For the Love of Mom
Yes, they are our moms.
As Mother's Day approaches, we talk to political and cultural leaders about how their moms inspired them.
Gov. Rick Scott's mother inspired him to succeed. State CFO Jeff Atwater's mom inspired him to read, and along the way seemingly taught half of Palm Beach County how to play tennis.
The area's freshman members of Congress, Lois Frankel and Patrick Murphy, said their mothers stood by them when the going got tough on the campaign trail.
And cultural leaders Katie Deits and Andrew Kato said their moms inspired them to the arts.
Their stories follow.
Gov. Rick Scott
Look in the dictionary under “controversial” and the definition may well include a little engraving of Florida’s governor, Rick Scott.
When he came into office in 2010 he rode the wave of a conservative reaction - to Barack Obama and to the Democratic Party.
His mother, Esther, was with him each step of the way to the Governor’s Mansion.
He has been in office two years, and has adopted a more centrist position along the way.
Esther Scott died of an infection in November at age 84.
“She went to the (Republican National Convention) in August and I didn’t get to go because of Hurricane Isaac. People called to say I needed to get her to go to bed earlier because she was keeping them out late,” the governor said.
Mrs. Scott was enthusiastic.
“She was so excited when she traveled - on the campaign and got to do the campaign ads,” he said.
“She wanted to be perfect, and soon as she’d quit the ad, she’d turn andd look at the guy with the camera” andd ask how she’d done, he said. “She was a happy, fun person.”
It was not always happy or fun for Mrs. Scott.
“She was a good mom. She was a neat person. She had a tough life. She was going through a divorce when I was born. She almost put my brother and me up for adoption,” Gov. Scott said by phone from Tallahassee.
Mrs. Scott did keep the family going to church regularly, and made sure the kids had jobs. She was thrifty, too.
“She knew how to stretch every dime,” Gov. Scott said.
The governor also said his mom spared the rod, but not the yardstick.
He outgrew the yardstick and moved onto other things. He joined the Navy, then founded Columbia Hospital Corp., which later merged with Hospital Corporation por of America. He resigned that job amid controversy over the company’s business and Medicare billing practices. Through it all, Esther Scott stood by him.
He and his wife, Ann, bought two doughnut businesses in his hometown of Kansas City, Mo., and his mom ran them.
And thanks to her son, she traveled the world.
“She had Facebook fans all over the world. She went to Africa and Antarctica. tica She was a fun person and she loved people,” he said.
Whenever he wants to think of his mom, Gov. Scott plays her favorite song, “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home,” recorded by Patsy Cline.
State CFO Jeff Atwater
There was no stopping Patricia Hardee Atwater.
Ask anyone who lived in northern Palm Beach County back in the 1960s and ’70s and they will have a story to tell of how Mrs. Atwater taught them how to play tennis or how she inspired them to read.
“First off, she’s tireless. We watched her do everything. She tried to fix everything, do everything,” said Jeff Atwater, Mrs. Atwater’s son and the state’s CFO. “She is a tenacious, tireless woman. She would take on yard projects, house projects. She volunteered for everything we did.”
“She, with three or four other mothers decided we needed a library. She went door to door and went to businesses seeking contributions,” he said.
And the end result?
“It was just wonderful to ride my bikee up to it and see my mother with thesee other mothers standing at the podium at
the ribbon cutting and with these politicians with them who told them they couldn’t do it and they had done it,” he said.
Mrs. Atwater loves to read and wanted - to instill a love of learning in her six children.
“One of her strong attractions too learning was reading, so she was alwayss encouraging us to read things of substance - about historical events,” Mr. Atwater - said.
She always challenged her children, “to be bold and make life meaningful.”
Once her children were in school, she totook up tennis.
Then she started teaching it.
“She starts teaching tennis at the YMCA, which was out on RCA Boulevard. I’m telling you, by the thousands, all summer long, she had morning sessions, late afternoon sessions. I was just astounded at the stamina she had,” Mr. Atwater said.
It was a paid position, but it wasn’t for the money.
Indeed, her fundraising skills came in handy at the YMCA.
“She could talk people into donating racquets and balls. She got Jack Nicklaus to donate a van so she could take kids to competitions. I was just astounded,” he said. “I will be at events even in LLake Worth and someone will say to me, ‘Your mom taught me tennis.’”
