2014 State Mothers of the Year


Patricia Payne is a retired naval officer and mother of one son, John, who lives near. After retirement Patty worked with the U. S. Navy as an Education Specialist, and later for the U.S. Air Force as an Instructional Designer. In 2006 Patty volunteered to help her young town work to have its own school district. She now works on the school project which will open its first public school in the Fall of 2015, heads the town's Arts Council, and works as an adjunct instructor at Auburn University Montgomery. Patty has spent the last several years working on her Ph.D. in Education Leadership and is slated to achieve that goal in December 2014. Her hobbies include reading, quilting, oil painting and cooking. She dotes on her husband, son, three cats and a dog while at home, and is very proud of her dad, the family patriarch who is 93, lives in Naples, FL with her two brothers, and who just published his 3rd book on family history.


Mary Fairbanks was born in Salt Lake City, Utah to a family immersed in service to others. She considers that example the template for her life. She has two sisters and three brothers. She graduated from East High School in Salt Lake City and attended the University of Utah. She completed her Associate Degree in Nursing at Brigham Young University.  She married the love of her life, Norman Fairbanks, in 1972. They are the parents of 5 children and have 10 grand children. Norm’s career as an officer in the U.S. Public Health Service gave them the opportunity to live in New Mexico, Nevada, and Alaska.  Mary loves entertaining, cooking, decorating, sewing, quilting, reading, traveling, and enjoying the outdoors. Her favorite activity is serving others. Her service to her family, her community and to her church has been one of the great blessings of her life.


Lila was born and raised in Mesa, Arizona where she attended schools through her first year of college. Her parents, Grant & Kathleen Palmer taught her to love music. Lila learned to sing and play several instruments. She studied vocal and instrumental music and Opera. She performed with many, church, All-State and A Cappella choirs as well as theater companies. She married Earl Daniel Shoemaker in 1973, when she began to learn American Sign Language and became an interpreter for the Deaf. They were blessed with 6 children to whom they taught music and Sign Language. Lila currently teaches reading and math skills, as well as violin and guitar at two different elementary schools. She serves with her husband as a leader of two cohorts reentering their college studies. She volunteers as an ASL worker, church choir director, music chairman, and teaches a class of 4-year olds.


Long before she was First Lady of Arkansas, Ginger Beebe exemplified volunteerism. From reading to children to promote literacy and raising awareness about mental health issues, to advocating for people with special needs, as well as supporting the arts, she continues to champion causes that are important to the people of Arkansas. The wife of Arkansas's forty-fifth Governor, Mike Beebe, Ginger was born in Little Rock and raised in Searcy before moving to the Governor's Mansion. Being adopted as a child motivated her passion for women's and children's issues. She is a member of the Advisory Board for Women and Children First, and in 2011, she was honored as the organization's Woman of the Year.  First Lady Ginger Beebe believes that each of us has the power to make a difference in the lives of others.  Ginger is currently involved with groups that share her goal of reducing childhood obesity. She and her husband, Governor Mike Beebe, have three children and seven grandchildren.


Janna O’Bryant’s childhood was a happy one. She was the fourth of five children. Her father was a dentist and mother was a homemaker. She was a good student and made friends easily. Her talents were in the piano, singing, dance and art.She went into a service-oriented profession as a registered nurse. She married and worked in intensive care for various hospitals around Los Angeles area. After having three children, she stayed home as a full-time mother.After five children, she and family moved to Belgium and Holland for her husbands employment. They learned to speak the Dutch language. She and her husband were in charge of several Dutch youth groups and used the language fluently. Upon returning to the states, their sixth child was born.After moving fourteen times in their marriage, she and her husband reside happily in Glendora. She keeps busy performing in a trio of song and dance, accompanying for community choirs, teaching an early morning class and visiting her grandchildren.


