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2009 Grandparent of the Year Award

GRAND magazine proudly presents the 2009 GRANDparent of the Year and the top nominees

We love fall-that’s when we are privileged to introduce you to the cool people our readers have nominated for GRANDparent of the Year.

GRAND fever is spreading (good news always does). Nominations came from all over the country, and two of our featured grands are from Canada and the UK. Because we received so many wonderful nominations, there are more than two dozen runners-up besides our five finalists.

This year’s GRANDparent of the Year has no problem keeping up with the teens in her life, her fave people on earth. Meet our winner, Connie Sailors, and all our other all-star grands.

GRANDparent of the Year 2009

Connie Sailors

Aurora, NE
Nominator: Glenda Schultz, daughter

Connie Sailors is never more than a phone call away from her grandchildren-and the answer is always “yes.” Yes, you can stay with me while your parents are out of town. Yes, you and your friends can hang out here after school. Yes, you can bring friends over on a Friday night. Yes, you can all meet here before the game.

GRAND’s panel of judges chose Connie Sailors from hundreds of entries-all of them stories of love and sacrifice and strength and courage-because we believe that providing a loving, stable, generous and understanding sanctuary for teenagers is a bell ringer! Who doesn’t love babies and wide-eyed toddlers? And then, well, as it all gets a little bit more complicated…what happens?

What happens at Connie Sailors’ house is that she makes brownies-“and all our favorite food!” her grandchildren wrote-when the kids and their friends come to visit.

“Her door is always open, a clean bed is always available, music and laughter well up from her basement, and there are hugs for us all.”


Thomas Balogh, Bethlehem, PA, works the night shift at a steel plant, and then comes home and watches his grandson early in the morning so his daughter can go to work. Even though he’s worked all night, he isn’t too tired to take his grandson to see trains and trucks and play baseball. After four years with one grandchild, he chose to watch two more! Three kids to school and swimming lessons-and all after a night of hard labor.
Nominator: Tara Balogh, daughter

Marguerite and Bob Caron, South Royalton, VT, give selflessly to their community and are involved in church and civic organizations. Most significantly, they have helped their children raise three children, teaching them all to embody a spirit of humility and grace. As a result, their grandkids are empathetic, compassionate and generous. Marguerite and Bob routinely spend many hours with their grandkids. Whether it is baking a homemade strawberry rhubarb pie together or putting together a new rototiller, they have given their grandkids roots and wings, and they have modeled what it means to be an active world citizen.
Nominator: Diane Moritz, daughter-in-law

Laura Cooper and her husband, Elizabethtown, KY, adopted their granddaughter, whom they had raised since birth, when she was 4. They then (1998) started a support group for grandparents raising grandchildren. For four years they also took care of the biological parents of their adopted daughter.
Nominator: Amber Cooper, daughter

Renee Weil, Forest Hills, NY, retired early to help her children raise their four children (ages 4-13). She wakes them every morning with breakfast, a drawn bath and clean clothes. She never misses any of their competitions-and, for the nine other grandchildren who live farther away, she has never missed a card, a call, a visit with a kiss, or a birthday.
Nominator: Martin Haberstumpf, son-in-law

Barbara “Bobbie” Wilder, Las Vegas, NV, is beloved by her grandchildren, who “inherited” her when they, as foster children, were adopted. They find her always ready to listen, to play, to cook dinner; she has their pictures, artwork and photographs hanging all over her walls. She has been inspirational in teaching them how to care for others-so much so that one of her former-foster-child g’kids is receiving the National Caring Award in October [https://www.caring-institute.org/].
Nominator: Heather Wilder, adoptive granddaughter


Verna Puckett, Sarasota, FL, helped keep her granddaughter safe, but in the process she had to stand up against her son in court.
Nominator: Amy Boothby, adoptive mother of grandchild

Barbara Ausec, Buena Park, CA, watches her grandson every day when daughter Kelli goes to work; every night he calls her to say “goodnight” and they sing “You Are My Sunshine” to each other.
Nominator: Kelli Nunez, daughter

Mildred Deem, Berlin, PA, Ella’s mom, learned she had breast cancer when Jodi, Ella’s sister, was pregnant with triplets. Mildred had the mass removed, went through radiation and never missed a beat with helping Jodi. She finished her treatments, and now she takes care of the triplets and their sibling, Sara, five days a week and sometimes on weekends when Jodi needs help.
Nominator: Ella J. Marr, daughter

Carol and Doug Lay, Suamico, WI, moved to be closer to their grandchildren. Carol, a retired school teacher, volunteers in her grandson’s kindergarten classroom every week and took classes to learn how to care for her 4-year-old granddaughter, a type I diabetic.
Nominator: Tracy Lay, daughter-in-law

Joan Vertucci, Tallahassee, FL, makes a daily lunch for her daughter so she can come and spend time with her daughter on her lunch break.
Nominator: Pat Thor, friend

Juanita Floyd, Detroit, MI, said not to put her grandchildren in daycare; she insisted that at 71 she could handle three children under 3-and she does.
Nominator: Karen Sanders, daughter

Carol Stewart, Maumee, OH, has managed to form a special bond with each of her five grandchildren; they happily come running to hug her first when they come to visit.
Nominator: John Stewart, husband

