Women's History Month 2023 - Jessica Numanoglu
March is a special month for me, not only because it is Women’s History Month when we can recognize and celebrate the contributions and achievements of women in history and in our everyday lives, but it is also the month I started working here at the City; this March marks my 22nd anniversary! I started at LO fresh out of college as an assistant planner in the Planning Department and now serve as Deputy Community Development Director. Over the past 22 years, I have been blessed to have many amazing women in my life as friends, relatives, and colleagues that have inspired, encouraged and supported me in my life and career, some of whom are reading this article right now. While I wish I could write about all of them, this month I want to remember and honor my Aunt Joan.
My Aunt Joan was born in the early 1930s, the second oldest of five children, and grew up in a time when a woman’s place was in the home and all that was really expected of her was to finish high school and get married. But Joan wasn’t bound by these ‘rules’; she was gifted, curious, smart and independent and my mother said she could do just about anything she set her mind to. She chose a career as a nurse, fell in love with a doctor named Jack (who she told my mother reminded her of Paul Newman) and they had three children together. Tragically, Jack died suddenly of a heart attack at a young age, and she finished raising the kids on her own. She never remarried.
Joan was immensely curious and artistic and never stopped learning her whole life. Even while she was working and raising three children, she took classes and mastered pottery-making and photography. Later in life she also became a skilled quilter, making beautiful works of art from fabric and inspiring others to take up the medium. She also had a love of learning about other cultures and traveled the world – sometimes without letting anyone else know she was going!
For me, my Aunt Joan was the kind of woman I aspired to be. She didn’t wait for things to happen for her, she pursued her passions, but she also balanced that part of herself with service to others. In addition to being a nurse her whole life, she was a loving mother who raised all three of her children to be smart and successful adults, she was a doting grandmother, and she raised a foster child long after her three children had grown. She also helped me during my transition from high school to college when I struggled to find my footing and confidence to make it happen. She invited me to live with her rent-free while I was starting college and in turn I stayed home at night with her foster child while she worked the night shift as a nurse in the natal intensive care unit (NICU). I learned so much during the year I lived with her and was amazed at her confidence, selflessness, and strength. I remember asking her how she could bear to treat mothers in the NICU that were struggling with drug addiction and gave birth prematurely and/or with significant medical issues. She said it was not her job to judge any of her patients; her role was to be the best nurse she could be to help the mother and baby get the best outcome possible.
It’s been 23 years since my aunt passed away after battling ovarian cancer. None of us were surprised when she continued to work, learn and travel while she underwent chemotherapy treatment, but knowing how strong and determined she was, I think our family thought she might have had a good chance of beating cancer. I am so grateful for the time I spent with her and I hope she knew the impact she made on the lives of others. Though she passed away before I graduated from college, she was an important role model for me as a young adult and helped me get started on a path to success.
It doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort to inspire or support others. Just knowing that someone believes in you or cares about your future makes a big impact. I hope you will celebrate Woman’s History Month by encouraging and supporting a young girl or woman in your life!
Photo of me and my mother taken by my Aunt Joan.