SMYRNA — Mother of three and grandmother of one, Joan McGrath of Smyrna was recently named Delaware’s 2015 Merit Mother on behalf of the Delaware Association of American Mothers, Inc., at a ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion in Dover.
The award is given to mothers who set a good example for others both in raising children and community involvement.
“She is an excellent role model for any caregiver,” said Kay Wood Bailey, a longtime friend who nominated Mrs. McGrath for the award. “She may be quiet and unassuming but she deserves recognition for all the good work she has done and continues to do.”
Even though Mrs. Bailey had faith in Mrs. McGrath, it took a bit of convincing before she accepted the nomination.
“She was trying to talk me into it and I was a little unsure, but she and one of my daughters ultimately convinced me,” Mrs. McGrath said.
“It took many phone calls and eventually a long talk at her dining room table and after several cups of tea, she finally agreed,” Mrs. Bailey said.
The nominees are judged by a panel based off submitted questionnaires, essays and letters of recommendation from both professional associates and family members.
“Some of the information they asked for were organizations or ways I’ve been involved in the community and an essay on how a mother has impacted my life,” Mrs. McGrath said.
She has been a Gideon auxiliary member for 44 years and has been heavily involved in her church, Asbury Methodist in Smyrna for just as long.
“The spiritual aspect of life isn’t only important to my husband and I, we wanted the spiritual aspect of our children’s lives to be important to them and it’s something I think has stuck because through their endeavors, they’ve always been able to help others,” she said.
She also emphasized the importance of parents making their home a learning center for their children.
“The home is where children are exposed to the world for the first time so we were always sure to involve our kids in conversations from a young age and expose them to music and nature, whether it was just in our backyard or taking a trip to Bombay Hook,” Mrs. McGrath said.
“We always used our time together to promote learning and help them grow to be good people.”
Ms. McGrath has three grown children, Joy, 41, Joshua, 39, and Hope, 31. All three have received educations from prestigious universities including Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Columbia, respectively. All are either married or engaged and Hope brought Mrs. McGrath’s first grandchild into the world last June.
“She did an exceptional job in raising her children to live exceptional lives,” Mrs. Bailey said. “Not only have they been successful academically, they are all active in their communities and making valuable contributions.”
But Mrs. McGrath’s accomplishments don’t stop with her children’s upbringing and community involvement.
“She’s not only a great mother and member of the community, she’s also a great caregiver,” Mrs. Bailey said. “She took in her mother-in-law and now cares for her own mother and never complains even though caregivers face many challenges.”
Over the years, Mrs. McGrath has developed a mantra she has found to be the case with most of the challenges and obstacles she encounters.
“As I get older, I find this to be increasingly true — if you take care of the little things as you go, the bigger things will sort themselves out,” she said.