You're My Hero!
Prepare to feel inspired as we share the 10 remarkable layouts that won our "You're My Hero!" contest. The heroes are everyday people who've touched the lives of others in an unforgettable way.
The heroes the entrants describe aren't actors, sports stars or world leaders. Instead, they're parents, family members, neighbors, teachers, friends. Their heroism shows in the way they influence and inspire the people around them. Their strength in the face of difficulties and their commitment to their values make them examples worth imitating—heroes worth celebrating.
Choosing just 10 winners was tough, and we hope you'll agree—the following pages have a lot of heart and are beautifully executed. The Creating Keepsakes judges were so touched by the inspiring entries, they're bringing you more next issue! Also, don't miss the "More Stories about Heroes" side piece on pages 74-75. We couldn't fail to mention more of the incredible stories that touched our hearts.
by Vivian Smith
Calgary, AB, Canada
Vivian and Troy met for the first time at Vivian's senior prom in 1988. They hit it off immediately and dated for several months. Even after their last date, they remained close friends until Troy's death from cystic fibrosis in 1992, when he was just 22 years old.
These photos were taken in the summer of 1988 during a trip to a friend's cabin at Mirror Lake in British Columbia. Says Vivian, "Troy's personality really comes through here. He was always so fun-loving and spontaneous. He loved doing daring things that I was always too uptight to try, like jumping off a cliff into the water!"
Troy also loved children. He worked as a counselor for kids with cystic fibrosis, and his upbeat attitude made him a hero to many of the younger campers. A documentary about CF featuring Troy is a touching reminder of his life and spirit. Vivian says, "I still watch the film every once in a while, just to remind me of how special Troy was."
Many people might say their mothers are their heroes—but their mothers-in-law? For Carol, her mother-in-law, Jan, personifies all the traits she admires most. Her good example was passed along to her son, Carol's husband, as well. "Jan raised her son to share all her best characteristics—a sense of humor, patience, the ability to take things in stride," says Carol. Jan has also shared a wealth of advice and life lessons over the years, many of which Carol included in her journaling.
The mother of four children, Jan is devoted to her family. Carol says, "She even drove my husband and me out for our first date, since neither of us had a car." All her children still live nearby, and Carol's family loves to visit whenever they can.
On the day Carol finished this layout, Jan had a terrible afternoon at work. To cheer her up, Carol showed her mother-in-law the finished layout. Jan broke into tears and told Carol, "No matter what happens with the contest, you're a winner in my heart."
Surviving 27 months in a German prison camp during World War II. Fighting to save his wife after their car rolled from a roadside into deep, icy water. These sound like the deeds of a traditional hero, but Jinger's grandfather, Preston, was a hero in quieter ways as well. He never missed a birthday or a band concert; he loved to take his grandchildren to feed the ducks in the park; he jumped at every chance to visit Disneyland with his family.
As an Army sergeant in Libya, Preston was wounded in battle. He and two friends hid in a cave for three days, until hunger forced them out of their hiding place and into the Germans' grasp. But even in the grim surroundings of the prison camp, Preston managed to share his strength with the men around him. He was given the responsibility of parceling out Red Cross packages among the prisoners, and he helped make conditions more tolerable for the work gangs who were hired out to work on local farms. When Preston returned home, he used the lessons about patience and determination he'd learned during the war to raise a strong family.
After Jinger's grandfather passed away last year, her mother asked for Jinger's help in writing a tribute to read at his funeral. "That's where I first got the idea for this layout," Jinger says. "As we shared stories of his life and memories of the good times we'd had together, I knew just what to do with the photos of Grandpa's life I'd been saving."
My Father's Blues
by Janet MacLeod
Dundas, ON, Canada
Janet describes her father, Oliver, as a quiet, modest man. She describes him as a man whose respect and compassion for all people crosses boundaries of family and background; a loving father who taught his children to demonstrate their love for the people around them and for the earth. "Nobody's perfect," says Janet, "but my father comes as close as I think is possible."
While Janet was growing up, the family spent holidays and vacations visiting a string of relatives and friends around the country. "We used to get tired of my dad stopping to visit all the time," Janet remembers, "but we finally realized how happy it made the people we came to see. We learned how important it is to spend time with the ones you care about."
The title of Janet's page, "My Father's Blues," reappears throughout her journaling, which she wrote in a free-verse style. The "blues" of the poem are reflected in the accents chosen for her page as well. Five colors of blue and gray cardstock are cut into mats, photo corners and thin strips used to form the title letters and to weave frames around photos and title blocks.
Small-town life in Utah during the Depression was difficult for everyone. It was especially tough for a new widow whose husband had been killed in a tragic industrial accident, with five grown children and seven children still at home. But Jeanette's grandmother Ruth never shirked from her duty. With nothing but her own determination to help her, she reared her children to appreciate family ties and the value of hard work.
Although Ruth's family often had to scrimp and save, she managed to feed, clothe and educate them all with her modest Social Security income. When the youngest child was grown, Ruth needed to work outside her home to support herself. She had never held a job in her life, but when the first person who interviewed her heard how she'd worked to raise her family, Ruth was hired on the spot.
Jeanette interviewed her grandmother for the first time several years ago, as she began compiling a family history. "At first Grandma was reluctant to talk about what her life had been like," says Jeanette. "But when I began asking the right questions, I finally learned about the heroic strength she had shown in caring for her family."
