Eleanor Wasson

“We are put on this Earth to learn a lesson so we can evolve.”

I had asked my long-time friend and college bestie to participate in my Wonderful Women series. It didn’t take Suzanne long to get back with me, but she didn’t want me to write about the many incredible things she has done (yes, Suzanne you are an incredible woman). Instead, she wanted me to write about her grandmother, Eleanor Wasson. I must admit; I was a bit baffled as to why she wanted me to write about her grandmother and not her. Then I read the articles she sent me and I could see why. Eleanor Wasson is a true inspiration!

Eleanor Wasson was a centenarian. She lived to see many first such as: the automobile, airplane, 18 presidents, women getting the right to vote, two world wars, the Depression, the Internet, cellphones, modern plumbing, the list goes on!

Eleanor was also well known, even among many celebrities who also admired her efforts and character. Celebrities such as: Suzanne Sommers, Al Gore, the Dalai Lama, Will Rogers and even Betty White.

To truly give this incredible woman, the justice she deserved for all her accomplishments, I asked Suzanne, her granddaughter to share her thoughts with us…

I always knew she was someone who did great things, even as a child. She had her causes and she shared them with us. One of the first I remember was one to support and teach women who had never done anything outside of the house to value themselves.  She was a great supporter of women’s rights.

Over the years, her thing became saving the planet. She donated and raised a lot of money for “the natural step” among others. Her 80th and 90th birthdays were fundraisers for them. She said that if she didn’t raise $10,000 at each event, she would donate the difference. She didn’t have to; they flew past the goal.

She was a supportive and loving grandmother. We called her Nami because my brother called her Nommy… but with her love of all things Asian, she found Nami for the spelling. (She told my mother before any of us were born that she would never be grandma, so it worked out just fine.)

She told me all my life that I could be whatever I set my mind to, all I had to do was visualize it and work towards it. (My mom was the same). I was a weirdo though, because I wanted to be a mom (and an artist) since I was eight-years-old.  Of course, I raised my two sisters and my younger brother. My mom worked and I was the mom. People tell me I didn’t have a childhood, and they are right, but I was in my element. I wouldn’t change any of it. Then, I was lucky enough to raise two boys and help raise a niece as well.

She also taught me that we are here for a lesson, a lesson we chose, a lesson we need learn to move to the next plane of existence. If we don’t learn that lesson during this life, then we will choose to do it again. I think I took that to heart, because when something doesn’t go my way, I ask myself what I learned from it. Is there something I can turn into a positive?

My grandmother first started volunteering when she went to a PTA meeting and said to her mother, I could do a much better job, and her mom said, “prove it!” She has said little about her mother, Molly Dalrymple, but enough to know that her mom was a combination of my mom and my grandmother, supportive and loving plus from my mother most, unconditional love and complete support. I would have loved to meet the woman that made such a lady.

I also started volunteering as a PTA board member too, then I moved on to art and community centers and then in computers and digital media to the local Junior College, but I could never fill my grandmother’s shoes. I work with the arts and “extras” as we know them today.  She worked on world changing issues.

I think a big part of my grandmother’s power to help was that she didn’t know she could fail. (She was raised in a supportive family that had all the resources anyone could want.) She also had an amazing memory, connections, etc. so that she could be sitting with a young person (who naturally just tells her all their goals, because she was that kind of woman). Then the next thing I know, she is writing on a 3×5 card the names of a few people who could help this person with their dream thing. I cannot count how many times in my life I have seen this happen…

She influenced me in so many ways that I cannot say. And she gave me my mom, who is even more supportive than she was, if you can believe it. I am a better and more loving woman for both in my life. I miss Nami every day and know she is doing something great wherever she has landed.

In my research on Eleanor, I discovered that she also wrote a book, 28,000 Martinis and Counting. But here is the surprising part, she both wrote and published the book in her 90’s. I asked Suzanne how this came about at such a prime age.

Nami (Nommy) took a writing course when she was 80 or 90 that sparked her interest in writing something besides letters. One of her last major projects was for Earth Save before they moved their offices back East (when she was in her late 90s). She responded to all their correspondence. She was great at writing letters and always told us that one person CAN change the world. Even a letter can make a difference.

Many people told her that she should write about her life and she eventually did. She continued her writing classes throughout the rest of her 100 years.

Her first professor said, “write what you know…” I think that stuck because she had never talked about her childhood or her life even when I would ask. I found out some things from others and gleaned a bit from her many awards all over the house. I only found out about one of the organizations she founded because I started to do her taxes and her previous tax person said you cannot deduct non-profit trips. She never told her that she was the founder and a speaker that year—that you could deduct. I had to ask a lot of questions to discover this.  (IAVE International Association for Volunteer Effort.)

Founded in 1970 by Eleanor, IAVE exists to promote, strengthen and celebrate volunteering in the myriad ways it happens throughout the world. It is a global network of NGOs, businesses, national volunteer centers and grassroots leaders of volunteering, with members in 70 countries across all the regions of the world.

Eleanor Wasson lived by her own advice that she gave to many. As an individual, she truly did change the world. She once told a reporter that her secret to a long life was to have many friends.

1- One person can change the world.
2- You can be whatever you set your mind to, all you have to do is visualize it and work towards it.
3- Believe in yourself.

You can find her book, 28,000 Martinis and Counting on Amazon, just click here.

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