Reverend Louise A. Battle was born and raised in Washington, D. C. more than a half a century ago.  She heard the truth, fell in love with Jesus, believed it and then trusted Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of her life in July 1977 in Albuquerque, New Mexico at Shiloh Baptist Church.  She was then baptized and joined her first Bible study.   She graduated from the Howard University School of Business in 1974 with a Bachelor in Business Management and then returned to Howard University’s School of Divinity and obtained a Masters of Arts degree in Religious Studies in 1997.  She is an anointed Spirit-Filled, Preacher-Teacher, dancer, singer, mother, cook and grandmother.  Her belief is that the anointing is needed to do everything….even vacuum her floor! She has traveled and divided God’s Word doing workshops, and women’s retreats in Greece, Washington, D. C., Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Texas, New Mexico, Lagos and Benin City, Nigeria. Her messages are filled with truth, healing, restoration and reconciliation, wisdom, hope, instruction and deliverance!  Currently, Reverend Battle serves as an Associate Minister at Greater Mt. Calvary Holy Church in Washington, D. C. in the Ministerial Alliance where her covering are Shepherds Bishop Alfred A. Owens, Jr. and Co-Pastor Susie C. Owens.


Helen Jean Kruger is the face of Georgetown.  She has lived there her entire life graduating from Georgetown High School in 1961. She serves on various community organizations and committees such as Georgetown Little League, Wesley Methodist Church, Chamber of Commerce. Pop Warner, Rotary, World Series and the list goes on.  Helen Jean is always willing to lend a hand so that children, adults and businesses alike all benefit, bond and prosper.  Her strong work ethic and dedication was exhibited by her employment at Farmers Bank now known as Mellon for 37 years.  First and foremost, and closet to her heart is her family.  She has been married to Paul Kruger for 49 years and has three grown children and four grandchildren.  Just like her mother, she found a way to balance a full time job, serving the community and placing family always first.


Linda was born in Gadsden, Alabama and is the oldest of 5 children. She was raised by her grandparents who were hard working, religious people and who passed on these qualities to her. She married John W. Stokes and they were blessed with three children and 7 grandchildren. Getting married at a early age, Linda was not able to immediately pursue her education.  Along with being a mother, Linda went to work and stayed with the same company for 48 years rising to the position as Director of Operations. During her career, she achieved all levels of education needed to perform in the positions she had achieved. Her love for God and family and helping others has been her drive and motivation. She has dedicated her life to her children and helping others achieve a purpose in life. A few years after the death of her children’s father, linda married Dewey F. Mitchell, and became a stepmother to his 3 children. Linda is an active member in Northern Heights Baptist Church and helps her husband operate his business along with working in a gift shop that she opened 2 years ago. Her hobbies include gardening, playing withe her 2 young grandchildren and helping others.


Raised in Clarkston, Michigan, Julie Sparks graduated from Central Michigan University where she studied Journalism. She moved to Hawaii in 1992 and established a medical clinic in Ewa Beach with her former husband. Julie married her husband Cory in 2009. They reside in Honolulu, Hawaii. Julie is a licensed Realtor and was named one of Honolulu’s Best Realtors by Honolulu Magazine in 2013. She is currently in her final semester at the University of Hawaii’s William S. Richardson School of Law. She serves the community as President of the Federalist Society, Treasurer of La Alianza, interning in the Senate Minority Research Office, and is a member of the choir at First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu. Julie embraces physical fitness enjoying both kick-boxing and running. She continues to raise and mentor her three children, Brittany, Aaron, and Paige, and grandson Diego and enjoys spending time with her family and friends.


The importance of a supportive family was a blessing for Becky Rowan. Family traditions such as Sunday meals at her grandparent’s small farmhouse in Middleton influenced her future family gatherings. Becky was active in high school. She was head cheerleader her senior year and awarded valedictorian of her class. She attended The College of Idaho and received a B.S. in Mathematics with a minor in Physics and Business Administration – graduating in three years. Most importantly, she met her future husband, Paul, at the College of Idaho and they maintained a long distance relationship during their graduate school programs. Becky graduated from Stanford University with a Master’s of Science in Petroleum Engineering. She retired from her fast track career to raise her family and to be closer to her mom who was battling breast cancer at the time. She continues to be active in her children’s lives who are currently pursuing graduate degrees in health care professions


