|Donna J. Walker
By honoring my mother, Katrine Olesen Schumann, I feel that I am paying tribute to all career women who find success and satisfaction in their work, but never lose sight of the importance of their family.
Mother received her teacher's certificate from the college that is now known as the University of Northern Iowa. She taught school for one year before deciding to pursue a career in business. In her early twenties, she started working in the office for her father, who had founded Jens Olesen Construction Company in Waterloo, Iowa. With the advent of World War II, when nearly all the male officers of the company were called to the service of their country, Mother assumed expanded responsibility for corporate affairs. She served as the "right hand person" to her brother, J. Peter Olesen, who was now president of the company. She was also very active in the affairs of another family business, the Olesen Simonsen Realty company, which owned and operated several major commercial properties in downtown Waterloo as well as numerous residential properties. Mother was the accountant, treasurer and manager of the company holdings. She played a vital role in this enterprise until her retirement at age 65. Mother remained active as personal assistant to her brother until his death in 1980. Following Peter's death, she maintained accounting records of the Olesen Simonsen Realty company for her nephew, Roger Olesen. At age 82 she relinquished these responsibilities.
Throughout her busy career, she always found time for her husband and two daughters. She read to us as children, played games with us, and recited from memory wonderful poetry. She was very active in our lives. Our interests were her interests whether it involved dancing, piano lessons, or attending school functions. She was always available. My sister and I readily volunteered her to bake goodies for school and social functions without her prior consent. She never let us down! It wasn't until I had children of my own that I realized how many times I had imposed on her already busy schedule without giving it a second thought. Because of the demands on Mother's time, my sister and I participated in the household chores each Saturday. It was not a time of drudgery, rather it was a time for sharing and companionship. We often sang church hymns as we did the laundry because those were the songs to which Mother knew all the words.
Mother's greatest legacy to me was her joyful spirit. She had the ability to find humor in all types of situations, including her own shortcomings. If I could pass along just one aspect of mother's life to the multitudes of women confronted with the demands of balancing a career and family it would be the gift of laughter.
Submitted on 7/1/96