Linda Omanson might seem very ordinary if you were to meet her in person. She’s good at making it seem that way—as if she were a very ordinary person doing ordinary things. But that’s just part of her persona, part of what makes her so remarkable.
Miss Omanson, born in 1943, grew up on a farm in Osceola, IL. Osceola never was what you’d call a thriving metropolis—not quite two dozen houses, a Baptist church, and a volunteer fire station. Except for a few grass fires, the old fire truck mostly collected dust.
The church was too small to support a pastor, so he split his time between Osceola and nearby Buda. During Sunday school at one church, Rev. Shobe would be preaching his sermon at the other.
At first, Linda went to school in a two-room schoolhouse. Later on, two nearby towns consolidated their schools, and she spent 4th through 9th grades in a 4-room schoolhouse in Elimra, IL. She learned to drive her father’s truck in the fields he owned, sometimes taking him lunch out there during harvest or planting season.
Driving into town was a special occasion. Of course the truck wouldn’t do (in those days, trucks were for farm work, and not the status symbols they are to many today), so the whole family would load up into the car in their Sunday best—even for a visit to the Sears & Roebuck store or the 5-and-10.
Her mother, Mary, had an 8th grade education; her father bested that by 4 years. When they married, they had no money for a honeymoon and no house, so Mary went back home to live with her parents for the first few months of their marriage, while Rollie worked on his Dad’s farm and acquired a house. They never did get around to the honeymoon part.
Despite these humble roots, Linda learned hard work, good character, and common sense from her parents, and was the first in her family to complete a college degree at Illinois State University. With her new degree in Elementary Education, she found a job about 100 miles from home teaching 2nd grade.
She joined a Baptist church in the area and started helping as a youth sponsor. The church’s pastor and his wife fancied themselves matchmakers, and soon began asking Linda and Steve, a young man in the church, to chaperone youth activities together. (I’m not sure it was the youth that needed chaperoning, as in this case, the matchmaking was successful, and soon Steve asked Linda to marry him.) The matchmaker-pastor performed the ceremony, and thus Linda added a new title to her list: Farm girl, college grad, teacher, and now, wife.
Steve was a rather remarkable person himself. He bought his first property at age 17. When he tried to sell it a few years later, he found he wasn’t old enough to legally sign over the deed, so he had to keep it until he was 21! By that time, he had a few more properties.
Soon after they married, he bought a dry cleaners called Johnny-on-the-Spot, and 4 Laundromats to go with it. So, Linda added a few more titles: Landlord, Entrepreneur, Employer, Manager. Oh, and one more: Mom.
First came Jonny, then 2 years later Sharon arrived, and after another 2 years, Danny made the family complete – 3 kids in all.
Their business interests grew. Linda kept a lot of balls in the air, as bookkeeper, household manager, drycleaner, and full-time Mom.
When Jon was 6, they decided to send him to a Christian school, but the small town they lived in had nothing to offer. So, Linda got to add another title: Bus driver. She started driving an hour, one-way, to take first Jon, and later Sharon and Dan, to a small Christian school in a larger town to the East. All this while still keeping up with the apartments, the Laundromats, the dry cleaners, and another business or two that Steve had gotten into.
Steve had a penchant for spontaneous trips. Ending work at 5pm, he would sometimes say, “let’s have a picnic at the lake.” So, Linda would pack up the 3 kids, gather picnic supplies, and off they would go for a 30 minute drive to the lake. Then, kids and parents would go on a hunt for sticks to use as fuel for the grill. Charcoal would have been easier, but their farm backgrounds and accompanying frugality reasoned that sticks were free, and charcoal wasn’t, so sticks would do just fine.
Finishing dinner by the light of a Coleman camping lantern, they would pack up for the drive back home. It made for a long day, but these were special times of family togetherness.
10 years after the birth of her youngest son Dan, she was surprised to find herself pregnant again—at age 40. Her doctors told her that this one would have problems, and it was likely her baby would have Down’s Syndrome or worse. They advised her to abort.
That was never an option. Down’s or not, this child would be loved and cared for just like the first three.
Some women would have fretted about this. Not Linda. She was confident that God would give her just what—who—she needed and could handle. Nothing more, nothing less.
In fact, so unflappable was she that on the appointed day, she delayed going to the hospital—probably fare too long—while waiting for a furniture upholstery man to arrive. Steve had a favorite old chair that was well worn, and rather than replacing it, they decided to have it recovered. The man had to come for the chair, and though he was late, she waited. He finally arrived, loaded up the chair, and off Linda went to the hospital to deliver the child doctors had advised her to abort.
The baby turned out to be just fine, and when it came time for him to start school, she decided to homeschool him rather than continue the 4-hour daily commute to the Christian school. He learned reading, writing, arithmetic, and a whole lot of other subjects and skills from her, not the least of which were the hard work, good character, and common sense she’d learned from her parents.
You can perhaps see how she considered herself pretty ordinary, but why I think she is remarkable.
You can also understand why I’m glad to honor her on this Mother’s Day.
See, that problem child that should have been aborted? They named him Tim.
And this remarkable woman I’ve been describing? That’s my Mom, Linda Omanson Joiner.