Who I am as a woman is a compilation of my life experiences, my faith, what I have overcome and largely the family that has come before me, laying the foundation of what it means to be a good person, to follow God, to serve, to be humble and to treat others with love and dignity. I love history. I become completely engrossed in discovering my heritage and what my ancestors and family before me accomplished or sacrificed, and the legacy they passed down.

While working on our May issue celebrating women, I couldn’t help but reflect on the women that have impacted my life. I have been fortunate enough to have many strong female role models, including my incredible mother, but I wanted to honor a woman who had such a lasting impact on me throughout my entire life, my grandmother, Jean Newman.

We called her Mama Jean. She lived to be 91, and, up to the end of her life, she was a thoughtful, vibrant, classy and incredibly smart woman. Even as a young child, I knew there was something about her that I wanted to absorb. Always up for a party or a social gathering, she brought the class. Everything about her impressed me. The way she dressed, decorated her home, her gourmet cooking and even the way she wrapped a present was a work of art. She knew how to make every little detail special, especially Christmas Eve, in which she perfectly hosted more than 50 family members every year until she was 90 years old.

Mama Jean made getting old look fun, and she acted and looked like she was 20 years younger than she was. My grandparents were night owls. They stayed up every night until midnight and slept in late. Fancy appetizers were a nightly occurrence to tide them over so they could enjoy a late dinner with a glass of wine on the deck. They placed a high priority on their marriage and their time together. It was something I always took note of, and I knew in my heart that I wanted to be just like them when I grew old.

Mama Jean always put others before herself, even when she was nearing the end of her life. Instead of concentrating on any discomfort, she prayed for her caregivers and family instead. As a mother of eight, she set an example of selflessness and devotion to prayer her entire life, praying for all 90 of her family members by name every night.

I learned so much from the example she set forth her entire life, and the memories I have of her I hold dear to my heart.

This month, we are celebrating women in our community. The women we have the privilege to share with you all share a common message of love, determination, service and hope. They all have inspired me greatly, and I hope you enjoy learning a little about them too.