Almaz Gebremedhin Worked 3 Jobs to Support 5 Kids; Son: ‘If I Could Give You the World, I Would’
In the thousands of submissions to the “Good Morning America” Breakfast in Bed Contest With Emeril Lagasse, one story stood out like a shining bright light: an e-mail from the nurses of St. Vincent Health Center in Erie, Pennsylvania.
At a place where many lives begin, maternity ward housekeeper Almaz Gebremedhin’s story of motherhood touches people there every day.
There, the nurses call her “Little A.”
“She’ll open up the door and she’ll go, ‘Hi, girls. It’s Little A,” said Janice Huling, a nurse. “And then we go, ‘Oh, good.'”
“She is everything,” said Lou Ann, another nurse. “I would give anything to be Almaz.”
“When you talk to Almaz,” said David Coccarelli, Gebremedhin’s supervisor, “you don’t realize what she’s been through.”
“She’s very upbeat,” he said.
An Ethiopian refugee, she spent her childhood in Sudan. By the age of 15, she was in an arranged marriage and soon had five children.
Then in 1993, Gebremedhin came to Pennsylvania with her husband, children and a young nephew. It was there that her husband left her — in a new country with six children to care for all alone.
“Once he left us, she was determined to succeed and not fail,” said Gebremedhin’s son Hayolom Tadesse.
Gebremedhin stopped collecting public assistance and took three cleaning jobs, working more than 16 hours a day.
In 2005, she and all her children became American citizens.
“I’ve never seen her put herself first, ever,” said David Cullen, a family friend. “You’re wondering how a human being can do that.”
“No one knows her struggles,” said Sara Tadesse, Gebremedhin’s daughter. “No one really knows what she really goes through.”
The struggle is what the children remember most, in particular the struggle to make ends meet.
“You can just tell, you know,” said Mebrak Tadesse, another daughter. “She looked stressed just because of the fact she had all these bills on the table and she still had all of us in the house.”
Hayolom Tadesse remembers the only day he saw his mother falter.
“We all went out for breakfast to eat and she didn’t have enough money to pay for us,” he said. “I seen her kinda cry a little bit, you know. And to me, that’s one moment that I notice where she almost caved in. But from that day on, she never showed us that face ever again.
“She taught us how to respect people,” he added. “She taught us how to work hard. She taught us how to love unconditionally. She taught us how to give. She taught us never to quit and to follow your dream.”
It was lessons like those that led all of her children to graduate at the top of their high school classes, and all earn acceptance to Penn State University — all on scholarship.
“I don’t think Almaz understands what she really did with the accomplishments with her children,” Cullen said. Her children say Gebremedhin lives up to her name. Almaz means “diamond” in her native language.
“It’s a quietly shining diamond. That’s exactly what my mother is,” Mebrak Tadesse said. “She just wanted us to explore the world and make our own choices basically.”
“She’s a rare jewel. She is the best mother any kid could ever ask for,” Hayolom Tadesse said. “Every day, I just want to tell her that I love her and, ‘Thank you for making me a better person. Thank you for making me the man that I am. You did it. It’s because of you.'”
She’s not just inspiring her children.
“She’s definitely somebody who has sacrificed for her children and doesn’t seem to resent it in any way,” said Pat Dolak, a nurse.
Huling, another nurse, agreed.
“There is strength in this woman most of us will never experience,” she said.
So this morning, “Good Morning America” and Emeril Lagasse salute a mother and her American dream.
“I love you so much,” Hayolom Tadesse said in a message to his mother. “And if I could give you the world, I would.