A Letter from Cheryl Tyler Golson, Class of 1966
After the passing of Alice Geoffray in 2009, I wrote a letter to the children of Alice to express my love and gratitude for her. Since writing the letter and her passing, the thing I miss most is picking up the phone to call Alice. If I had just one more call with her today, I would first tell her that it has been my privilege in the seven states I have lived to carry on her legacy of reaching out to people to try to make a difference in their lives the way she did in mine and to make people feel they are worthwhile. I would also tell her how proud I am of myself for the life I have lived, the experiences I have had, the children I have raised and the grandchildren I love. I thank her and my mom for being such great role models.
May 10, 2010
To the Children of Alice R. Geoffray,
First, let me tell each of you that I loved your mother and that she was so-o-o-easy to love because that was the essence of what she was all about – LOVE!!!
Let Me Start At The Beginning As I Remember It:
I vaguely remember taking a test and being interviewed for a new government program the summer of 1965 and then leaving to help a sister who was ill and living in St. Louis, MO, at the time. I think I didn’t have much hope of getting accepted so I made plans to start a life in that area of the country; when in November of 1965, I received word that I had been accepted into the Program and MY MOTHER insisted that I come home to New Orleans and get the training being offered!!
I arrived to begin the Program of December 7, 1965 (my twentieth birthday), only to be told we couldn’t start that day. Before leaving that day I became sick and faint, and I remember your mother’s kindness as she helped attend to me until I was feeling well enough to leave.
Your mother was a savior to me from the very beginning. Some years later, she related to me that she lobbied for my acceptance when some in the group weren’t all that impressed when they interviewed me even though I scored very high on the written test. She related to me that the Afro-Americans on the screening and acceptance committee were pretty hard people to impress and I didn’t impress them as a good candidate for the program they were developing. BUT, Alice Geoffray saw a diamond in the rough, me Cheryl Lee Tyler!!!
To validate her judgment, academically, I finished second in a class of 86 students in the Program and gave one of the speeches at graduation. For me, to give a speech at the graduation program was big because we were taught “English as a second language” so that we would be ready to communicate effectively in our groundbreaking secretarial jobs in the New Orleans business community…and that we did!!!!
My first job was a receptionist for the Undergraduate Office at Tulane University and after a short time with them, I worked for the Adult Education Center on two separate occasions until I had my first child and then six months later, in August 1971, left New Orleans to never return (smile)! I continued to work in the Secretarial field exclusively until 1975 and then I ventured into operating care facilities; my own cleaning business; and finally as a supervisor in the telemarketing division of a firm that detailed pharmaceutical drugs to physicians offices via telephone; as well as, recruiting physicians for seminars to educate them about new drugs being put on the market. In June of 1994, I became disabled with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia and a host of other auto-immune conditions. That was the end of my career in the work-force. But the Adult Education Center made possible the working career I experienced for almost 28 years.
Let Me Tell Each Of You How Your Mother Influenced My Life As A Working Mother:
First, I had a wonderful mother! She was a wonderful stay-at-home mom. She was what I needed to be the person I am today. Dad was a nice man, but he was an alcoholic and gambler. That turned him into a not-so-nice guy when in the grips of his addictions. She was the stabilizing force for the family. But I didn’t get an example of how a mother working outside of the home functions!
That’s where Alice Geoffray became like the other mother I needed. She modeled for me how a woman could parent while working outside the home:
I knew a lot about what was happening in your lives…the ups and downs…because she seemed (to me) to be available to each of you by phone and in person when you came to the school. Frequently, I got to know some of the reasons why you called or came by. She really stayed very much involved in your lives as she worked very hard at her outside job. She was always so proud of each of you and I loved to hear her tell of your many individual accomplishments.
I saw her care for her youngest, Jeff, a few times by phone when he was ill. She felt guilty about that, but, life didn’t always allow her the ability to be there in person for her beloved children. I saw her call him regularly to see that he was taking his medicine, eating his soup, drinking his juice; in other words, nurturing him over the phone! She had to work and I saw her do the next best thing…in other words, I saw her adapt to the circumstances that were presented to her.
Those two examples made it possible for me to adapt my need to work and to take jobs that allowed me to work hard outside the home and to be an available mother to my children at the same time. Hence in 1975, I started working in daycare settings and schools so that I could be an available mother to my two children in spite of my, yet undiagnosed, health problems. (Their dad and I did, with God’s help, an OK job. Percy, III, lives in Wisconsin and is a computer programmer and a trained massage therapist and Deirdre is a Clinical Psychologist working on her doctorate in Family and Marriage Counseling.)
Let Me Tell You Of A Few Of Your Mother’s Acts of Kindness to Me And My Family:
When I entered the Adult Education Center Program, I didn’t qualify to receive the weekly stipend most of the other ladies received because I hadn’t yet entered the working world. Your mom helped me earn a few dollars by creating little jobs for me at the school that she paid me to do from the school’s petty cash fund and she also found me a Sunday job at a school for the developmentally disabled. That was well beyond her duties as the director. Yet she did it!!! … and I had a little money for necessities.
She had me (and Percy) over to your home for her good Sunday dinners and made us feel like a part of the family. (My mother had died in March of 1968.)
I remember when Percy, III, was born the first flowers I received at the hospital were from your mom.
I remember how she brought the whole staff to the house after I had Percy and they all brought gifts (I still have your mother’s silver comb and brush set she gave him).
But, to me, your mom’s greatest act of kindness to me was the words she spoke to me when I first told her that I was disabled and no longer able to work. She said something like this: “Oh Cheryl, I always knew you had some health problems because I observed how sick you would sometimes get on the job.”
At the time, in the early 90’s, emotionally I was struggling with not knowing if my health issues were “all in my head”; or, as they have now been accepted – as true, physical health problems. To hear those words of acceptance from your mother – the person who had worked so hard all her life and had trained me to be a member of the working world was like a balm for my soul. She didn’t see me as a failure…
Let Me Tell You What I Miss The Most:
Hearing her voice when I called saying something like this: “Oh, Cheryl, how good to hear your voice!!” with all of the cheerfulness, brightness and gusto that only Alice R. Geoffray’s voice had!!!!!!!!
Thank each of you for sharing your Mother,
Cheryl Tyler Golson, Class of 1966