Writer: James Combs
Although this month is Mother’s Day, it is important to remember that women are amazing year round.
They work full-time, cook, clean, carpool, and perform other thankless tasks throughout the course of a day. Most impressively, moms play the most critical role in a child’s life. They help clean the cuts and scrapes from a toddler’s first bicycle accident and provide a listening ear and unwavering support as a child goes through the tumultuous teenage years.
One special woman is Mary Jo Zylowski of Fruitland Park. She was one of the first people I met after moving to Picciola Island in March 2004. I’m proud to call her a friend and neighbor. During my evening walks around the island, I’ve always been able to count on Mary Jo to greet me with a friendly smile or kind words and conversation. That smile never goes away—even when my hyper golden retriever, Champ, gets overly excited and jumps on her.
Who can blame Champ? After all, they say dogs are excellent judges of human character. And Mary Jo has plenty of that.
She successfully juggles a full-time job with family life. During the day, she works as an environmental service technician at Leesburg Regional Medical Center. That job entails cleaning operating rooms after open-heart surgery procedures, as well as cleaning patients’ rooms every other weekend. She dusts and disinfects everything from the bedrails to the television remote control.
“I love the interaction with the patients and their family members,” she says. “I’m one of the few people patients see in the hospital who is not poking them with a needle or giving them medication. They enjoy talking to me about their problems, and it makes them feel good that someone is listening.”
Of course, Mary Jo still bears a heavy load after clocking out of work. That’s because her 13-year-old son, Conner, is involved in many athletic and academic activities. They include, but are not limited to, STEM competitions, soccer, baseball, bowling, a jazz band, and once-a-week guitar lessons.
Guess what? Mary Jo attends all these extracurricular activities.
“I live for my son. He always comes first. I plan my days around his activities and make adjustments when needed. I recently signed up to be a volunteer at Conner’s school so I can go on field trips with his class.”
Mary Jo is a modest woman. She does not do these things for accolades or appreciation but rather out of the goodness of her big heart.
One day, Conner will realize that there is no gift expensive enough and no words powerful enough to ever repay his mother for her sacrifice and support.
I wish a Happy Mother’s Day to Mary Jo and all the other wonderful mothers for your continuous giving and unconditional love.