Fishers of Men
by Shannon Landen
San Antonio, TX
Shannon's father, Rusty, cares most about his faith, his family and his fishing—in that order. On weekend and vacation camping trips, he indulges his passion for the rod and reel. But as a long-time volunteer with the youth group at his church, he works as a "Fisher of Men" to share his faith with the young men around him.
These photos were shot on camping trips over the years and show Rusty with his sons, his friends, and members of his youth group. "He doesn't have to pretend that he enjoys being with the kids," Shannon says. "Everyone can tell how much he really enjoys the activities." Rusty's young charges are so comfortable with him that they even call him "Bald Eagle" in honor of his hairless head.
"My dad is always the one who can tell a quiet joke to relieve a stressful situation," Shannon says. "He isn't the kind of man who tries to draw a lot of attention to himself, but he leads by example." She still hasn't shared with him that he's the subject of this layout, let alone that she is a contest winner. "If any Creating Keepsakes readers know my father," Shannon pleads, "please don't spill the beans until I've had a chance to show him a copy myself!"
On October 17, 2000, Brenée's brother Blair celebrated another anniversary—one that might not seem like a cause for much merrymaking. Six years ago, when he was a high school senior, Blair broke his neck during a tug-of-war at Homecoming. The accident left him paralyzed from the shoulders down, unable to use his hands or take care of himself.
"Blair's never once placed blame on anyone or complained to us about his situation," Brenée says. "I don't know how he has maintained such a positive attitude with all he's been through." After a year in the hospital and additional years of intensive physical therapy, Blair has relearned skills that most of us take for granted: grasping objects, eating with a fork, even driving a specially adapted car with pressure-sensitive controls. Like any other college student, he enjoys spending time with his friends, going on dates, and planning for a future career as a business manager or financial adviser.
As part of a special state program, Blair visited the Adaptive Recreation Center near Big Bear, California, for a day of skiing and fun in the snow. Blair's mother snapped a few shots of him smiling excitedly after a thrilling ride down the mountain. "Blair told me all he kept saying all day was ÔI want to go faster!' " says Brenée.
As an exchange student 19 years ago, Sharon chose to go to Finland because she thought it would be the least like any place she'd ever been. But when she arrived in a strange new country, Sharon found a woman who promised, "I will treat you exactly like my own daughter." She found a family who made her one of their own. Sharon's "Finnish mother," Laimi Muukkonen, taught her important lessons about the value of family and the importance of beauty in every part of life.
An avid gardener and an expert knitter, Laimi shared her love of handcrafts with Sharon. "Her hands were never still," Sharon remembers. "Weaving, knitting, planting—she was always doing some kind of work."
Sharon made her portrait of Laimi on a return visit to Finland in 1989. "She never wanted her picture taken," says Sharon, "and she would never look at the camera. This image really captures her as I knew her."
Laimi's strength and energy persisted despite her ongoing battle with cancer. Sadly, she lost her battle against the disease in 1992. Sharon returned to Finland for the memorial service to say a final good-bye to her friend and hero.
Heather's "knight in shining armor," her husband Brian, was wearing a baseball cap and a fielder's mitt when he rode into her life. A single mom with three children under age five, Heather was playing in a community softball league when she met the man who would become her "fairy-tale hero."
Brian proved his gallantry by opening his heart to Heather's children as well. As Heather says, "He's 100 percent their dad." Brian's love and compassion have helped blend their two families into a united whole. Heather's daughter Tory, who was born with special needs, has a close relationship with Brian. "He's never been embarrassed or uncomfortable around Tory, like other people sometimes are," Heather says.
Heather crimped thin sheets of metal with paper embossing tools for page embellishments, coordinating them with an uncrimped sheet used to mat her journaling block. She traced a title onto a thin sheet of tin with an embossing pen and stencil, then cut the letters out and allowed them to crumple slightly for a textured effect. Small metal brads hold her mats to the page.
Note: Archival experts say it's okay to use metal on your pages. They do recommend, however, that you work with duplicate photos or make sure you have photo negatives on hand. Taking extra precautions never hurts.
The daughter of a poor sharecropping family, Anita Bass grew up to marry Lubbock's future mayor. She became one of the first women ordained as a Baptist minister. She helped found the South Plains Food Bank, which provides food to thousands of needy families each year, and she established the Sherrock Retirement Home for senior women in need of a helping hand.
Long-time residents of Anita's town call her "Mrs. Lubbock" because of her tireless efforts on behalf of her community. But if you ask her about her accomplishments, Jenny's hero Anita doesn't take one bit of credit. She does what she does to help others, not to earn glory for herself.
Jenny met Anita in 1994 when the women worked together at a store in Lubbock. Anita was then 75 and had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. "I knew right away she was one of the most exceptional people I've ever met," Jenny says. Anita's spirit and courage have helped her resist the progress of her disease just as they've helped inspire Jenny to face her own challenges with a positive attitude.
Jenny, a scrapbook instructor at Down Memory Lane, knew she had to make a layout featuring Anita's "hat wall" after these photos were taken. "She has a story for every hat," says Jenny. "She can take each one down from the wall and tell you which occasion she bought it for. It really shows what a full life she's had and how much time she's spent serving others."
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