Irma S. (84) of Brookdale Santa Catalina is passionate about history, especially African American history. She believes it is a much neglected aspect of history taught in schools and that it is extremely important for everyone to learn about. It is the only way people will gain an understanding of our shared history as Americans and put an end to racism. Irma regularly gives presentations in her community to teach other residents about it. In 2003, President Bush signed the bill creating the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. Irma donated money early on and is a charter member because she believes it will help everyone understand American history better. Irma has waited 13 years for it to open and her Wish of a Lifetime was to finally go see it for herself.
Irma dedicated her career to helping others. She spent a few years teaching in her beloved Brooklyn and later for the Air Force. She faced racism while teaching for overseas in London for the Air Force, but refused to let it impact her teaching. Irma was able to bond with her students and feel like she was able to make a difference with them. After teaching, Irma was a social worker specializing in adoption and foster care. She helped countless children throughout her career and continued to do so after retiring. Irma stayed active by volunteering for a myriad of organizations; many focused on helping children learn to read. Irma is currently volunteering with Interfaith Community Services; an organization that provides services to older adults and incapacitated individuals. Through Santa Catalina Catholic Church in Tucson, she also assists in a program that helps refugees acclimate to their new environment in Tucson, AZ.
Wish of a Lifetime and Brookdale were excited to help Irma connect with her passion by sending her to the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in April 2017. She was accompanied by her friend and Brookdale staff member, Sally Hamman. Irma stated that her favorite part at the museum was when she toured the Sports section and saw a bronze statue of Jackie Robinson stealing “home”. When Irma was in high school she had the opportunity to interview Jackie Robinson in person and she stated that when she saw the statue it was as if she was with him again in person. While Irma was touring the museum she stated “I felt that it was really wonderful that this kind of display was available for the world to see”. During her time in DC, Irma was also able to reconnect with two of her friends that she has known since elementary school in Brooklyn, NY. Irma had not seen her friend Juliana since college which she estimated to be around 1953. Joan was the second friend that she was able to see in DC, Irma had seen Joan in 2012 but before then it had not been since the 3rd grade. Having the opportunity to tour the museum with both of these friends made the experience even more meaningful to Irma. Irma and Sally will be placing together a presentation for the other resident as to what they learned and saw at the museum sometime in June 2017.
Photography Credits: Allison Fitzsimmons Photography