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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Lawson remains a friend

Tuesday, January 7, 2003

Katie Lawson became a mentor to Linda, one of her daughter's classmates back in the '60s.

Linda wanted to be a nurse. A high school guidance counselor incorrectly told her that to get a degree in nursing she had to go to Indiana State College for one year then go to the three-year nursing program offered at Union or St. Anthony Hospital.

Linda signed up for the college prep classes in high school. Her mother questioned that choice.

They had no money to pay for schooling and she feared Linda wouldn't be able to get a good job if she didn't learn secretarial skills in high school. Those classes weren't offered on the college prep course. Linda did take one semester of typing as an elective to pacify her mother.

She had a part time job at the Tastee Freeze but didn't make enough money to pay for college tuition. So during her senior year in high school Linda applied for acceptance to and a scholarship from Indiana State College. Soon after graduation she was notified she had been accepted to the school but did not get a scholarship. Linda was devastated. She realized her mother's fears had come true. She didn't have the money to go to college and had no skills to get a good job.

Katie heard about the dilemma and talked to Linda about other possibilities.

"Why don't you go to nursing school first?" Katie asked. "It's cheaper and you can get your RN license then work on getting a degree later."

Linda told her that even though it was much cheaper than college, she didn't have the money to go to nursing school either. Linda felt she was destined to a life of continued poverty and a waitress job was probably the best she could hope for.

Katie said that a Dr. Will Kunkler gave a full scholarship to one St. Anthony Nursing student every year. She told Linda to apply for admission to St. Anthony's and for the Kunkler scholarship. There was still time but summer was passing quickly so she needed to do it right away.

Several weeks later in late July, Katie drove out to the Tastee Freeze to talk to Linda and she was angry.

"You didn't apply to the school or for the scholarship. Why not?" Katie demanded.

Linda explained awkwardly that she didn't have a way to get to Terre Haute. That was partly true. Also, she didn't know how to go through the process and was embarrassed by that lack of knowledge.

Through clenched teeth, Katie said she would get the applications, Linda could come to her house to fill them out and Katie would return them to the appropriate places.

Linda was reluctant however, afraid, really. It was probably too late she said. St. Anthony Hospital School of Nursing started in just two weeks and she was sure the Kunkler scholarship would have already been awarded.

Katie looked at the young adolescent standing before her teetering between childhood and maturity. She saw a young girl wanting to embrace the future excitedly yet desperately groping for the security of familiarity.

Very calmly, but firmly, Katie said, "I'll call you when I get the papers and I expect you to come immediately when I call." Katie did and Linda did.

Just one week before school started Linda was notified that she had been accepted to St. Anthony's and she had been awarded a full three-year scholarship by Dr. Will Kunkler.

Thanks to Katie Lawson, Linda became a nurse. The changes made in her life were profound. She went from an environment of abject poverty with little courage for dreams to a world full of hope and expectations.

Linda met new people with new ideas. Education was the brass ring everyone grabbed for. Material success was frequently attached but not necessarily the goal. It was like a mystical rebirth. And every patient Linda cared for, in effect, was soothed, also, by Katie's gentle hands.

Linda had always assumed that Katie had pulled some strings to get her that scholarship. But something didn't fit. The timing wasn't right.

Then one day years later, it hit her what must have really happened. The Lawsons had retired and moved north of town. Linda went for a visit.

"It took me a while, Katie," she said sitting with her old friend in her living room, "but I think I finally figured it out. You didn't ask Dr. Kunkler to give me a scholarship, did you? You asked to use his name. The money came from you. You figured my parents wouldn't let me accept it if they knew it was from you. That's what really happened isn't it?"

Ever the gracious lady, all Katie would say was, "Linda, you think too much. You got that scholarship because of you not because of me."

That gift was given to this writer, Linda Messmer. One of the greatest gifts I've ever had is the friendship of Katie Lawson. Thank you Katie. You're a very special lady and I love you.

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