Mother of The Year, Rosie Award: Medora Colberg

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Medora Colberg with daughter Karen at Medora's 90th birthday celebration. Medora has been named Mother of The Year. Photo by Tricia Wilcox

Medora Colberg has been named Mother of the Year, and will be given the Rosie Award.

Daughter Kristine Stewart wrote, in an essay to The Malibu Times, that Medora Colberg, who is 91, has been mothering for 65 years, raising four children, but for the last 39 years she has devoted herself to caring for her youngest daughter, Karen, who was critically injured in a car accident in Mexico at age 22.

“My mother has been the guiding force [in Karen’s life],” Stewart said of Medora, adding that her mother takes Karen everywhere, from getting their hair done, to shopping to the movies, making sure that her sister leads a full life.

Medora was born in 1916, growing up on the family farm in Crystal Lake, Illinois. She attended the University of Illinois, and graduated with a degree in dietetics. She married Schiller Colberg in 1940 and they were married until he died in 2004.

Medora, Schiller, and their four children-Kent, Kit (who died in 1988), Kristine and Karen-moved from Crystal Lake to Malibu in 1954 when Schiller was offered the job of Boy Scout Executive of the Crescent Bay Council in West Los Angeles. All four children attended Santa Monica/Malibu Schools, and Schiller served on the Santa Monica Board of Education and the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees.

Medora was the second PTA president of the newly established Juan Cabrillo Elementary School in the 1950s. In the 1960s she was president of Rotary Anns (wives of Rotarians) and president of Santa Monica City College Patrons Association.

After her daughter’s accident during her honeymoon in 1969, Medora chose to focus on Karen’s rehabilitation, and has been focused on that ever since, Stewart said.

“The first year [after Karen’s accident] was the toughest,” Stewart wrote in her essay about her mother, “sitting by her daughter in her hospital room at UCLA while Karen was in a coma for 11 months.

“But Medora never gave up hope, and when it looked like UCLA could do no more for Karen, my mother brought her home, equipped our home on Point Dume with all the necessary hospital apparatus and went to work rehabilitating Karen.”

Over time, Stewart wrote, her sister’s condition has improved, but she still cannot walk and has difficulty speaking, although her mother still believes there is the possibility Karen can walk again some day.

“Most days are made up of physical therapy, doctors, appointments and dealing with medical equipment, but Karen’s rehabilitation is always the driving force in my mom’s life,” Stewart wrote.

Describing her mother at 5 feet, two inches tall and 104 pounds, “don’t let her stature mislead you,” Stewart wrote, “she can still transfer Karen out of bed and into her chair, from her chair to the car, and then off they go with their caregiver to keep those appointments, do a little shopping, or have lunch out, seemingly oblivious to this daunting challenge.”

Former Councilmember Ken Kearsley was Karen’s high school advisor, when she was president of the ASB girls’ league and has known the Colberg family for many years.

Describing Medora and her late husband Schiller, Kearsley said, “If you had to choose a neighbor, you would want to choose the Colbergs,” saying that they were/are “two of the finest Malibuites … both giving to the community…”

Of Medora, Kearsley said, “You want a role model for mother, grandmother, aunt … there is Medora.” Noting that Japan names deserving citizens as National Treasures, Kearsley said the city should do the same, and that Medora should be the first nomination. “She is a city treasure,” he said.

“Medora is just a person filled with love … There’s a special place in heaven for her …,” he added.

Closing her essay about her mother to the Times, Stewart wrote: “Most adults try to teach life lessons with long talks or short admonitions, but my mother taught me lessons all my life in the best way possible-by example. And at ninety-one, she’s still living her creed.”

The Mother of The Year, Rosie Award is named after publisher Arnold York’s late mother, Rosie York. As Mother of The Year, Medora Colberg will receive the following gifts, donated by sponsors of the Rosie Award: Two bottles of wine from Semler Wines, an organic facial from Essence Organic, a manicure from The Nail Box, a mini makeover from Malibu Oasis Salon, an evening at the movies, compliment of The Malibu Times, dinner for two at Beau Rivage Restaurant, compliment of The Malibu Times and a gift certificate from Canfield Persons, a home accents and décor store.