By Leo Coughlin
The years go by and you learn to take your heroes - and heroines - where and when you find them.
Someone in this category can be found in just about any town - it might be on the campus of Michigan State University, Alliance, Nebraska, Pinellas County, an overseas assignment in Kinshasa, Africa, or Alexandria, Virginia.
And how to define a hero/heroine?
Well, let's think about a heroine, because this is what this piece of scribbling is going to be about - and, at that, it won't give full due to the subject.
Can't do it, because no one can capture a woman's lifetime in a relatively few words. Sometimes long books can't do it.
The dictionary I'm looking at says a heroine is a woman "admired and emulated for her achievements and qualities."
Few people will know this name, but those who do will know what I'm getting at here.
Dorothy Louise Graham was born in Newport Kentucky, located just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, in 1930 when the city had a population of about 30,000.
Those who know say she grew up grinding poverty but she was a plucky girl, one of four - five, if you count her cousin, Leona, who was raised in that same household.
When she was 10 the family moved to Canton, Ohio, and this is where she was able to put into operation the kind of service that motivated her.
After high school Dot attended the School of Nursing at Aultman Hospital in Canton. When she graduated, in 1952, she continued working at the hospital as a nurse.
Among Dot's patients was a woman, Edrie, who had a son serving in the military and Momma Edrie decided to play matchmaker and got her son, John, to write to Dot.
It is not unusual that a young fellow might resist his mother's impulse to pick out a nice girl for him, and John, who was later called Ed (from his middle name) most of the time, balked at this.
But Edrie threatened to quit sending him cookies. So he bowed to this persuasive threat and he wrote and wrote and wrote. And Dot did, too.
And thus it began, a history together that lasted 57 years and ended - in the here and now on earth sense - on June 19.
John E. Means and Dot were married August 7, 1954.
She was by his side when he attended Michigan State and when they discovered they could not have children.
This discovery left them crestfallen and by now Ed had graduated from college and had moved on to Washington, D.C., pursuing his career in criminal justice.
What to do for a couple who loved and wanted children?
The first candidate was a little girl thought to be deaf. The baby was named after Ed's mother, Edrie.
It turned out, glory be! that she was not deaf at all and, ironically, has grown into a woman who is an accomplished singer, with a startling soprano voice that would, in the words of one who knows her, "Take a tear from a stone."
Then came the others - Linda, with movie star beauty; John, who grew into the prize of every father's dream - a scholar athlete, and the wonderful Hao, who came, via the baby-lift program, out of the horror story called Vietnam.
Ed's job took him to many places, including Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And the whole family went, too, getting an education by experience and osmosis as well as books.
A heroine and a hero here? Yes. Those who desire to be parents outside the normal course of events and choose those babies who might have been swept aside in life's carelessness are heroic in my book.
Those adopted babies are all successful in life. Edrie with her own family in northern Virginia, John with his in Maryland, Linda and Hao with their families in Florida.
They were all together to say good-bye to Mom and support Dad.
They all knew the end was near as last month unfolded in its days.
She had always been small and pretty and, to a degree, known to have iron inside. How tough she was became known in the last days when she fought gallantly against a failing body that was overwhelming her life force.
She went out a heroine. And Ed hangs in, a hero, too; half a man now, because his beloved Dot is gone.
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