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Happy Birthday to a Remarkable Woman

Posted in Ancestry, and Genealogy

May 5th 2024 – What does it mean to be remarkable? Merriam-Webster defines remarkable as:

“Worthy of being or likely to be noticed especially as being uncommon or extraordinary”

There is nothing in this definition that suggests that a remarkable person is one who is highly successful, wealthy, of noble ancestry, famous, or beautiful. And yet our modern culture associates those characteristics – often more than one – to people deemed to be “remarkable.”

Cabinet card photograph of Cora Belle Sheridan as a little girl, possibly taken around the time of the family’s move to Lockeford, CA.
Cabinet card photograph of Cora Belle Sheridan as a little girl, possibly taken around the time of the family’s move to Lockeford, CA.

On this day 150 years ago, Cora Belle Sheridan was born to Isabella and Francis Sheridan. Cora Belle was their 4th child, one of five daughters. Francis was an Irish immigrant and Isabella was a California pioneer, having arrived in a covered wagon in 1852. So, Cora Belle was not of noble ancestry. Beyond becoming a milliner, she never achieved great success as our modern culture defines it. She was never famous, at least not beyond the confines of her family and home town. She did achieve some wealth, though much of that wealth came from being married to her husband, Stillman. Cora Belle was definitely beautiful – a striking woman with piercing eyes. But, she did not fit the Edwardian or “Gibson Girl” model of beauty prevalent in the time period of her youth. Neither did she pursue any form of modeling.

An enhanced and colorized version of the 1898 Cabinet Card Photograph taken by photographer J.D. Palmer of Sacramento.
An enhanced and colorized version of the 1898 Cabinet Card Photograph taken by photographer J.D. Palmer of Sacramento.

  Nonetheless, I consider Cora Belle to be remarkable woman. I couldn’t put my finger on why. So, I started to search for what it is, beyond the stereotypical list, that makes people consider someone remarkable. In the midst of all of the platitudes about success, ambition, and celebrity, I found this:

“What makes someone remarkable is not what they DO, but who they BE. It’s not the achievements, the accomplishments, the ladders that were climbed. It’s how they showed up in everyday moments. The joy, laughter, and levity they brought. The depth to their relationships. Their unwavering, steadfast stand for those in their life. The remarkable are unapologetically authentic, conscious of their blessings, and didn’t take their people for granted.”
— Adelle Archer

I also found a fascinating quote from Oliver Wendel Holmes:

“Nothing is so common-place as to wish to be remarkable.”

Both of these quotes taken together suggest an interesting concept. One becomes remarkable not by seeking remarkability but by acting in accordance with the most basic of human virtues, those of unwavering, steadfast love and being present in everyday life. If you scour through the thousands of tributes to departed parents and grandparents, you will see it in writing: “she was a remarkable woman,” or “he was a remarkable man.” Even when such tributes are not given in writing, you can find evidence of this kind of remarkability in the smallest of things.

An enhanced and colorized version of an original cabinet card photograph of Cora Belle Sheridan taken in the first decade of the 20th Century.
An enhanced and colorized version of an original cabinet card photograph of Cora Belle Sheridan taken in the first decade of the 20th Century.

Such is the case with the life of Cora Belle Sheridan. I found her steadfast love in her mother’s diary entries. I found it her commitment to being present in her family’s lives in newspaper columns, traveling all the way from San Francisco to be with them. And I found unmistakable evidence of it in how much her husband loved her – a love so deep, it changed the course of his life. I can relate to his feelings, Because I too have a love for a  woman who has changed my life. She is my dear wife, Sheryl.

Tonight, we will celebrate Cora Belle’s sesquicentennial birthday and toast to her as the remarkable woman she was.

You can read all of Cora Belle’s story in:
A Renaissance of Love Beyond the Veil

Happy birthday, Cora Belle! ❖


Later in the evening…

Sheryl and I toast to Cora Belle at a nearby restaurant.
Sheryl and I toast to Cora Belle at a nearby restaurant.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Ronan Mandra
    Ronan Mandra

    Jim, quite a remarkable woman — and you provided the remarks 😉

    May 14, 2024
    |Reply
    • JIm
      JIm

      Thank you, Ronan! Our celebration of her birthday was a very special evening. I’m sure our waitress had never served a couple with an old photograph in an ornate frame on their table to cerebrate the birthday of a great-grandaunt. She was genuinely astonished. 🙂

      May 14, 2024
      |Reply

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