Cindy Johnson, Bellevue, WA, convinced her husband to refinance their home and hand over $10,000 to pay for her daughter and son-in-law to have in vitro fertilization after a three-year fertility battle. Their first cycle was successful, and they had a healthy baby boy.
Nominator: Danielle Dedmon, daughter

David and Janice Willis, Mims, FL, can’t drive the 500 miles to visit their grandkids as often as they’d like, so they fill the time in between with online video calls so they can see the children play and hear them laugh. The computer is their grandparent portal.
Nominator: Jennifer Haffner, daughter

Derrell and Lea Dodd, Hercules, CA, welcomed their daughter, her husband and their children into their home without hesitation when the children were about to lose their home due to the economy. They attend every sporting event and special events for all of their grandkids.
Nominator: Christy Perimon, daughter

Camille Brennan, Easton, PA, is the one her grandkids call for when they wake up in the morning and is the one they want to be held by when sick. Through the crying pediatrician appointments, 105 degree fevers, stomach viruses, earaches or just when a hug is needed, Nana is there for Cael and Grace.
Nominator: Greg Troxell, son-in-law

Lynette Betts (“Lolly”), Yuba City, CA, is amazing. Not only is she currently doing several jobs at the same time (housekeeping, bookkeeping, part-time admin at the church, and other odd jobs), she also helps with her newest grandbaby, picks up kids from school, cooks dinner and keeps the family all in line.
Nominator: Jessyca Knife, daughter

Gordy Arts, Woodbury, MN, helped his grandson, Jimmy, with his Pinewood Derby car, has taken him to car shows, has taught him about engines and has showed him how to weld; he’s a grandfather taking the place of a father, and he’s helped every day to shape Jimmy into a wonderful young man.
Nominator: Tanya Arts, daughter

Keith Bolton, Jupiter, FL, lives in Florida, and his first grandson was born in Oklahoma. Finding it difficult to be so far away, Keith researched videoconferencing and incorporated puppets, costumes and even making movies for his grandson. Today, he has a grand audience of three and has developed incredible techniques to increase his grandchildren’s learning curve, social skills and musical talent.
Nominator: Lorraine Bolton, wife

Jerry and Patty Pemerton, Algood, TN, watch the grandchildren during vacation time, take them to school after making a hot breakfast, sit with the preschool kids, and pick up all the kids after school, making sure they are fed and taken care of before they are picked up in the evening.
Nominator: Bill Pemerton, son

Saundie Smith, Hilltop, WV, attends every special event of all four of her grandchildren. Since her retirement, she has volunteered for the American Red Cross and the Make-a-Wish Foundation, and her grandchildren see her as a hero for all the love she gives to them and to others.
Nominator: Christy Wasson, daughter

H. Grady Thrasher, III, Watkinsville, GA, teaches his granddaughters important lessons on how to love and nurture relationships, and shares his gardening talents and stories of his father and growing up in the South. He is generous and loving.
Nominator: Adrienne Hobbs, daughter-in-law

Marti Murtha, Queen Creek, AZ, moved 900 miles and bought a house on the street where her daughter and son-in-law had built a house, just to be near the grandchildren when they needed her.
Nominator: Dyana Estes, daughter

Sushila Shah (“Nani”), London, England, travels every summer to Texas to see her granddaughter, who says, “She brings me games and presents from London. We play Rummy every night, before bed she tells funny stories, she helps out around the house, she teaches me how to make my favorite food, and I hope one day I can be as good a cook as her.”
Nominator: Nidhi Pandya, granddaughter

Michael Beyelia, San Lorenzo, CA, is always cooking something for everyone. He takes the grandkids to the aquariums, museums, parks and fairs and says he can hardly wait for his older grandson to start school so he can help him with science projects.
Nominator: Marie Chantel Woods, daughter-in-law

Donna Johnson, Dallas, TX, who is passionate about wildlife rehabilitation and who has spent countless hours and thousands of dollars helping injured and orphaned animals, has taught her grandchildren how to nurture an animal until it is ready to be released back into the wild. From her, they have learned compassion and respect for all living creatures, big and small.
Nominator: Shelly Johnson, daughter

Jan McGill, Gadsden, AL, gets down on the floor and wrestles with her grandchildren, plays the Wii with them, goes hiking, teaches cooking and how to care for animals and does many other activities.
Nominator: Vickie Watson

Terri Jerome, Port Huron, MI, works full-time and is raising her two oldest grandchildren in addition to her daughter.
Nominator: Nancy Sloan, mother

Virgen Cintra, Miami, FL, takes good care of her children and grandchildren, in good times and in bad. Her daughter-in-law, who has no family in the U.S., is grateful for her warmth and understanding.
Nominator: Yolima Cintra, daughter-in-law

Flora Shaughnessey, Metairie, LA, is a grandmother to her children’s children-and an honorary grandparent to a lot of children who are not biologically related to her. She is the first one they all call; she always gives of herself and asks nothing in return.
Nominator: Allen Schulkens, husband

Jeff DeVall, Saint Johns, AZ, took in his granddaughter, who had been living in a house of drugs.
Nominator: Jeff DeVall, self

Bob and Lily Tuggle, Elberta, AL, sacrificed their own needs to make it possible for their granddaughter to go to a good school, be on the swim team and take piano lessons.
Nominator: Amber Tuggle, granddaughter

Editors Note: For more on the Grandparent of the Year Award

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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