March 31, 2005: Headlines: COS - Philippines: Obituaries: The Santa Barbara Independent: Philippines RPCV Mildred Manis: 1911-2004

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Philippines: Peace Corps Philippines: The Peace Corps in the Philippines: March 31, 2005: Headlines: COS - Philippines: Obituaries: The Santa Barbara Independent: Philippines RPCV Mildred Manis: 1911-2004

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Philippines RPCV Mildred Manis: 1911-2004

Philippines RPCV Mildred Manis: 1911-2004

Philippines RPCV Mildred Manis: 1911-2004

Mildred Manis: 1911-2004

By Steve Manis
The Santa Barbara Independent
March 31, 2005

Less than an arm's length away,
Embracing one another as you pass away ...
Nothing more to say.

Try writing about a modest mother in terms as self-effacing as she; it's not easy. Indicative of this was an exchange between us when my wife and I checked in on her one morning:

Mil: Last night I felt that it was my time to go, as if I were dying!
Steve: Why didn't you call to wake us up?
Mil: For that?

Hers was not the type of life that was lived with any grandiose intention to accomplish outlandish objectives or change the course of history. Yet, precisely because of that, for those of us who knew Mildred Manis, she was as good a role model as one could find. What she did was impact people - family, friends, and an ever-expanding circle of acquaintances who eventually became friends - in ways that both pleased and set them at ease.

A case in point was the newcomer to Santa Barbara who met Mil at a piano store. The woman mentioned she was having a difficult time adjusting to Santa Barbara, particularly because she had no friends here. Mil responded by inviting her home, where a long-term friendship was kindled. More than anything, Mil was a listener. This was the key to her connection with people. Had she been a professional, it would have been as a therapist, without any of the theoretical baggage. Listening was the ingredient that made her the friend and mother that she was. She was a mother not just to me, although I was her only child. She was a surrogate mother to many, one of whom is a writer, who initially and ostensibly turned to Mil for help editing her novel, but spent as much time with her talking through emotional and personal issues.

Mil lived overseas for more than a decade, accompanying my father, Fran, on a Fulbright lectureship to Burma and later United Nations tours-of-duty in Iran and Kenya. They also lived for a year in Australia and Guam and were senior-citizen Peace Corps volunteers in the Philippines. While there, learning about Krishnamurti and reversing roles by teaching her husband about that Indian philosopher, Mil came out from under her partner's shadow and added depth to their relationship. She flourished in her work with kindergartens and nursery schools - her written rhymes for the Filipino children were so successful that the Peace Corps director proclaimed her the surprise success of his mission.

Mil was not a provincial person. Rather, she was as open as a person could be. She adjusted well to new places, loved trying new foods and new things - even going so far, in a controlled setting, as to smoke opium once in Iran. She knew how to adjust to new cultures in and outside the United States. I'll never forget the time in the late 1960s when, in order to feel more comfortable around her husband's students at San Diego State University, she retreated into her bedroom and began practicing four-letter curse words, which theretofore had never been within her vocabulary. Mil loved language. In the 1950s, while in Tennessee, she took a university correspondence course in etymology from an instructor who revealed that she had learned as much from Mil as she had taught her. Mil tutored Koreans, Iranians, and a Mexican in English - never for a fee - though she once received a cherished Nain carpet in appreciation from a Persian friend.

Upon reflection, this process of thinking, and then writing, about my mother, Mildred Manis, has helped me to realize that more than a listener, more than a friend, more than a mother, Mil most comprehensively and appropriately was a confidante.

When this story was posted in April 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: The Santa Barbara Independent

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Philippines; Obituaries



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