifts and passions. Prior to children, she had studied and earned a degree in Family Science. At the time her twins were born she had 5 children under the age of three. I’d say she has completed her research and has found the formula for success.


Like Michele, Della loved gardening. Michele puts up 100 cans of beans from a vegetable garden she grows each summer. For Della, hers was a Victory Garden to honor all six of her sons who were serving overseas in the military during WWII.  


They all lead interesting lives with determination and commitment. They all have strength but enjoy the simple things in live with humility. But there is another trait that stands out above all others. That is their sense of humor—their ability to bring laughter into their homes. This became most obvious to me by two other Oregon Mother’s of the Year, Jen Peters and Ginger Highland. From get-togethers with other MOY, they decided to compile some of their stories about the “…Adventures and Misadventures of Motherhood”.  As Jen says, the book lets us see that “through the tears you find the laughter in motherhood”.


Whether you are an Oregon Mother of the Year, or simply a mother in any year, children can humble you and laughter can make it okay.


Remarkable mothers? Yup, you all are. Happy Mother’s Day.


Kay was an insurance adjuster and executive for 15 years, a small business owner and a teacher for 10. But, her most fulfilling work has been as a mother of her two boys. She is now looking forward to an empty nest with her best friend—her husband.

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