Kathryn Holyoak, a mother of six children, was born and raised in the Midwest but went to high school in San Diego, California.  Following high school she attended college in Utah where she met and married her sweetheart, David.  David began his career in Salt Lake and Kathryn became a mother.  After seven years, David and Kathryn moved to Connecticut where they lived for twelve years.   In 2001, their family moved to the Chicagoland area.  To date, her children range in age from thirteen to thirty years old.  Additionally, she is a grandmother to four.  Kathryn’s hobbies include tennis, playing the piano, reading a good book, volunteering time in her community and church, and growing her own vegetables.  Kathryn’s greatest joy and contentment comes from watching her children develop into loving, respectful, faithful and responsible men and women.  She delights in being together as a family and always looks forward to family vacations.


Suzanne M. Beard was born September 25, 1948 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She is the youngest of five children. She attended parochial grade and high school in Fort Wayne. In 1970, she graduated from Indiana University with Associate Degree in Dental Hygiene and returned to I.U. in 1990 for Education Degree graduating with B.S. She continues to this day educating children, pregnant girls and adults on how to save their teeth and gum tissue for a lifetime and still cleaning teeth professionally after 44 years. Suzanne married Bill in 1970 and had 3 wonderful children, now all adults, 2 fun grandsons and very happily married for 44 years to Bill! My love is people and talking about LOVE and and giving HOPE to others as GOD has commanded us to do.


Naomi Christensen grew up on an Iowa farm, attended college in Sioux Falls, SD, and was a self-employed farmer with her husband Bob for 55 years until Bob’s death in 2008. She has two children: Doug, a corporate oil assistant manager, and Donna, an attorney and human resources director, as well as five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Naomi was the first woman elected to the Mills County Board of Supervisors, is an Iowa Master Homemaker, Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame inductee, and received the Cristine Wilson Medal for Equality & Justice from the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women. Naomi was instrumental in starting two women’s shelters, served on the United Methodist Church’s Board of Global Ministries, and has been a lifelong advocate for women and children. Currently residing in Council Bluffs, IA, Naomi remains active as a children’s Sunday school teacher, choir member, and fundraising and activities volunteer.


Sheri Hills was born in Provo, Utah to Merlin & Carol Isaacson as the only daughter, and youngest, of 4 children.  She graduated from Timpview High School and attended Brigham Young University.  She married Gregory S. Hills in Provo, Utah.  They have 9 children (7 daughters & 2 sons), 3 sons-in-law, and 2 granddaughters.  Sheri and Greg have lived in Utah, Washington, and Kansas during their 30+ years of marriage.  Sheri’s interests include reading, history, current events, music, homemaking, and service in her church.   She is currently serving as the Young Women’s President in the Glen Hills Ward of her church.  She enjoys her volunteer work at an elementary school and at a local family history center.  She also serves on the site council for the Derby High School.


Marion Newcomer is a married mother of four and a grandmother of one. Marion married her high school sweetheart and together Marion and Russ raised one daughter and three sons. Marion and Russ raised their children in a loving, faith-filled home with the understanding that family comes first (after God). Two of the four children are married and in 2013, a grand child blessed the Newcomer family


Sabrina Wisher is a single mom of four amazing kids, Mikayla, Audrey, Steel and Hunter. Sabrina grew up in Kalispell, Montana working with her father Jerry, in the family owned business, Wishers Auto Recycling. Sabrina is proud to say that Wisher's donates a van to a family with a special needs child, they are going on their 6th year of blessing families. One of Sabrina's greatest accomplishments is being the advocate for her daughter Mikayla. The doctors told Sabrina that Mikayla would only live to the age of a one year old, today Sabrina is proud to say Mikayla is 22 years old. Sabrina has recently started a foundation in honor of her daughter, “Mikayla's Miracles & Blessings Foundation”, which will help families get the equipment they may need to give their child the quality of life they deserve. Sabrina continues to live her life motto “NO GIVIN UP”!


