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October 25. 2012 9:52PM

Alyson Mireault: How the woman who cared for me as an infant changed my life

Editor’s note: The Nackey Loeb School of Communications and its longtime supporter PSNH co-sponsored an essay contest to give one student or alumnus the opportunity to attend the New Hampshire Humanities Council’s 23rd Annual Dinner in Manchester on Oct. 18. The winner was 15-year-old Alyson Mireault, a home-schooled student from Keene. She got a seat of honor at PSNH’s table and was recognized at the event. Her winning essay is reprinted below.

I don’t know if you have ever heard of Joanne Nadeau, but she is very near and dear to my heart. Through her example, she taught me many great lessons in life.

My relationship with this wonderful woman began when I was three months old. My mother and father had skeptical thoughts about anyone who would be a caregiver for me. Their search was long and varied. Their minds were immediately put at ease, however, when they met Joanne, “Jo Jo.” Personality, charisma and character were deciding factors for the position. Obviously the qualities were outstanding or I wouldn’t have been cared for by loving hands until I was two years old.

Jo Jo has always been more than just a caregiver; she has become like a grandmother. My mom and dad used to call her all the time for advice in taking care of me; I was their first and only child. She always answered their questions and gave great guidance. The longer we knew her, the more examples we got of what an amazing person she truly is. Even though she has had many devastating things happen to her, she remains a good, kind, caring and loving individual.

This is a woman who persevered her whole life. Her first husband was the love of her life, and together they had a son and three daughters. God had her husband pass on early, leaving Jo Jo with four young children. She was independent and capable of raising them on her own. When her son was 16, he was in a car accident that took his life. Her youngest daughter, while in her early forties, contracted pneumonia and became very ill. Sadly, the sickness took her life. Another of her daughters became sick from food poisoning. While in the hospital, she required surgery. Due to complications, her mind is now severely incapacitated.

Jo Jo had married a second time while her children were young. For many years she tolerated her second husband’s verbal abuse and unkind treatment. She finally divorced him, though based on her faith she found this difficult to do. During this span of years, through losses and tests of strength, she never once got angry about anything that befell her. Of course she was sad, but never angry.

I know her strong faith helped her get through those trying and arduous times in life. With all of what she went through she never gave up, never lost her faith, and never lost herself.

I have learned life lessons from her that will never become outdated. These lessons are and will always be useful. Perseverance — to never give up no matter how much you want to. Be true to yourself even when others around you are influencing you otherwise. Have a strong faith and it will help you through tough times. Jo Jo and her lessons will forever have a special place in my heart and mind.

It seems like there are not enough individuals in our world who are like my Jo Jo, but I intend to be one and follow the example she laid out so flawlessly. I will be my own person, will not be led astray by bad influences and will never give up no matter what. I know that there are other wonderful people in this world, ones who have acted as inspiration to others. I just wish we heard more about the good things that happen and the good people there are, rather than the bad.

My choices already have and always will be affected by the lessons Jo Jo gave me. I always picture her when a difficult choice is put in front of me. I hope that everyone can learn to never give up, to be true to themselves and to let their faith guide them through life. I owe many thanks and love to Jo Jo and the lessons she unknowingly shared. Thank you, Jo Jo.

Alyson Mireault, 15, is a home-schooled student in Keene.

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