Sometimes we suffer missed opportunities that become especially clear when viewed in hindsight. Then again, maybe hindsight is the only way to see a missed opportunity.
One of those for me is Ruth Buxton Sayre, a distinguished senior citizen I met during my last semester at Drake. I needed another part-time job at the time when I saw a posting on a campus job board from someone who needed a student to check her mail, read newspapers and magazines, just give her a little company on a regular basis.
So I got the job, and off I went to meet this woman. Mrs. Sayre was in her apartment, an elderly, reserved woman with sparkling white hair. Although she was gracious to me and it was a very pleasant apartment as I recall, she seemed unhappy to be living there. Adding to her resentment at that was the fact that her eyesight was failing badly, which is why her family hired me to help her out.
As my semester wore on, Mrs. Sayre and I became more comfortable together. She told me a little about her earlier life as a farm woman from near Indianola, and she was always interested in what I was doing in my classes at Drake. She remained rather reserved. At that time in my life, so close to reaching my goal of earning my degree, that’s mostly what I was focused on, and I didn’t slow down to really focus on who this older woman was. Although I appreciated being with Mrs. Sayre that fall, when the semester was over I told her family I wouldn’t be coming any longer.
Just a few years later, a stumbled on a book titled “Ruth Buxton Sayre: First Lady of the Farm.” And here was the young version of the old woman I got to know. Reading that book, I found out that after graduating from Simpson College, Mrs. Sayre made many contributions to her community, her state, her country, and even the world. There’s now a scholarship in her name at Simpson.
She was named to the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame. Mrs. Sayre was given the title of Outstanding Woman in Iowa Agriculture, helped found the Associated Country Women of the World, was appointed by President Eisenhower to the Agriculture Advisor Committee in 1950, and held posts in local, state, and national Farm Bureau women’s groups. She worked with early ISU Extension, traveling to farms on dirt roads to educate farm wives on how to safely can and preserve food.
How amazing it would have been to sit and visit with her, to hear about those experiences, whether she felt like her life had made a difference. I was right there with her on a regular basis, but I was so busy with my own life at the time that I wasn’t even really curious about her. I just knew she was an old woman.
What a treasure I missed out on.