Sheila Monke is a born and bred Nebraska farm girl. Her parents were hard-working, loving people who raised their four daughters to be just the same. Even though her parents divorced when she was eight years of age, the values they instilled remain a constant in her life. The years of education began in a one room school, never quite ending, as learning is an everyday occurrence no matter the age. Teaching was her chosen field of profession, working with Special Education students, focused in the area of Behavior Modification, loving every moment with these fine young minds to fit the pieces of the individual puzzle together. She married her 'best friend' thirty-five years ago, never a question regarding this choice. They worked well and hard together in an agriculture-business, building a foundation that is currently a third generation success. Three wonderful children were born to this couple, the greatest achievement for them both.


Robin Van Kempen was born in 1964 and was raised in the California bay area. She attended Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri and studied communications. She also met her husband Tom there. They have four children and four grandchildren. Robin (a licensed minister) and her husband Tom, pastor The Champion Center of Las Vegas which is known for its community outreach, cultural diversity and friendly atmosphere. There are five weekend church services averaging 1200 in attendance. Robin is the co-founder of Girl Up, a thriving ministry to women of all ages and a published author of two devotionals. Along with her church responsibilities, she teaches elementary music. Robin always has a project in the works and creatively can turn an old sock into something beautiful. Her chocolate chip cookies are famous and in high demand. Her humorous look at life will tickle you and have you asking “Did she just say that?”


Judy Miller and husband John live in Red River, N.M. They have four children: John Jr. (Karen); Mary Miller; Ellen Goins (Geoff); and Linda MIller; and five grandchildren: Jack and Michael Miller; William Goins; and Nathan and Helena Mieras. Helen Billie Dorrance was born May 4, 1936. At age four she named herself after Judy Garland. Judy's family moved to Denver in 1941 and Boulder, Colorado, in 1953. While attending the University of Colorado in Boulder, Judy met John. They married Feb. 3, 1957. In 1963, Judy and John and their three children moved to Red River. Linda was born after the move in 1964. Judy has been a co-owner of Powder Puff Mountain Ski Area, Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area and the retail stores Millers Crossing and The Earth Store. She and John are long-time members of St. James Episcopal Church in Taos. She continues to be active in many Civic and cultural activities. After retiring in 2010, Judy still cross country skis, snowshoes and hikes several times a week. She also loves to bird watch and look for native animals along the highway.


Janice Schimke was born on a small farm in middle North Dakota on December 25th.  She went to Minot State Teachers College where she received a Two Year Standard Teaching Certificate.  Jim Koenig, who was teaching sixth grade at the same school, stole her heart and they were married.  Janice received a scholarship and went back to college to get her BS Degree with majors in Elementary Education, Speech Pathology and Special Education, graduating Magna Cum Laude.  She received a Master’s Degree in Special Education from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado.  Janice taught special education students in Minot and then became the Director of Special Education in Ward County and Minot Public Schools.  She became a widow at age 31 with two children but was blessed to meet a widower, Arnold Schimke and they were later married.  Janice taught first grade at Shiloh Christian School, special education at Saxvik School and then became a Coordinator for Special Education at the State Department of Public Instruction.  She is currently retired and enjoys traveling with her husband and thoroughly enjoys her twelve wonderful grandchildren.


Ann Stephenson Cameron graduated from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 1989 with a degree in Journalism. Ann played varsity tennis at UNC and professional tennis until 1994, when she married her husband Alex. Ann and Alex moved to Edmond, Oklahoma where they and their children, Sarah and Scott, reside. Ann is committed to serving her community and helping young people obtain the mentorship and education they need to be successful adults. She currently serves as Chair of the Governor’s Early Childhood Advisory Council-Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness. In 2009-2010, Ann was President of the Junior League of Oklahoma City and oversaw a very successful community literacy project. She supported local schools as PTO President and team parent in multiple sports. Ann is also a passionate advocate of Scouting, serving on the Boards of the Boy Scouts of America Last Frontier Council and the Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma.


