No one would describe raising a family as a simple undertaking, and 80-year-old Lourdes Fong and 88-year-old Beverly Bogart, at Moldaw Residences, understand the trials and tribulations of being mothers. Fong grew up in the Philippines, survived by hiding from the Japanese in the jungle during the occupation, spent four years raising her kids without her husband while waiting for visas to join him in the U.S. and went to college on the weekends to become a teacher in Sunnyvale, all while guiding her three kids successfully. Bogart, a former librarian at Stanford Law School, gave up her career while her children were young to provide a family modeled after the one in which she was raised – one with values, love and passion. Both women have rich histories, inspirational stories and collectively raised five kids in the San Francisco Bay area who are all college graduates.
“I am proud that my children are all college graduates. My father was such a strong,
hard-working man who stressed the importance of getting a quality education,” says Fong. “He left China at age 13 and went on to own multiple businesses in the Philippines but lost them all when the Japanese invaded the Philippines. He told me ‘Everything you own can be taken away, but your education cannot. It’s in your head and will help you get a job wherever you find yourself.’ So as a mother, I stressed that importance to my children as well.”
Fong also recalls some of the challenges she experienced while raising her children. While her husband was away trying to find work in the U. S. as a chemical engineer, she had to stay behind until all the paperwork was processed for their family to obtain visas and live in the States permanently. That meant raising (at the time) two children in the Philippines without a husband for four years.
“Those were difficult years having to live with my in-laws and raise my children without my husband there,” recalls Fong. “But it made me emotionally strong knowing my husband loved us and cared for us. He worked very hard from far away until we could join him there in the United States and sent us letters and packages almost every day.”
Fong says it was hard to think about her children not meeting their father until they were 3 and 4 years old. So as a wife and mother she made sure to send him pictures of the kids often and show them pictures of him, which he sent over the years.
Eventually, they moved to California together. After their two older children graduated from Freemont high school in Sunnyvale and their youngest was in junior high school, Fong was approached by some teachers and principals and asked to help translate for the increasing number of Chinese students. After volunteering several months as a translator for students, the Freemont High School principal encouraged her to be a teacher there. Fong decided to go to UCSC Silicon Valley Extension, took courses on weekends and earned her credentials to become an English Second Language (ESL) teacher. She also became “Mama” to many other children. She devoted 30 years to teaching students there at Freemont and is still remembered and in contact with some because of the impact she made on their lives.
Fong says she especially loves the close relationship she maintains with her youngest daughter whom she describes as a “best friend” and texts, calls and Skypes daily.
“As a mother looking back at my own children’s accomplishments, I feel very happy
because I feel that I’ve done a good job with them,” says Fong. “The rewarding part of being a mother is watching them grow and develop as individuals and witnessing the success they achieve.”
Bogart, another resident at Moldaw, passed down a great sense of passion within her family and always encouraged her children to get involved in activities outside of their jobs.
Her parents fled from Russia after the Russian Revolution to Poland for a year and then Buenos Aires in 1922 where she was born. Eventually, her aunt who worked in Los Angeles helped get them to California but not before her father died at the young age of 39. She witnessed her mother working hard in California to provide for her and her brother without a husband and without any English language skills. Looking back now as a mom, Bogart realizes just how much her mother did for their family and has instilled the same values into her two children.
“My mother never missed an event my brother or I had in school,” says Bogart. “That
meant she would take off work to be there and support us but also go without pay that day to do so and therefore often a meal. When I became a mother, I strived to follow that mindset and to stay heavily involved in my children’s lives.”
Bogart says celebrating with your kids and soaking in every memory with them is crucial. She decided to stop working outside the home when she had children until they were both old enough to go to school because she wanted to devote her full time, attention and energy to them. But perhaps one of the most important pieces of motherly advice, Bogart gives requires a nonjudgmental attitude toward kids.
“I’ve always believed in supporting your kids in whatever they want to do,” describes Bogart. “It is not about what you think they should do; it’s about supporting them in their own choices and letting them figure things out for themselves to make their own way.”
“We are fortunate to be surrounded by so many knowledgeable and inspirational mothers,” said Gerry Vadnais, executive director of Moldaw Residences. “They are willing to offer advice and share their experiences to help us all grow as parents and adult children.”
The ladies of Moldaw will be honored with a special Mothers’ Day brunch 11:45am – 2:30pm on Sunday, May 19 when each woman will be presented with a rose in a vase.