Oregon Mother of Year “Invested” in Her Children
By Lucy Schouten, Church News staff writer
Vivienne Smith Lewis gained an appreciation for simple gifts when she contracted polio at age 3. After surgery and wearing a leg brace, the arduous task of learning how to walk—for the second time—began.
She remembers sitting in her little red wagon while her mother pulled her to therapy three times each week for a year so she could learn to walk again.
“I really consider her as an angel mother,” said Sister Lewis, who lives in the Walters Hill Ward in the Mt. Hood Oregon Stake and was named Oregon’s mother of the year by American Mothers, Inc.
“I just really have a strong belief in the scripture that ‘out of small and simple things, great things come to pass,’” she said. “And that’s really true for mothers—we do the same things over and over again, and we really wonder if we’re making a difference.”
Sister Lewis had to learn to walk for a third time when she contracted post-polio syndrome, a painful, permanent condition that kept her in bed much of the time. The oldest of her nine children was 17 and the youngest just seven months old.
“Sometimes I was crawling around the house at night to put my kids to bed,” she said. “It was pretty hard with a large family.”
Eventually Sister Lewis regained some of her physical strength, but during this particularly difficult time, and always as a mother, she was aided by personal revelation.
Each morning Sister Lewis and her husband, Crismon, would ask whether everyone had done the “big five”: get dressed, make your bed, say your prayers, brush your teeth, and comb your hair. She knew that teaching them to do these simple things as soon as they woke up would make a difference.
Sister Lewis used her talents to make her home a spiritual place for her children to grow up in. A music enthusiast, she encouraged all her of children to learn at least one instrument and participate in school choirs. She also monitored her own music listening even while the children were away, mindful of the effect it might have on the spirit in the home.
Using her talent for writing, Sister Lewis mailed as many as 15 copies of a family letter report each week to keep the extended family updated. The letters have become a sort of family history.
“Because of this I told my husband I’d rather get a ditto machine before a washing machine, and, amazingly enough, that happened,” she said. The advent of blogs and email has made this tradition significantly easier.
Sister Lewis strongly believes that her greatest joy in life has been to raise her children in righteousness. She has had the joy of seeing eight of her children married in the temple, and the ninth is serving a mission—the sixth of her children to do so.
“We naturally all want to make a difference in the world, but the best difference you can make is to invest in your children because they will go on to touch so many lives,” she said.
“I feel that’s where I will make the biggest difference.”