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Even at age 98, Sally's strength inspires, sustains

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#1 Yervant1


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Posted 05 October 2014 - 08:27 AM

The Fresno Bee, CA
Oct 4 2014

Even at age 98, Sally's strength inspires, sustains

By Danielle R. Shapazian

I walked off a job once. I was 13, with an attitude.

I had been working all of one hour, maybe two, tabulating piece-work
wages and deducting various taxes that I looked up in a government
book. On Friday nights, the farm crews employed by my father's labor
contracting business were anticipating their Saturday paychecks. I was
a responsible kid who was good with numbers. My dad needed help with

Dozens of workers were to get paid, a never-ending list of
similar-sounding names that I recorded with a black pen, line after
line, in a thick yellow ledger. After finishing the calculations and
writing each check by hand, the only fun part of the job was adjusting
the rickety knobs on the number-stamping machine to formally ink the
exact dollars and cents on the line under each person's name.

I felt a certain power in pulling the handle of the metal contraption,
its internal mechanism supplying a bold contrast to my girlish
penmanship. That still wasn't enough to keep me interested.

This particular evening, I decided I was sick of the grind. I told my
boss I was done.

"I quit!" I huffed with an air of persecution, throwing up my hands
from the ledger as I rose from the table. "I want to go to the
football game!"

Eighth-grade girls have their priorities.

Fifteen minutes after my dramatic display, lip gloss and Certs tucked
into my purse, my father drove me to the high school stadium.

Task avoidance didn't become a lifelong theme despite my periodic
petulance. I was raised around enough hardworking women to understand
that honest labor had meaning.

My mother was an import from French Canada, recruited to the Valley as
a nurse. She ultimately landed in Selma, putting in long hours at our
community hospital even as she produced a home-cooked meal every
night. She exemplified what it meant to multi-task long before we had
the term.

Then there was my mother's good friend, Sally, who lived next door.

Sally Adkins, nee Servart Swanee Avedisian, lived two minutes away by
car, three minutes if you cut through the field, running up the secret
path of missing grapevines between our house and hers. Sally was born
in Fowler, leaving the area during the war years. She moved to the
Selma farm in the early 1950s, where she and her husband raised their
two children. Sally taught me how to drink iced tea and play a smart
game of canasta.

Without knowing it, she also taught me the graces of physical labor.

Legend has it that when Sally's vineyard was being irrigated, she
would walk the rows, looking down each furrow to check the water,
shovel propped over her shoulder, ready to make adjustments to the
flow as any hardworking farmer would.

Although time has blurred my recall, it's likely I observed Sally
carrying her shovel as a matter of course. Or maybe she chatted about
her vineyard chores on those summer evenings when the neighbor ladies
would gather to play cards, my young self hanging in the background,
all ears.

Purposely, I haven't confirmed the story. I'd rather not risk the need
for reconstruction, the genesis of Sally and her shovel less important
to me than my cherished mental picture.

This was a woman who wasn't afraid of the dirt or of hard work even as
she was, for a time, a well-coifed owner of one of the most popular
dress shops in town.

At times when I feel like throwing up my hands for a more leisurely
life -- especially when engaged in messy, physical tasks -- my thoughts
often return to Sally. I feel empowered knowing I came from similar
Armenian rootstock, ever determined to get the job done.

Sally doesn't live on Mitchell Avenue anymore and neither do I. My
mother is gone, and so is my dad. Yet, these role models taught me an
important lesson: satisfaction rises more readily from work than from
play, although you need both for a well-balanced life.

I often see Sally at church on Sundays. My dear neighbor will turn 99
in a few months. Even as her memory has faded, she still smiles when I
approach her.

Strong women carry on.


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#2 onjig



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Posted 06 October 2014 - 11:52 AM

Very nicely written tribute to Sally, [ Servart Avedisian.

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