“I went knocking door to door in 1999 when I was running for state legislature. I knocked at the door, aand the woman said, ‘I’m going to vote for you. Your mother taught me tennis.’ She would walk door to door with me as a candidate,” didate,” he saidsaid. Patricia Atwater will turn 88 in July. Until recently, she would drive a red convertible, put the top down and play patriotic music. “She was very much a patriot. We were all required to be sure we understood the basic documents of the country,” Mr. Atwater said. He treasures the time with her, especially Mother’s Day. He will be in Ocala the night before, speaking at a dinner, but you can bet he will make a beeline home to Palm Beach County.
“My guess is that she and I will be at 10:30 Mass. We always try to do breakfast, and if I’m lucky, she and I are going to play some catch. We put on our Cardinals colors and play catch and I’m sure we’ll be having fun,” he said.
That’s if she doesn’t wear him out.
“She is as relentless and tireless today as she ever was.”
U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel
Lois Frankel has been at the forefront of Democratic Party politics for the better part of three decades.
She served in the Florida House of Representatives for 14 years, and became the first woman to serve as Democratic Minority Leader of the State House in Florida history, and served eight years in a nonpartisan role as mayor of West Palm Beach.
She was elected to Congress last November.
Through it all, Rep. Frankel’s mom, Dorothy Frankel, has been there for her.
“My mother has incredible zest for life. That’s the best way I can say it. She just goes for it. She was a role model.”
Mrs. Frankel did not have a career outside of her home, but that did stop her from being active in pushing her daughter’s career development.
Rep. Frankel went to Georgetown University and later practiced as a lawyer.
“She’s 87 years old, and thank goodness she’s in good health and good spirits. She doesn’t stay home.” Her mother takes any “opportunity she has to go and do and try. I think she just sort of gave me zest.”
Rep. Frankel is a mom herself; son Ben Lubin owns The Blind Monk wine bar in downtown West Palm Beach. The congresswoman even taped a campaign commercial or two at the bar.
“We have a family with unconditional love. We’ve always put family first. Education was always important to my family, so it was important to me and my son,” she said.
Rep. Frankel’s father passed away some years ago, so she looks to her mom.
“She’s married to a guy who’s 91, soo she does have a life of her own,” she said, adding, “We’re very, very close. When I became mayor. She moved up here and she actually moved to West Palm Beach, she and her husband.”
After Rep. Frankel became mayor in 2003, Mrs. Frankel rose to the occasion, defending her daughter against critics.
“When I became mayor my mother became a blogger at age 85. She would blog in the middle of the night,” she said.
That goes back to that unconditional love.
“She’s always there every day withh an attagirl. When you’re in the public you get all kinds of barbsbar thrown at you. My mother’s always, ‘You’re doing a good job.’”
Mrs. Frankel told Rep. Frankel to follow her path and her dreams, then stood back to allow her to do it.
“She’s very careful in her advice, not that she doesn’t give it, but she doesn’t throw a tantrum when I don’t follow it,” the congresswoman said.
U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy
When Patrick Murphy decided to run for Congress, he knew the campaign would be ugly.
But he also knew he could count on his parents for support.
He can credit his mom, Leslie Boone Murphy, with inspiring him to serve.
“I think it probably started in a sense with her humbleness, her generosity with her time, whether it’s family or friends. She is always going out of her way to help others, and that instilled a sense of service in me,” he said by phone from Washington.
The freshman representative turned 30 on March 30; not only is he a junior congressman, but he also is the youngest member of the House.
Rep. Murphy grew up in Miami, butt politics was not his first career choice.
“Never in my wildest dreams. I never saw myself getting into public service, into politics,” he said.
The congressman beat Allen West last November in a bitter election fight for the seat.
“I was class president in high school. But I got fed up with what was happening in our government and political system. I got fed up with the bickering,” he said. “But who was I complain and nott do something about it?”
Mrs. Murphy’s support of her son has extended beyond the campaign.
“She’s here right now helping me get moved in my office and house,” he said. “I sent her out to buy me cleats for the congressional baseball game.”
Being a mom, she still reminds him too look his best.
“She’ll see me on TV or see me on the floor on C-SPAN and text me to smile or be happy. She will give me a nice reminder to smile. So many things are so serious here,” he said.
Rep. Murphy said he will be in Washington for part of Mother’s Day weekend, but plans to fly into Miami that Saturday evening to spend the day with his mom and grandmother — two of his grandmothers are still living.
“We usually do a big family thing, get my grandmother, do a brunch then dinner that night,” he said.
