Resolve to Be Grateful for 2017

Looking back at family events, political activism, losses and gains

My scar from Achilles tendon surgery in September is every bit as nice looking as Kobe Bryant’s, and I am grateful for that. Because expressing gratitude at the end of a challenging year is more satisfying than making the usual iffy resolutions for the year ahead, that’s what I’m doing these last days of 2017.

What are you grateful for as you review your year?

The surgery and lengthy recovery haven’t overshadowed all my happy moments of the past year. After three months of needing help showering, at last I can do it alone again! Any time with my grandson is always time well spent. And showing San Francisco to several friends from out of town was great fun.

Some of those friends — plus their friends and friends of those friends — share their moments of grace here from the past year:

An Award, a Wish and a Grandchild

Colleen Kelly Starkloff was named a 2017 St. Louis Woman of Achievement, and she is grateful. “Most people who get involved in nonprofit work or volunteerism don’t do it to be acknowledged. We do it to make the world a better place because we care,” she said. “But I must admit, it is nice when someone appreciates that work.”

Starkloff was honored for her longtime work as an activist for the disabled. In 1973, she married Max Starkloff, a quadriplegic who founded Paraquad, a nonprofit that helped shaped national policy regarding access to transportation and housing for the disabled. In 2003, the couple founded the Starkloff Disability Institute, which focuses on job training and competitive work opportunities. Max died in 2010, but Colleen continues the couple’s work.

Here’s the gratitude list from Bobbi, who provided just her first name and lives in Copaigue, N.Y.:

  • My family is all healthy, with jobs and homes
  • I had enough money saved to get me through the last year and a half of semi-unemployment
  • Surgery gave me a new knee and less pain
  • I have a house, which let me help a friend who would have been homeless until she got back on her feet

And looking forward, Bobbi added, “I will be really grateful if the powers that be could send me — sing in your best Queen/Freddie Mercury voice here — somebody to love.”

Peggy Fujimura of Pahoa, Hawaii, found somebody to love — her first grandchild, born in August.

Earlier in the year, Fujimura traveled for a month with the 17-year-old daughter of a friend. The two visited six countries and spent a “fantastic weekend” in New York City. “Emma crammed in a week’s worth of tourism there,” Fujimura recalled. They meandered through three museums, went to Rockefeller Center and the Top of the Rock, saw the Empire State Building at night, took a ferry to Hoboken to eat where Cake Boss is filmed, saw a Broadway play and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.

A March, Mount Everest and Family Gatherings 

What has stuck with Shannon Koger is a trip she made in January. “I was gratified and filled with pride to take part in the Women’s March held in Washington, D.C.,” said Koger, who lives in New York City. “What I’m most grateful for in 2017 is America’s citizens standing up and resisting.”

Nancy Reighter Strauss, of Santa Fe, N.M., agreed. “In the year that included my 70th birthday and my 30th wedding anniversary, one memory rises above all the others. I was so proud to be among the hundreds of thousands of women and men who participated in the Women’s March.”

The second day of the march coincided with the first anniversary of the death of her mother. “I carried her handkerchief next to my heart. On it, I had written her name along with the names of over 60 friends and family who were with me in spirit. It was a day I will never forget,” Strauss said.

Avis Meyer will never forget turning 75 in Kathmandu, far from his home in southwest St. Louis County. With his wife, Anna Marie, Meyer booked a 40-minute flight high above the clouds in hopes of a peek at a world-famous Nepalese peak: Mount Everest. And he got it.

“We leveled off at about 40,000 feet or so, with nothing but blue and white out our windows,” Meyer said. “We gradually banked gently to port, leveled out and heard the co-pilot say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, out your window, just below us, Mount Everest.’ And so it was. Happy 75!”

Jenifer A.R. Ohriner of Knoxville, Tenn., also is grateful for a special vacation. “Our four grandsons got to spend four days with their parents and grandparents in Estes Park, Colorado,” she said. “I’m also grateful that my children seem to be happy in their professions and with their lives, and that they want to make the world a better place.”

Some Losses, Some New Beginnings

As the year ends, Mary Russell, of San Francisco, is remembering her late father. “I look back on 2017 with gratitude that my whole family gathered in San Francisco to celebrate the loving life of my Dad, Grant, who graced this world for 101 years,” she said. “He was so kind and funny.”

Conrad Coffield Jr., of Charleston, W. Va., calls attention to a lesser loss: “I am grateful for remaining hair,” he said. On Facebook, he posted a fuzzy snapshot that shows his hair artfully styled into three pigtails, courtesy of his granddaughters.

Ed Rich, a TV journalist in St. Louis for 22 years, lost his job. “It was a gut punch — embarrassing, humiliating, frightening.  At the age of 52, who wants to start over?” he said. “After five months, I had no ego left.“ Then one day, Rich got two calls within minutes of each other, each with a job offer. He is now director of communications for the Maplewood Richmond Heights School District and is grateful for moral support from family and friends during his “truly dark period.”

Looking back, maybe I will make one New Year’s resolution: I will never again take walking for granted. Happy New Year!

By Patricia Corrigan
Patricia Corrigan is a professional journalist, with decades of experience as a reporter and columnist at a metropolitan daily newspaper, and a book author. She now enjoys a lively freelance career, writing for numerous print and on-line publications. Read more from Patricia on her blog.

Next Avenue Editors Also Recommend:

Next Avenue brings you stories that are inspiring and change lives. We know that because we hear it from our readers every single day. One reader says,

"Every time I read a post, I feel like I'm able to take a single, clear lesson away from it, which is why I think it's so great."

Your generous donation will help us continue to bring you the information you care about. Every dollar donated allows us to remain a free and accessible public service. What story will you help make possible?