Talented woman, and exemplary mother of three daugthers, Nylda Rosa González has been instrumental in having three professionals who have stabled families. Nylda is known in her community as a firm, values-oriented christian who is serve as agent of social change for families abroad. Born in Puerto Rico on March 5, 1946, she completed her elementary school years at the Webster Elementary School in Peñuelas Puerto Rico. Her High School years she attended the Ponce High School in Ponce, Puerto Rico, graduating from business study program. Soon after graduation, she worked at the Kress Department Store and soon became the Cashiers Supervisor. She completed a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a minor in Accounting at the Pontificiate Catholic University, Ponce, Puerto Rico. After graduation, she started her own entrepreneurial career by opening Elegance Unisex Hair Styling Saloon in 1982.


Gerre Schwert grew up in rural Oklahoma, graduating from Oklahoma State University. After marriage, she taught elementary grades in Oklahoma City Public Schools. She and her husband raised four children in Bartlesville, Oklahoma where she was active as a community, school and church volunteer. Following a divorce, she returned to university while working part time. She subsequently received a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Oklahoma, and clinical licensure as an LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) two years later. She discovered her passion in working with cancer patients and their families at Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut and at Memorial Hospital's Cancer Center in Chattanooga. through a process of study with the Center For Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, DC, Gerre became certified as a mind-body therapist in 2006. She continues to facilitate Mind-Body Skills Groups and to teach journaling workshops. She and her husband have ten grandchildren who are the delights of their lives.


Kimberly Jones was diagnosed with breast cancer almost 5 years ago and has been battling it ever since.  She became part of the speakers bureau of Komen a year ago in order to give back and offer support to patients and families who are going through the same trials and adversity. She has a membership to the “Pink Ribbon” club even though she had never been asked to join and has been blessed to have been introduced to a lot of amazing women and men who want to help educate the community about breast cancer. One out of every 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and many will be touched by breast cancer.


Born in 1959 to Evan and Darlene Madsen, Melanie was the 3rd of six children. She graduated from Cottonwood High and attended Ricks College. In 1989, she was a single mother of 2 boys. She had an autoimmune disease called Myasthenia Gravis that is currently in remission. She later met and married Ron Stoker, a widower with 6 children. They married and combined families, having a 9th child together. They fostered 3 additional children who tragically lost their mother for several years. Their life together has been filled with joy and sprinkled with trials. They have had challenges with children, health and finances. Melanie's husband broke his neck, had numerous surgeries, a serious infection and was injured in a surgery leaving him a quadriplegic. Through much determination, Melanie was able to teach him to walk again. They have lived through sickness and health, poverty and wealth and have placed their faith in God.


Celeste Mergens is the mother of 6 children by birth and 4 bonus kids (their equally loved spouses). She and her best friend and husband of 31 years, Don Mergens have the blessing of 12 grandchildren. All count among her favorite people. Their home has always been a place to join in the fun, one that has welcomed numerous foster and exchange students as well. The boundaries of family extend beyond their home. In fact, Celeste is known as “Mama Mergens” by children and adults throughout the world because of her service in leading global initiatives improving health and educational opportunities for women and children. Celeste returned to college after her children were all in school and earned a Masters Degree in Creative Writing at 44 years of age. She went on to study Sustainable Global Development and in 2008 founded Days for Girls International which she directs today.


Kristin Bringhurst was blessed to grow up in beautiful Afton, Wyoming. She was raised by wonderful parents and is the oldest of four children. She graduated from Utah State University with a master's degree in Deaf Education. After graduating from college she married Stuart Bringhurst and began teaching for the Utah school for the Deaf. When she started having children, she began teaching part time to have more time with her own kids. She has four children ages 7, 9, 17, and 20 who are the light of her life. She loves to grow, make, and eat fabulous, healthy food and feed it to her family. She also loves the theater, both as a performer, and audience member and has enjoyed directing and being in several productions with her children. She currently lives in Afton where she works a few hours a week as a teacher of the Deaf and full time as a mom.