The Des Moines Register from Des Moines, Iowa on May 10, 1970 · Page 40
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May 10, 1970

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The Des Moines Register from Des Moines, Iowa · Page 40

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Des Moines, Iowa
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Sunday, May 10, 1970
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Cf*s Mbiriis, lew*' . • f*- . t f ...n ,.,. p* -, _ SfcTion Six -May 10, A$fD FAMILY aF^r i?^ ~*ar --JL—iTl^iT* -JL JU JL •• '«-• •"•"rr-w*-'* \, She has been 'Mom* in another part of the uvtirld* '• - ' "* • / , ' and-to many tt youngster -other than h&r own* \ * ' '- '" •"' ' ' ' ' ' 'ORA ROACH -doesn't exactly view herself as the "mom" type, so,it came ns something of a surprise when Turkish boys like Mehmet and Farouk — u$- ' tially so undemonstrative—wrote separately, "You've been like a mother to me." Mrs. Roach is energetic and brisk. Although she is 67, she has perhaps ^been described as "dynamic" more often than anybody else in the Peace Corps. FW two years (1987-69), she >as a teacher of English in Ankara, turkey, one of 10 Peace Corps volunteers on ' t h e English department's staff of 24 al Middle East Technical University. • ' Mehmet and Farouk were among her 96 students, and what she refers to as "this pe- c u I i a r correspondence" and "the mother bit" came to her in Chicago where she has been based since last autumn as a recruiter for the Peace Corps. Her particular assignment is to convince older men and •women that they are as much needed as young persons. As a 67-year-old widow who was 40 years older than the average . Corpsman when she joined, she can make a convincing statement at appearances such as the ones thaf brought her to Iowa. (In March, she spoke at the Pre-Retirement Planning Center at Drake University in Des Moines, an agency^ which stresses continuing life involvement for oldsters, and iij April she addressed the Polk County Federation of Women's. Clubs in Des Moines and the Southwest Iowa Teachers Association in Council Bluffs.) » By Franks J>aig •rpHE,MOTHER bit" didn't 1 seem to fit int6 the life of a woman who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the Univer- . sity of Wisconsin (working her way through), delivered .the commencement address, took a graduate degree in speech and has been up to. her ears ever since in high school and college teaching and too many community activities to mention. Nol that her life doesn't in— elude a happy marriage and family: In 1924, she married Carroll Roach, a young pediatrics resident at the University Hospitals of Madison, Wis. Widowed in 1986, she felt "a terrible aloneness." A daughter, Peggy (Mrs. John B. Matthew* of Madisbn, Wis.) -was a main joy in the life of her and her husband — "still is in mine," she says. Four grandchildren . ranging in age from 7 to 15 are _ added joys. "But I guess I never thought of myself as 'everybody's mother,' " she says. \^ A ND SURELY, there wasn't any apron and cookies atmosphere in the classes Mehmet and Farouk attended* Determined as she was to stir up these young minds, Mrs. Roach had to encourage "challenge" and yet preserve her own dignity and not insult the , Turkish concept of what a teacher should be. "I wanted these youngsters lo think for themselves," says Mrs. Roach, "to weigh what they hear and ask 'Who said that? On what basis?'" To her, this seemed the most positive thing she could accomplish in th<L name *of her country bectflU, as she point* nut, "whe^the P^eace Corps was established, the first objective as defined hy Congress was 'to help developing countries help them•-selves. 1 " For this women who had taught at Butler University (Indianapolis) and served on the boards of trustees of two other Indiana universities, there was a wonderful new excitement in that Turkish classroom: "Those youngsters — like all youngsters — do have ideas, and they learned to express them." Bui she was surprised when Mehmel wrote, "Vou gave me confidence in myself. You were like a mother." It comes to Dora Roach's mind that loving mothers must surely have the same first objective as the Peace Corps — "that business of helping one to help one'fTf I Itself." r Ul| Put was this what Mehmet meant? Or Farouk when he wrote, "I never had anyone take an interest in me after I was out of. class as you did, like Smother." What seems so strange in terms of their letters is that neither of these boys ever came to visit her>\ "There were other foreign students at- the university "and they did, but my Turkish stu- ,„ dents retained their formality all the way." Like others, though, Mehmet and Farouk responded to her — greetings on the campus and later would greet her first. And ".. .before the year was>out, they told her how impressed they and the others had been that in the first few days she knew each student's name. Wasn't it , hard to learn an(Tremember all those names? "You're darn c d right it- Recruiting older jMttons lor the Paaes Gerpi is the reason Mrs. Dora Roach (f«f>,; and fight below) -has been in lew* recently. She it shown talking with -Mr. and Mrs. W. T. filiett of-Des Motnei at the Pre.Retirement Planning -Ceritef at Drake Uni- varsity in Des Moiflds. Th« Elliott* have b««n ing seriously about Peace Corps service. ,. was!" she told •them. Turkish names aren't that easy. You have to be interested in somebody to learn -and remember „ his name. And she reflects: "I guess a mother is somebody who is interested in somebody else — she just has to^be." ' i ^x rpHERE ARE a couple of JL other stated Peace Corps objectives thafrtie in with being "interested," * too."These are: (1) That other ^cultures should learn to knoW• Amencans, "and (2) that Americans should learn to know otter4cii}tureS. : -';.