When Helen Glaser learned she had won The Observer’s “Memories with Mom” contest, she was more than a little surprised. In fact, she had no idea she had even entered.
The contest asked readers to submit a short story detailing their favorite memory of their mother for a chance to win a prize package and share the story with Observer readers. The prize package includes a $50 gift certificate to Carats Fine Jewelry and a massage and facial from Massage Envy. It also includes dinner for two at Casa Antica.
Helen Glaser’s husband, Len, regularly reads the paper, and he decided to enter the contest on his wife’s behalf — as a surprise.
“Len told me we had won, and I thought he was kidding,” says Helen Glaser. “When I realized it was the truth, I was surprised and excited. He’s always doing nice things like that.”
Len Glaser says he saw the contest as a great opportunity to share his memories of his wife’s late mother, Maya Nathan, whom he says had a lasting impact on both his and his wife’s life.
“I knew Helen would never enter on her own,” says Len Glaser. “She’s too shy. But, her mother was a wonderful person with an amazing story, and I wanted to honor her.”
His submission details the story of the late Maya Nathan’s escape from German-occupied Denmark with her then 3-year-old daughter, Helen Glaser, and infant son. Nathan and her children escaped Copenhagen on a fishing boat, fled to Sweden and eventually immigrated to the United States, where they were reunited with her husband.
Nathan lived in the United States, where she and her husband became engaged in the community by giving both their time and money. She died in 1989 in Fort Myers, at the age of 75.
When Helen Glaser finally had the opportunity to read the story her husband had submitted about her mother, she says she was moved by what he had written.
“It was beautiful,” she says. “All these memories started coming back to me. I miss my mother very much.”
Helen Glaser says her mother’s experiences led her to treat her life as a blessing, and when she arrived in the United States, she lived a life of philanthropy and instilled the same values in her children.
She says her mother’s bravery and generosity impacted both her and her husband, and that it had a significant influence on their involvement in the community.
“She was a very strong, loving and charitable person,” says Helen Glaser. “To think about a 27- and 30-year-old couple picking up and moving to a new country, with no family, in search of a better life; I’m really appreciative of everything they did. Giving back is our motto. I want to continue her legacy of doing good things for other people.”
Generation to generation
Helen Glaser’s youngest daughter, June Glaser Schechner, shares her memories of her grandmother and mother and talks about the impact the women had on the rest of the family:
“I’m the youngest of Helen’s three daughters. My sisters and I each named our first child after our two grandmothers, so we honored her memory in that way.”
“My mother never goes to bed angry. Not with my father, not with us — not with anyone. I don’t know if she learned that lesson from her mother, but it’s something she taught us.”
“She was a great influence on all of us. She had unconditional love. My mother learned that. We learned that. And, I hope our children will learn that. We live our lives that we are blessed, and when you’re blessed, you share.”