Influential and Inspiring People in Our Lives

Chesapeake Charities, a community foundation located in Stevensville, is partnering with Attraction magazine to share the stories of individuals in our community who demonstrate the power of kindness. We encourage you to look for the good in others.

Strong. Resilient. Hard Working. These words describe the most influential person in my life. If you are lucky, you won’t have to look far to find someone in your life who inspires you. Maybe it is a grandparent, a teacher, or a coach. Maybe the next-door neighbor who always has time to listen and share stories. It could be your best friend who knows you better than anyone else on the planet.

For me, it is my mother, Doris Kohler. Now 93 years old and, up until a fall several weeks ago, still a force of nature.

Doris Kohler

When my brother and I were young, Mom set very clear boundaries and expectations for us. We understood that we were to do well in school and spend our free time being involved in school functions – safety patrol, sports, cheerleading, Future Teachers of America, National Honor Society. We did not have a weekly allowance but were encouraged to earn spending money by babysitting, delivering newspapers, or mowing the neighbor’s yard. After school and on weekends we needed to do our chores. These were simple tasks like taking out the trash, folding the laundry, or walking the dog. Today I am grateful that I had parents who taught me how to cook a meal, change a tire, and balance my checking account. I learned to respect my elders, make eye contact with people when I spoke to them, tell the truth, and care for my family, my friends, and my neighbors.

As we grew, Mom’s leadership style changed to match our need for independence. Her actions became the lessons, and I watched my stay-at-home Mom become a playground aide, secretary, administrative assistant, and Executive Assistant to the Secretary of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA.)  In this capacity, Mom was able to travel the world as the support staff for the International Whaling Commission. She visited Hawaii, Alaska, China, Australia, England, and Iceland and proudly served as a representative of the United States Government. Quite a journey for a woman with a high school education and a certificate from secretarial school.

No stranger to adversity, Mom was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer when she was 39 and had a radical mastectomy to preserve her life. She has outlived both of her parents, her husband, her two brothers, and every aunt, uncle and cousin on her side of the family. She is grateful to be alive.

Mom retired in her 70s after working a full-time job at the Department of Commerce for 35 years and a part-time job at Macy’s on nights and weekends to make ends meet. Her strong work ethic and deep sense of responsibility have afforded her the opportunity to live independently and spend the last two decades gardening, volunteering at the hospital, sharing the bounty from her garden, and enjoying time with family.

This strong and loving woman has taught me how to live a purposeful life and flow gracefully through the many stages of womanhood. She is my friend, mentor, cheerleader, coach, and – when I need it the most – my voice of reality.

I hope you have someone in your life who believes in you the way Mom believes in me. She is a shining example that there are good people all around us. They may not be on television or social media, but they have far more impact on the way we live our lives than any sports legend, rap star, or influencer.

If you’d like to wish my Mom well on her journey back to health from hip surgery, send an email to info@chesapeakecharities.org or drop a note in the mail to 101 Log Canoe Circle, Suite O, Stevensville, Maryland 21666. I will personally deliver your messages and know it will warm her heart to realize there are people rooting for her that she may not have even met. One final lesson to share:  never take the time you have with the special people in your life for granted. Time is precious and each moment matters.

~ Linda Kohler, executive director, Chesapeake Charities

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