The congressman will fly back to Washington that Monday morning, and when he is there he will think of his mom and all she is to him.
“She has been a north star and an inspiration to me.”
Executive director, Lighthouse ArtCenter
Many kids get ants in their pants.
But growing up, Katie Deits had ants on the table.
For that, she could thank her mother, Eloise Deits.
“My mother would make dinner parties and serve exotic things, like fried bumblebee and chocolate-covered ants,” Ms. Deits said.
It certainly was exotic fare in 1960s West Palm Beach.
She also loved to serve pink or green mashed potatoes.
“She has a fabulous sense of humor,” Ms. Deits said of her mother, who is 94½ and now lives with Ms. Deits and just down the hall from her granddaughter and great-granddaughter.
She wanted her daughter to be a lady.
“We always had art in my home and we always had dinner together and we always had a lot of conversation and we had excellent conversation at dinner, and none of that included the Deadly D’s,” she said.
The Deadly D’s?
“Yes, the five Deadly D’s you don’t talk about at dinner: death, descendents, disease, digestion and domestics,” she said.
They ruin appetites, don’t you know.
It was a lesson well learned.
“My mother is the influential person in my life. She encouraged me to be a lifelong learner. She made me practice whenever I was going into social situations. She would practice with me to make sure I would know what to say and do. She took me everywhere with her. If they were going out to any sort of event, I would go. I was used to being around adults,” Ms. Deits said.
There was no getting Eloise Deits to do young Katie’s homework, either.
“She would make me do the work. If I would ask her to do something for me, she would say, ‘No, you do it,’ then she would edit,” Ms. Deits said.
Mrs. Deits still edits on occasion, though macular degeneration has made it difficult for her to see well enough to proof the news releases, brochures and catalogs the ArtCenter produces.
She comes by it naturally. She worked as secretary to the president for 20 years at Pratt & Whitney.
“My mother is the one who made it possible for me to go to college,” Ms. Deits said. “It really was from her that I learned to write.”
And maybe type.
“She also was the fastest typist att Pratt-Whitney. She broke all the records. When she retired they gave her a party and called her Dependable Eloise,” -
Ms. Deits said.
Another thing for which Ms. Deits can count on her mom: a wicked sense of humor.
“She loves puns. Ogden Nash is her favorite poet,” Ms. Deits said.
And it would take a sense of humorr to live as the Deitses did more than 500 years ago.
“We spent a year on the road in ann Airstream trailer. That’s something I’ll never forget,” Ms. Deits said. Her mother home-schooled young Katie as they traveled the highways of America. “It gave me a tremendous respect for the world. She really has been a great mother.”
Producing artistic director, Maltz Jupiter Theatre
Patrons of the Maltz Jupiter Theatre can thank Andrew Kato’s mom, Jackie, for inspiring him to love theater and the arts.
“She worked closely with our local PTA to bring ballet into our school system and also brought a circus into town,” Mr. Kato said.
And early on, his parents took him to New York to see Broadway shows.
“She also came by it honestly. She was a puppeteer while my father was in Vietnam and we lived in England. She worked with 3-foot-tall marionettes,” he said.
The first of those puppet shows he remembered seeing was “The Canterville Ghost,” based on an Oscar Wilde piece. Mr. Kato was about 5 years old.
“I remember seeing the production then going back stage and being in awe of these inanimate objects were brought to life. It was the illusion. A lot of my early years were spent being fascinated with illusion,” he said.
It must have made quite an impression.
“My father built a Von Trapp-style puppet theater in our basement,” he said, remembering the puppet theater in “The Sound of Music.”
That love of the art and theater flourished, and Ms. Kato continued to guide her son and his passion.
They moved to the Jupiter area and he worked at the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre, which was in the building the Maltz calls home. Mr. Kato left home, went to
Florida State University and moved to New York, where he worked as a theater producer.
But coming back to Jupiter gave him a chance to literally come back home.
It also made it easier for Jackie Kato to see her son’s work.
“Why I admire my mother, is since my first day here at the theater, she has insisted on buying her own tickets,” he said. “She insists on investing in the arts. She’s not only a member, but a subscriber to most cultural organizations in our area.”
Well, Ms. Kato does seem to be ubiquitous.
“I’m constantly hearing from people, ‘I saw your mother last night,’” he said. “I say it’s an investment in the art but it’s really what brings her a lot of joy as well.” ¦