I grew up knowing I had one of, if not the greatest, mother in the entire world. When I was young I didn’t know all the details, but I had an idea that she had weathered some pretty strong storms – alone.
My mom was the epitome of the naïve, 60’s girl: pretty, shy and the daughter of a Pentecostal preacher (her mother). She did all the right things and was the apple of her parent’s eye. A good Christian girl that met a handsome boy and her future was set, or so she thought.
Dating the handsome boy, marrying the handsome boy, and then having babies with the handsome boy were the American dream.
Handsome boy was in the Army and a few moves were required, but my mom did it without complaints and made a home wherever he was sent. They didn’t have much, but she was happy in life, spending each day being the best young mother she knew how to be.
One day handsome boy came home, put the suitcase on the bed, and started packing. My mom asked where he was going and his reply, “I’m leaving you. I don’t love you any more. I’ve found someone new.”
With the rent due in their simple, eastside, Bismarck apartment, two little girls ages 3 and 1 ½ years old needing both their mommy and daddy, handsome boy left.
No warning, no real explanation and no remorse, he was gone. My mom begged and pleaded for him to come home and be a family again. But there was nothing there, but a cold heart and harsh, ugly words. The perfect family was broken and a young mother with little or no training or work experience needed money, and she need it quickly.
Leaning on family and a few close friends, my mom was able to pay the rent and move our meager belongings to our grandparents’ neighbor’s garage.
Years later my mom told me of the ‘come to Jesus’ she had standing all alone in the middle of her belongings one night. In the dark, questioning her existence and the meaning of life, she prayed out loud for God to save her…to save us.
There was no time to cry any more or beg or plead for the life she once thought she had with handsome boy. My mom had to find a path in life. A door opened and she jumped through it.
A friend was working for KXMB TV Channel 12 in Bismarck and suggested she might be good as the weekend weather girl. For my almost clinically shy mom, the thought of going on air and speaking in front of thousands of people watching her was not possible. She knew that this was something she couldn’t do, because she could barely speak to a group of five people, let alone try to talk about the weather on television.
But, she had two little girls to feed and had to earn money to get on her feet again. She accepted the job and without any prior training in meteorology, let alone television news, she went for it. The quiet, blonde girl with the big dimples and bright blue eyes gave it her best shot.
She was right. She was awful. She did it once.
Another suggestion was made to try television news photography. Maybe being behind the camera was best for her. Back in the mid 1970’s the camera equipment was cumbersome, heavy and more significantly it was not a woman’s job. The men that carried the heavy camera equipment around shooting events and giving reporters their vision and their voice, chuckled to see the thin, leggy blonde try to load it all on her small frame and compete in their world.
No one helped and she didn’t need or want their help. Now she had a career. A low paying career, but a reason to get up in the morning and make a life for her children that didn’t include wallowing in self-pity or shame.
Soon she had conquered the technical aspects of her career and relished her new found and self-taught abilities.
After a few years with KXMB TV, my mom moved to the local competitor, KFYR TV/Channel 5. Through her years at KFYR there have been many awards, trips, and countless encounters from world leaders, including President Ronald Reagan, to farmers on the job in North Dakota.
My mom has met them all, filmed them all and through it all has done so with courage, pride and self-esteem. She made sure our childhood was happy and full of love. We were a family and my mom made sure we rose above all the trials and tribulations that life tried to throw in our path.
My mom is Donna Hardt, Television News Photographer at KFYR TV in Bismarck, North Dakota. She truly is an inspiration to myself and to everyone that knows her and has ever had the honor of meeting her. Women like my mom are trailblazers without even knowing it, and that’s what makes her so amazing and talented. No special accolades or awards were ever needed. All she wanted was to make sure her girls were taken care of. Her generosity, dedication and love made me who I am today: A mother.
Michelle Farnsworth is owner of Farnsworth Decor & More, a decorating and special events firm in Bismarck. Farnsworth is married with two children and a spoiled dog.