As the sixth of 8 children (when most of my parents’ friends were probably ducking for cover), I somehow managed to score the best godparents ever. Edythe and Arthur Mendolia were the kindest, most generous, and elegant couple imaginable, but both they and my parents came from humble beginnings –to put it mildly. Arthur lived with my dad in the YMCA in Niagara Falls when they both were starting their careers at DuPont, but while my dad stayed a research chemist, Arthur went straight to the top. And Edythe was his perfect partner – a sparkling, impeccably dressed, incredibly thoughtful and vividly alive woman who never forgets a birthday, an anniversary or a holiday.
Especially mine –she showered me with gifts and attention, to my brothers and sisters’ total disgust–which was a complete bonus. Mrs. Mendolia took me to my first movie, let me order butterscotch sundaes at lunch, and would invite me to her house – a cool, quiet oasis of art, modern furniture, and utter sophistication that was as exotic to me as outer space. Despite the different circles my parents and the Mendolias moved in, they remained deep and loyal friends, bound by a shared past and similar values. Family meant everything to them – Edythe & Art were married for 65 years with 2 beautiful daughters of their own, Pamela & Cynthia, 4 grandchildren and 2 great-children, until Arthur passed away several years ago.
But today is Edythe’s 92nd birthday and she is just as vividly alive as ever. She still takes center stage in any gathering (she just starred as Eliza in My Fair Lady & aced it!) and plays golf 4-5 times a week in good weather. And she’s still devoted to a charity called First Tee that she’s been supporting for years.
I am not a golfer (to say the least) and I don’t really know much about the game. But I do know that First Tee is an amazing program that uses golf to teach life skills and character development to kids who might otherwise never get a chance to play. And I’ve witnessed First Tee in action, at the East Lake Foundation in Atlanta, where 481 kids are being introduced to the game, so I know the kind of impact it can have on children’s personal development.
Since 1997, First Tee has established 198 chapters in 707 locations, and reached 3.5 million kids in all 50 states with the Life Lessons that golf doesn’t just teach, but are inherent in the game. First Tee calls them the 9 Core Values of Honesty, Integrity, Sportsmanship, Respect, Confidence, Responsibility, Perseverance, Courtesy, Judgment – and if a child learns these (through golf or otherwise) they’ll probably go pretty far in life. In fact, my godmother believed in those core values so firmly, her daughters established a scholarship in her name, to help First Tee kids who exemplified those values go to college.
In thanksgiving today for my amazing godmother, who always made me feel so special and gives so much to others, I’m donating $100 to First Tee in her name. Happy Birthday, Edythe! To join me (not on the links but on this link), click here.