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VALLEY ROUNDUP | Reseda

Students' Essays Put Moms on Pedestal

May 15, 2000|ZANTO PEABODY

Three elementary school children helped put Mother's Day into perspective for the 1,500 people who celebrated the occasion Sunday at the Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging.

Their winning essays about "Why My Mom Is the Best," lauding their mothers' reliability and unconditional love, were presented at an event billed by the center as the "Largest Mother's Day Celebration in the World 2000."

More than 1,000 young and adult children ate lunch with the 500 women who live at the home.

Chris Platania, a first-grader at Our Lady of Grace School in Encino, won for his one-page portrayal of his mother, Becky.

"Even when she's tired. She takes me to my games and practices. She never drops me off. She always stays and cheers," Chris wrote.

A third-grader from Leland Street School in San Pedro wrote of her foster mother: "I think my mom is the best in the world because she took me in and loved me when my real mom was a drug addict."

Her foster mother said she had been shocked to learn what the girl had written. "I thought she was going to write the good things about her mother," the foster mother said before the presentation.

Matt Durlester, who said he is known for his humor at Stephen S. Wise School, said he played to the Jewish judges in writing his essay. The fourth-grader said his mother keeps her temper, even when he dallies before school and eats breakfast in the family's car. He wrote that it makes his mother feel "meshuga nah," Yiddish for crazy.

Nicki Durlester said she cried in the school's library when her son's award was announced.

The day evoked mixed feelings for Mother of the Year honoree Myrtle "Faye" Rumph, who spent it with her daughter, niece, nephew and granddaughters but said she longed for the company of her son, Al Wooten Jr., who was killed 10 years ago in a drive-by shooting.

In 1990, Rumph founded a heritage center in memory of her son. The nonprofit youth center in South Los Angeles aims to keep children out of gangs by engaging them in education and community activities.

"It's not as hard to deal with on Mother's Day as it is on Thanksgiving, though, when I was expecting to be there and have dinner with him," Rumph said. "On Mother's Day, I've got my daughters and granddaughters around me; they won't let me be alone today."

Residents wore carnations and smiles while a band played and clowns passed around balloons. Meyer Gottlieb, the Jewish Home board member who established the annual event six years ago, called the courtyard filled with mothers a "garden full of beauty."

"There is more beauty in these faces than there is at the Academy Awards," said Gottlieb, president of Samuel Goldwyn Films.

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