Lauralyn Purdham gets a well-deserved hug from her husband
Tampa Bay Buccaneer linebackers Ryan Nece and Shelton Quarles, two young men who grew up in single-parent homes, have always known that their mothers were special.
It's Mother's Day weekend and, as always, Nece and Quarles have let their moms know how feel about them. This year, however, they're spreading the love.
On Friday, Nece and Quarles held their first-ever Top Moms Luncheon, in the process honoring their mothers and 50 other moms from around the Bay area.
For the past month or so, Nece and Quarles have sifted through more than 1,000 Top Mom nominees sent in by children, husbands and friends who know exceptional mothers. Nece and Quarles selected their Top 50 Moms and invited each finalist and a guest to attend a luncheon in the press box at Raymond James Stadium, where they were prepared to name two runners-up and the Top Mom in the Greater Tampa Bay area.
By their estimate, the Top Mom in the Bay area was Lauralyn Purdham of Lithia.
That news wouldn't come until later in the luncheon, however. To begin the proceedings, the two linebackers commended all of the mothers in attendance, then Nece introduced his mom and spoke of the influence she has had in his life.
"She's my rock," said Ryan. "She's the one who really instilled my beliefs and my morals and helped to build my character. Without her I wouldn't be the man I am today."
With that introduction, Cathy Nece came to the podium and told some amusing stories about the third-year linebacker that just about any mom would recognize, including one in which he presented her with a fistful of blooming weeds and a ball of tumble weed that he thought were beautiful flowers.
"It's the thought that counts," said Cathy. "He thought they were great and it touched my heart that he brought them to me."
Quarles also was given the opportunity to introduce his mother, Pam Foster. Like Nece he didn't hesitate to make his feelings known.
"She is the greatest," said Shelton. "She worked two jobs to support me. I'm the only child and I grew up without a father. She did a great job of supporting me in everything I did and making sure I always had clothes on my back and food on the table."
In turn, a very proud Foster shared stories about a young Shelton, speaking about his endless energy and how he was always running into things. She also addressed his abilities to get what he wants.
"He knows how to work women," said Foster. "If I said, 'No,' he would get grandma to say 'Yes.' Either way he would get to do what he wanted to do."
These are, apparently, timeless mom stories. The 50 finalists seemed to be nodding their heads in unison to Nece and Foster's stories. Minutes later, they were celebrating together as the two Buc linebackers distributed the day's prizes.
Each finalist received a $25 Winn Dixie Gift Card, a Buccaneers pennant signed by Nece and Quarles, a candy bag and a certificate recognizing her as a "Top Mom." Nece and Quarles also had a stash of special prizes to award that included gift baskets from Bath and Body Works, Yankee Candle and other stores.
Nece and Quarles then announced the day's top three winners. Named one of two runners-up was Nathalie Chamberlain of Palm Harbor.
Nathalie is a mother of three, a Girl Scout troop leader, substitute teacher, secretary of the PTA, room mom at two schools, member of the children's committee at her church and working partner in a home-based business. She also assists the teachers in her children's choir and at dance classes every week. In addition, her husband Mike is legally blind and she is the only driver in the family. According to Mike, Nathalie's day starts at 7:00 a.m. and often ends at 1:00 a.m., and she goes non-stop the whole time. She is constantly doing things for others less fortunate, such as providing child care, meals, and sometimes even a place to stay.
According to her husband, if you spoke to a hundred people that she knows, they will sum Nathalie up with the same phrase: "How does she do it all?"
The other runner-up was Willie Mae Lane of Tampa.
Willie Mae continues to make time for her children and mentor them in the face of considerable obstacles. A widow with eight children, Willie Mae has made it here sole purpose to ensure her kids' safety and instill in them values that would help them in their adult lives. What is significant about Willie Mae is her sustaining strength even in the face of two devastating losses: She has lost two of her children before their time. Her daughter, Cynthia, lost a battle with cancer, while her son, Sgt. Wilbert Davis, was one of the honorable soldiers who gave his life for our freedom in the war in Iraq. Despite these losses she has not given up her hope for tomorrow or her faith in God.
The two runners-up each received two front row tickets to a Buccaneers home game, a Posh Spa Gift package, a $50 gift certificate to Red Lobster and a gold "#1 Mom" charm from Ackerman Jewelers.
