When Fern Claas’ granddaughter Theresa Borgmann called her late this summer and said “You won, Grandma!,” Claas wasn’t quite sure what she had won.
Without her knowledge, Borgmann had entered her grandmother in The Magic of Marceline Development Company’s contest for the 10 best grandmothers in Missouri.
“I was speechless,” Claas said about finding out she had won.
Claas, of Beaufort, said that the two had seen a “Wanted: Missouri’s 10 Best Grandmothers” ad in a local paper and giggled about it together.
“She looked at it, and that’s all I knew about it,” Claas said. “She didn’t tell me she sent it in.”
The search was established to honor grandmothers who had a significant influence in the lives of their children and grandchildren.
There’s no argument that Claas was a tremendous support in her granddaughter’s life.
In her essay, Borgmann noted that her mother, Claas’ youngest daughter, Sandy, was born with spina bifida.
Sandra was a March of Dimes poster child as a toddler. During that time, an article titled “Babies With a Birth Defect Are Worth Having” was published. When Borgmann was grown, The Missourian featured an article about the two called “A Mother With a Disability Is Worth Having.”
Marceline is Walt Disney’s boyhood hometown, and having the celebration there is a tribute to the values he learned. The Disney brand is recognized globally for its strong family values, and Walt Disney credited both his family and Marceline as the source of those values.
Entries were judged on values-oriented attributes that were passed on to others, such as: character building, independence, self-reliance and family ties.
“You see, without my grandmother’s tireless effort to make my mom’s life the best it could possibly be, I would not have had a mom in the normal sense of the word,” she said.
Borgmann said that there were things her mother’s illness simply did not allow her to do, and her grandmother made sure she didn’t miss out — whether it was driving her to band competitions and concerts or attending softball games and other extracurricular activities.
Claas taught Borgmann the value of hard work and dedication, as well as “instilled in me the ability to dream.”
“I never heard from her that anything I wanted to do was impossible,” she said.
Sandra passed away in 2013 after battling cancer.
“I know that God put my grandmother in my life because he knew how fragile my mom would be. He knew that my mom would need a helping hand throughout her life, to the very end,” Borgmann said. “I thank God for putting such an amazingly strong woman into my life, and into my mom’s life, so that we both had an example of what love and sacrifice truly (are).”
Originally from Bay, Mo., Claas married a Leslie native, Charles “Charlie” Claas.
She and Charlie had two children, Sandra Lynn, who is Borgmann’s mother, and Sharon, and also ‘has two granddaughters.
The Claases lived in Washington Park, Ill. until the ’70s, when they moved to Beaufort to be in a better school district.
A beautician by trade, Claas’ real passion is in quilting. She has dozens of photos of past quilts she created featuring embroidery, piecing and applique.
She continues to quilt daily, specializing in themed quilts. She made a quilt to celebrate the Cardinals World Series victory, two Olympics quilts, a Campbell’s Soup Kids quilt, bicentennial quilts, Easter and other holiday themes.
“I quilt all day, every day. It’s all I do,” she said.
Occasionally Claas takes part in craft shows to sell her quilts.
The Magic of Marceline Development Company hosted a celebration for the 10 best grandmothers and a guest Saturday, Sept. 10, in Marceline.
Claas’ guest was her granddaughter.
“Everything they did was very honoring,” Borgmann said. “They went out of their way to make it a special weekend.”
Borgmann said more than 400 entries were received in the contest.
“I was astonished by the stories we heard from other grandmothers. If I were a judge, I don’t think I could have chosen (winners),” she said, adding that the stories all were powerful reminders of how important grandmothers are to their families.
The two had lunch at The Linn County Community Center. A dinner and award ceremony was held in the evening at the Walsworth Community Building.
Claas received a cash gift for herself and to donate to an organization of her choice. She donated the funds to the music department where Borgmann teaches, Berean Christian Academy, Monett, to help them start a band.
The two continue to talk every day. “She’s my No. 1. She’s the best,” Claas said.