Schenectady County

Schenectady woman named top mom

James Fish of Schenectady thought of a unique gift to give his mom for Mother’s Day — Tulip Festival

James Fish of Schenectady thought of a unique gift to give his mom for Mother’s Day — Tulip Festival Mother of the Year.

Fish nominated his mother, Janet Fish, for the 11th annual competition designed to showcase outstanding mothers from around the Capital Region. Fish was selected from among five finalists and 80 people for the honor.

“It’s overwhelming,” Janet Fish said. “I’ve never been in a pageant.”

Janet Fish raised four children by herself after her husband’s death. James Fish said she encouraged her children to “aim high, study and work hard to reach our goals.”

“She encouraged us to honor God and our country, be honest and have love and compassion for others. My mother has been an inspiration to countless others as high school teacher, church worker, Girl Scout and Cub Scout leader and has always found joy in giving and sharing.”

He added that his mother survived two bouts with cancer and still teaches gardening, leads Bible studies and serves as resident council president of The Avenue Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Altamont Avenue nursing home.

Fish said he was elated that his mother received the honor.

“She worked so hard to help so many people for 80 years. She’s done so much for other people. She deserves it,” he said.

Janet Fish said the other four finalists — Beverly Haggray-Bunch, Tara Hulett, Linda Mallory Mitchell and Beth Smith — also deserved the award.

Fish had to raise four children relying only on her late husband’s Social Security check for income. She didn’t have others to lean on for support, as all of her family lived in the Cleveland area.

“It was difficult. I had learned from my parents growing up in the Depression. I had learned about economical living. I was the great couponer,” she said.

When all her kids were in school full time, she worked as a substitute teacher in the Mohonasen and Albany school districts so she could be there for them. She then taught at Mercy High School in Albany for about 10 years until the school closed. When she was 60, she got a job at Sears.

In addition to caring for her own family, Fish also volunteered at City Mission, helping to serve meals and send out mailings. She also tutored people who were trying to get their General Equivalency Diploma. “That was really interesting. These kids wanted so much to get that GED and they really worked hard. It was a joy to teach kids that really want to learn.”

Nowadays, she keeps busy tending a 5-by-10-foot garden plot at the nursing home and teaching gardening to some of the residents.

She said James was amazed at the work she has done and had trouble writing the nomination essay to fit the requirements.

“He said ‘Mom, I can’t get it into 95 words,’ ” she said. “We worked together on it to get it down.”

Fish said she is proud of her children. Some have followed in her footsteps. Earlier in her career, Fish worked as a research scientist and at one point worked for Knolls Atomic Power Lab, where she met her late husband.

Her daughter Emily works as a teacher in Colorado and just won an award for outstanding science teacher of the year. Her three sons work as a mechanical engineer for General Electric, Army engineer and an automobile mechanic.

“Seeing that they’re following a good path is very, very great,” she said.

For winning the award, Fish will receive three days of beauty treatments at Hair and Body Essentials and a pearl necklace from Hannoush Jewelers.

The Mother of the Year award was one of the highlights of the final day of the Tulip Festival. Mayor Jerry Jennings estimated that more than 80,000 people attended the event. The weather cooperated despite Sunday being unseasonably cool.

“This is a premier event. People come from all over,” Jennings said.

One of those people was Denise Chandler from Lenox, Mass.

“The tulips are the best part, and the people of Albany are the best,” she said.

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