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Octegenarians reflect on Mothers Day and motherhood

May 13, 2018 GMT

When Anna Jarvis founded Mother’s Day, the intent was to set aside a day to honor mothers, motherhood and the hard work they do every day.

It was proclaimed an official holiday by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914, but even Jarvis in later years said it had become too commercialized.

Cora Izatt, 88, from Orem, might just agree with Jarvis. As a mother of six children, grandmother of 25 and great-grandmother of 76, Izatt said she has gotten to a point that a phone call on Mother’s Day is just fine.

“It’s a hard day for me,” Izatt said. “I don’t like all the attention and people feeling obligated.”

On the other hand, octogenarian Joyce Whipple, 87, also from Orem, is perfectly happy being surrounded by her six children, 23 grandchildren and 36 almost 37 great-grandchildren.

Both Izatt and Whipple live at the Summerfield Retirement Community in Orem. Both women have raised six children, both know what it is like to be without the men they love, and both represent the broad spectrum of how women feel about Mother’s Day.


Izatt is a soft-spoken, kind-hearted woman who earned money for the family by being a beautician and mostly working from home.

While she is hesitant to receive attention, she said motherhood suited her.

“I’ve loved being a mother,” Izatt said.

One of her very fondest and deeply touching moments of motherhood was when she spent time and bonded with her oldest son.

“I think when my son was dying of cancer. I stayed with him two weeks,” Izatt said. “He said when he got to the diaper stage he wanted me to be the one to change him. He died before that happened.”

Izatt’s family moved many times in their lives. She said that it was hard for young ones to settle so often in new schools. She said her youngest son is very close to her because of them being together so much.

“The children and I did everything together.” Izatt said.

Even with all that could be perceived as negatives in her life, Izatt said being a mother has been her greatest joy.

“My heart goes out to those who don’t have children,” she said. “My youngest son lives in Payson and calls me every day to see how I am.”

“I have no plans for Mother’s Day, I’m just staying here,” Izatt added. She also said she might just be sitting by the phone. One daughter and her husband are on an LDS mission and missionaries are allowed to call home on Mother’s Day.

Whipple, on the other hand, loves the attention from her family on Mother’s Day.

“I love it,” Whipple said. “I’ll get to see all my kids. I love to be a mother.”

Whipple’s little sign on her bookcase reflects her attitude on life — smile.

Whipple’s husband died when she was just 39 years old. She never remarried because she felt she needed to give her time to raising her still-young family.


She ran the family orchard in Washington state for two years after her husband died. They grew apples and pears. It was the third largest orchard in the county.

Prior to their father’s death, the children were promised a trip to Disneyland. Joyce carried through with that promise and in 1971, this single mother took six young children, the oldest being only 16, to Disneyland.

“That was an amazing trip,” said daughter Kris Whipple Stratton. “That she would try to fulfill that promise. Dad always made Christmas special too. She makes Christmas special. She sacrificed everything for us.”

The kids figure Joyce knew how to be a good single mom, because she was raised by one. Whipple’s father died when she was just 8 years old.

“Mother worked really hard,” Whipple said. “She didn’t have a college degree.”

Whipple graduated from Brigham Young University and after selling the Washington orchards, moved the family to Utah and started teaching.

Izatt said she would be perfectly happy to be with her husband next Mother’s Day. Whipple said, with a bad heart and kidney, she is on borrowed time, but she is not ready to go yet.

We couldn’t have had a better mom,” Stratton said. “She has a good listening ear and is never judgemental.”

Kathy Whipple Westphal, a daughter, added, “She was a good example and taught with trials and put on a smiling face.”

“It’s wonderful to be a mother,” Whipple said. “I couldn’t imagine life without children.”