My mother, Ingeborg Keller Moore, passed away peacefully on July 10th, 2001. She had long battled diabetes, kidney failure and other diseases and when she had finally tired of the fighting, decided to stop medical treatment and courageously face the end head on. She was an extraordinary woman who made a great impact on everyone she met. She was intelligent, artistic, strong, independent and innovative and she had a great sense of humor. She raised six children on her own after my father abandoned us, and did so in a time when there was no hope for a woman to receive equal pay for equal work and women could not even get a bank loan because of their gender. We were thrust from a seemingly-stable middle-class environment into abject poverty when my father left, and she worked two jobs and sewed on the side so that we would not be brought up in a ghetto. She was the first truly liberated woman I knew.
She studied art and design at Lettehaus College in Berlin and put her skills to use when she started her company, Pins & Needles/Ingeborg Originals in Atlanta in the 1960's, designing and manufacturing uniforms for hotels and restaurants and doing custom tailoring. She made the elaborate antebellum hoop-skirt dresses and costumes for the Plantation at Stone Mountain Park when it first opened, all of the uniforms for the restaurants owned by her friend Mr. Anthony (who owned Anthony's and Pittypat's Porch, among others) and even created an elaborate desert tent for an Arabic restaurant called Sasheen's in the original Underground Atlanta. Her first shop was located on Peachtree Street in the Cox Carlton hotel, across the street from the Fox Theater near downtown Atlanta, in a spot now occupied by the Bridgetown Grill restaurant. I loved being there as a child, watching her orchestrate everything and knowing that if I begged long and hard enough, she would eventually cave in and let me go across the street to watch John Wayne movies at the Fox. She later moved her shop to Ansley Mall in Atlanta and, as it was a bit of a struggle to raise six children while running a business, she later moved her shop into the basement of our house.
Some of my fondest memories are from holidays during my childhood. During the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, my mother would call the universities in the Atlanta area and ask about inviting foreign exchange students, who would otherwise have been left by themselves during the festivities when the campus was abandoned, over to the house to have dinner and celebrate with us. Mom always had a slightly unusual request, however, in that she would ask that specific types of foreign exchange students be invited. For example, an Arab and a Jew, an Irishman and an Englishman. In short, people who were more or less traditional enemies. When they would first arrive, there would be palpable tension in the air. Mom would then tell them to check their differences at the door, explaining that the whole reason for the event was to prove that everyone could get along, if only for a few hours. By the end of the evening, everyone would be laughing and having a good time and I cannot help but think that quite a few friendships were forged in that way. She always had a flair for entertaining. She was a terrific cook (in her final months here she had become addicted to the Food Network) and loved to invite family and friends over to celebrate Advent (the four Sundays preceding Christmas) in the German tradition. German traditions played a big role in our household.
After running her company for several years, she later decided that she wanted a change and, having previously worked in hotels, embarked on a career in Executive Housekeeping in the hotel industry, working at such prestigious properties as the five-star Westgate Plaza Hotel in San Diego and the Dolly Madison Hotel in Washington, D.C. She was even asked to apply for the position of Executive Housekeeper at the White House. Of all the applicants, the field was narrowed down to two. The other applicant won only because she had no children living at home and could be on call 24 hours per day. I once read in a book that if you ask the average American what they are, they will say "I'm German" or "I'm Irish" or "I'm Italian." The book stated that the only Americans who would profess to being Americans were those, who had just become Americans five minutes earlier. One of my mom's proudest days was the day she became an American citizen. Another one was the day she interviewed for the position at the White House, when her friend Jean stopped the car so mom could run up and stick her arm through the fence to grab a handful of grass at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, which she kept as a prized possession, along with dirt from Germany and other places she had visited. Having escaped the Soviet Bloc in her youth, she was the most patriotic American you could ever hope to meet. My sister Ro and my brother Jim laugh when they tell the story of how mom ended up yelling at the TV when she did not realize that a fake commercial for Communist Wallpaper on Saturday Night Live was a joke.
Mom was an extraordinary manager. She fostered fierce loyalty in her employees because she was tough, fair and kind and always struggled to improve their lot in life. She went to bat for them and made sure that they were well compensated for their labor and was always concerned for their welfare. If she noticed that someone seemed down or was having a difficult time, she always made time to talk with them and see if there was anything she could do to help. Having been through many tough times herself, she had a great deal of compassion. Her career caused us to move around quite a lot when we were children and our lifestyle, as hard as it was sometimes, was very interesting, as we often pulled up roots and moved to such diverse places as Summit County, Colorado, San Diego, California, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Washington, D.C., always ending up back in the Atlanta area. We were exposed to many different cultures growing up and I believe we are more open and better-educated people as a result.
Mom retired from the hotel industry several years ago, and worked for several years as a cashier at Anthony's restaurant, where many of my family members have worked over the years. She worked there mainly to have a little extra spending money and to have medical benefits and, as usual, was very well liked there. She always had a way of attracting people, like moths to a flame. She lived with my sister and brother-in-law for several years and helped to raise their children, Brian and Eric, who called her "Omi" (German for "grandma"). Mom moved in with me a little over three years ago when I bought my house, and was the best room mate I ever had. Although she was not always the easiest person to live with (God knows I'm not, either), I am glad that I had the opportunity to get to know her better and to try to repay some of the debt I owed her for the sacrifices she made by taking care of her for awhile. I tried my best, within my humble means, to spoil her rotten.
Mom's health declined in recent years. She became diabetic some 30 years ago, dealt with a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery five years ago and became a dialysis patient three years ago. It was very difficult to see her quality of life diminish over time and to know that she lived with a great deal of pain and no small amount of hardship in the weeks preceding her passing away. I do not believe that the full impact of her passing has hit me yet and I pray that I have the strength when it does, because I can no longer come to her and ask that she share the wisdom and insight she always gave me over the years, or feel the warmth of her hugs and hear her assurances that everything will be alright. I am grateful that I was blessed with having such a special mother. Few people in life are so lucky. I am glad that I was able to spend so much time with her and I am glad that I always kissed her goodnight and told her how much I love her.
I miss her terribly.
Mom In Better Days
Family Dinner to Celebrate Mom's Life
Mom's Portrait of Christ
The Article Celestine Sibley wrote About Mom
Re-typed Text of the Article Celestine Sibley wrote About Mom
(the original is a little hard to read)