-> ; Mrs. Roach iS-an English and ;STAFF PICTURES BY JOHN HOULETTE speech teacher with a .profound dislike for one- collective'noun: "Theyr'-She says, "It's so easy to lump people into categories, to say, 'they do this or that 1 — whether you're talking about governments in o{her countries or kids in America." Knowing a "culture" has to mean knowing many^individuals "who turn out to "have emotions like yours," she believes. Perhaps parenthood and the Peace Corps never seem more closely related, though, than when you're talking about {'fTus^ations,'' -says Mrs. Roach. .-••' Invariably, there are ar ctfunts about the physical hardships endured by Americans in the Peace Corps and certainly there are "discomforts" in even a big city like Ankara, she says. Her water supply was turned off from noon until evening — "the city is just growing so fast that. everything is inadequate." She walked miles every day from the fourth flooj' of her elevator-less apartment at the top of a hill — three miles to and from ^Ihe bus alone. A ND THEN she hurries to remind you that her purpose in visiting Iowa is to recruit for the Peace Corps: it really is recruiting and not motherhood she came to Des Moines to discuss. / All sorts of people with all sorts of skills and of all ages are needed. College degrees aren't necessarily a requirement, particularly with older persons. (Write to her in care of The. Des Moines Register, Home and Family Section. } She- is a teacher. Other teachers are needed. Their challenge in Turkey will be very little different from anywhere else. ' . "The lesson we teachers learn early is that if only one or two students in your class seem to give evidence of response, you have succeeded." They are some index to the others you don't know about. Part of her assignment in this country has been training Corpsmen who are going to teach in other countries. She insists they read a book called "Up the Down Staircase" which deals with the frustrations of a teacher in an American ghetto school. "You can count on frustrations wherever you go, and you'll find pretty much the same ones everywhere." But the joys can be different and full of surprises — even for a dynamic teacher in her sixties. She shakes her head and mentions "the mother bit." By Denise O'Brien Van women, after years of work — whether in the home or out of it — would be content to have time at last to follow some rather leisurely, grand- motherly pursuits. Dr. Anna Thomas, late of India, and, a liberated" woman sincft the turn of the century, has just about had her fill of leisure. . "I don't consider.myself retired," she says, "even though I now have lots of time to read, crochet, knit and tat." ""Alter listening to Dr. Thomas's account of her life in India as a mother, .teacher . • and medical..doctor,..one .can understand why the pace of her current life may seem a little tedious, But, just the same, she is enjoying her long visit in this country with her grandchildren; Mrs. tee Furgerson of 3027 Amherst st., and Vincent Thomas of Bock Island, 111., and their families. The tiny white-haired woman with sparkling eyes and softly folded sari gave up her almost 50-year-long career as a medical doctor in her native India in 1968 and traveled to Canada to join her son, Kumar, an editor of the Montreal Examiner, a nd his family. ThU-wiater. she came to- the States to visit her grandchildren and greiit-grand- children. She has bjeen stay^ ing with the Furgersons for about two months and will return to Montreal Jater in the year. D R. THOMAS wits always a working mother, always a—leojtoibutor to/her community and wuntry,. jrf- _Jen a pioneer. A«d fcer children suffered not a whit, for their mother 1 ! many activities outside the home. I George, her first-bora sojp and father of Mrs. Furgerson, became a business executive; Alexander is a member of Her Majesty's Telecommunications Service in London, and Kumar is an ,-• Dr. Anna Thomas's great-grandsons, children .of Mr. and Mrs. Lee Furgerson of'Des Moines, examine thetf "amma's" Coronation Medal, presented to her "by coni'rVta'nd of His Majesty the King-Emperor" on the occasion bf^he coronation of Geroge VI of England in 1937 for h«r r servica -to India. The boyi are (from left) John, 4; Tom,;5y and Lee, 7. ' STAFF PICTURE BY. DAVID PENNEY editor. A daughter died in childhood. Anna Thomas's husband, Chandy, was a newspaper editor. They were married in 1907 ^hUe^Doth were~still"ltF= college in Kerala state in southern India. The birth of George in 190fr didn't deter Dr. Thomas from obtaining. • her teaching degree ^nd she:-studied and taugtt school until 1911 when she w a s a warded'a government scholarship for medical study in the