All that remained at the luncheon was the presentation of the 2004 Top Mom of the Bay Area award. The winner would take home two tickets to a Buccaneers home game (with the opportunity to have her picture taken with Nece and Quarles on the field prior to the game), a VIP Posh Spa Gift package, a $50 gift certificate to Red Lobster, a gold "#1 Mom" charm from Ackerman Jewelers and a weekend getaway with dinner at the new Renaissance Hotel at the International Plaza.
That honor was bestowed upon Purdham.
Why was Purdham named the Top Mom in the Bay area by Quarles and Nece. We refer you to her nomination, sent in by her husband, Aldon.
"Of all the attributes that one could associate with a wonderful mother, selflessness is perhaps the greatest. I cannot think of anyone who has exemplified this quality more with her children and family than my wife, Lauralyn.
"Lauralyn has placed our four children (ages nine, seven, four, and 9 months) and me before herself throughout my U.S. Air Force career. She has made incredible sacrifices for all of us while we've moved four times in the last six years, while I've been deployed away from home in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom for nine of the last eighteen months, and while I've worked especially long hours at USCENTCOM in my current assignment. During this time, Lauralyn has had to fulfill the role of both mother and father to our children. This is a hard enough job for two people - let alone one!
"In addition to the daily demands of cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, grocery shopping, paying the bills, dressing and bathing the children and helping them with their homework, she has always ensured our children know they are loved, feel important, and have someone who will help celebrate their joys and comfort their sorrows.
"Furthermore, in the midst of the pressure, stress, and fatigue of these tremendous demands while I've often been deployed to the Middle East these past two years, Lauralyn has maintained a cheerfulness that reflects the sunshine radiating from within her. This is truly reflective of Lauralyn's selflessness, which helped to ensure a stable, peaceful, and uplifting home environment for our children. I can think of no greater role a mother can perform than to create for her children such a loving home atmosphere in the midst of such adversity.
"In the military, we usually get recognized for a "job well done" with medals, ribbons, and awards. However, despite how wonderful Lauralyn is as a mother, she never receives such distinctions for this role. For this reason, it is my sincere hope that you will recognize how deserving Lauralyn is of receiving your award - The Best Mom in the Bay. As one who has always put herself second, Lauralyn is a mom who deserves to be first. She certainly is in her family's eyes; I hope she will be in yours, too."
Upon being announced as the Top Mom, Purdham received a standing ovation from the rest of the attendees. She was in tears as she accepted the award.
"It was a total shock," said Purdham. "I think every mom hopes she does her best, but to be recognized among this many women is a tremendous honor. I'm humbled by this, but also very appreciative."
Following the ceremony, Nece and Quarles stayed to take pictures with all of the moms and guests that were on hand, congratulating everyone on their being selected as the Top 50 Moms of the Bay area. Their own mothers looked on proudly.
"It is an awesome thing," said Cathy Nece, of the luncheon. "It makes me very proud. For Shelton Quarles and his Mom to do this, it's very rewarding. And these are deserving women."
"It's beautiful," said Pam Foster. "It's so wonderful that they can express to other women how it is to be special, not just one day out of the year, but every day."
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, along with Ryan, Shelton and their mothers, would like to congratulate all of the over 1,000 nominees and recognize the Top 50 Moms for their commitment and dedication to their children.
The Top 50 Moms are Krista Alton, Jo Ann Angle, Vivian Baker, Shakela Beaton, Darlene Campbell, Margie Campbell, Cindy Carson, Nathalie Chamberlain, Shawn Chapman, Belinda Chesser, Angela Clough, Margie Dahany, Monique Dever, Traci Dyer, Zenobia Edwards, Maria Farrell, Maggie Farlow, Lisa Graff, Kathleen Haley, Opal Hardin, Pat Jeansonne, Mary Jimenez, Jody Kenrick, Annette Keys, Jean Kurus, Willie Mae Lane, Anita Langford, Kesha Lindo, Darcy Lusk, Carol Lyons-Harrison, Jackie Maloy, Darlene McArdle, Cindy Metheny-McNiff, Tara Muszynski, Joan Negretti, Elena Palermo, Mary Jo Petersen, Lauralyn Purdham, Laurie Rader, Alyce Randolph, Patty Reynolds, Jennifer Rumble, Amy Russo, Jo Ann Sanders, Julie Satchfield, Amy Schofield, Rita Sessa, Marni Smith, Jenny Williams and Linda Zagari.