state of .Madras — a 36- hour train journey from her home and family. Tkis is when Anna. Thomas found her place,]* the sun. "I liked my work so much," she*recalls of her long medical career. — "If I were bora again, I would be a medical wotnair." — Chandy was-atready working elsewhere — and began her medical study The work was grueling and the holidays short — only two weeks off OLOR medical officer of a Womenj?:, and children's hospital. — "I was only an assistant .be r ; cause I was newly, passed but of medical school," she ex' By 1S15 she-was— back in Kerala state, bound to repay the government with 1,0 years of medical service. She forked r aloog for"two~y«a r s- complying with her part of the bargain. • "The*;" sh* saw myste- rfottslyr **• » IB ei S »| top- pened! I was johlei* oat fioe rooming. It w»s, a very sad l^she was iij private practice; us, $ •• •••ye.ajr So, she boarded tot train for Madras, lay this time leaving two babies in the good care of ber own parents Her husband had written 011 editorial that (he maharoja o/ Kerala stale dida't like one bit — and he relieved lnoth him aud Anna o/ their jobt with a sweep of his band. So the family boarded the train % Madras where Chandy found aoother oewspaper job and AQna. ''very fjytu- nately" became assistant . her e . "1 must; h'avf" been recommencl- -.e^c'fjor'the ppation by the mayor. of- |he city," she says. has often n reiease from the ' tragedy of life in ln ri927, after superin- child In W®, sje mcipaJ counselor in Madras - One position is much like a lq Madras'; state, she shaken by the only daughter, li-yea^s old. ip.ieiye, to get away." she reealls. ,j£he went into. |,be, inferior of India, to Myso/« '$tate, and became dAjinJstratv of seven 'ecectoes'V $et' up for the care of; Ijkw. ajU,dren ( .of wortog .. The ; cWdren, who ill or neglected of poyerty when they ^nder her wing, aiter spending she. was on the move again — this time to northern India, what is now Pakistan. • "I was always I o o k i n g" for greener pas- lures," she says. Until 1932, she was superintendent of a maternity hospital and an association of traveling nurses in Karachi. Private practice again beckoned and Dr. Thomas operated her own private 20-bed maternity hospital in Karachi until 1948 when she returned to India after Pakistan became an independent country. "I belonged in India," she says, "l^wanted to be with the Indians although it was a real sacrifice for me to'leave Karachi:"' ---•••--D URING her years in Karachi, Dr. Thomas ned-4heeityV-first birth- control clinic at the urging of Kdith IJaw-Martyn, an associate of birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger. Dr. Thomas is an advocate of birth control measures that do not introduce foreign substances or devices into a woman's body. "The early methods we used in the clinic — (he 'rhythm' method, and the diaphragm — worked fine/" she says. After leaving Karachi, Dr. Thomas settled in Bombay where she was namfrd to the Refugee Rehabilitation Board of Management for persons coming into India from Pakistan. She was in charge of matters concerning destitute women and cnildrehT While she was in Bombay, Dr. Thomas was named a Justice o.f the Peace (as she had been in Karachi) and a magistrate with power to pre-, side in juvenile courts. In 1958. Dr. Tbomas's son George died and, again, her work helped her ease the pain of loss. "I was brooding," she recalls, so she traveled to the desert 'm Jju; jntfi rior of India where, from I960 to J962, .she was in charge of a maternity home, "mot out of n?a$; you know." she says, "but tor something to do." rpHROUGHOUT her long 1. career, Dr. Thomas was often recognized for her-work within" her profession and for her community. In 1927 and 1928, she received gold medals from the government for her essays on antenatal work in India and on the preschool child. In 1937, she received a King Geprge VI Coronation Medal .for her contributions to India _+- '~— ... Dr. Thomas was appointed a Justice of the Peace in Karachi for her many years of volunteer service to the Red Cross in India. She was director of many Red Cross clinics in the Karachi "area from 1933 to 1948. In 1947, she served as president^ of the Indian Christian ~ Associallorf,T an~d~nTT9577jshe was president of the Y.W.C.A. in India. Before joining her son in Canada, Dr. Thomas was actively engaged in volunteer and social work in India. A ND NOW, in her ninth decade, Dr. Thomas has left all her busy years of service behind her in her beloved India and begun a new life in North America. But she's not taking it easy. There's a light in her eye and a lightness-in her- step. She loves to read and visit with he^ family and she's even taken up public speaking. And she's teaming to cook! "To my shame," ,*be confides, "I don't cook - I never had to in India — but I am learning!" Dr. Thorn as ~s granddaughter, ihe mother of three young sons (and a registered pharmacist), says her grandmother ^Hakes such joy in cooking our breakfast every morning. We may never let her go back to Canada!" And, so, Anna Thomas continues her life of giving — evea in this small way. After all, fhe, wye., "my favorite work is doing things for friends and relations,"

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