The Heart of Kernersville: Kathy Garlow

By NJ Clausen

May is such a lovely month in North Carolina… trees have filled out, flowers are blooming, birds greet the day with song… and we celebrate Mother’s Day this month. Regardless of your relationship, let’s face it—without her, you would not be here today. This month I would like to introduce you to one of the most gracious women and loving mothers I know, Kathy Garlow.

Kathy was born in Ohio and had four brothers and four sisters. They were raised in the country and played together in the yard, inventing games and using their imagination. At the end of high school, Kathy had not planned on college. In fact, she had taken and passed all tests and the physical prior to enlisting in the Marines. After a discussion where her Mom suggested she first give college a try for a year, see how she liked it and then enlist if she desired, Kathy enrolled in college where she joined ROTC. When asked what attracted her to ROTC, Kathy recalled the discipline, camaraderie, the uniforms, and the appeal of knowing that she would have a job right after college as a Second Lieutenant. Before her junior year, upon completing “boot camp,” Kathy earned a scholarship—which is helpful when you are from a large family and paying your own way through college! After graduating with a degree, a commission, and shortly afterwards a husband, Kathy went on active duty for four years with the Air Force in the office of special investigations. She worked as a Special Agent in OSI for almost a year before she was asked if she wanted to work in counter espionage… and she said, “Sure!” Kathy worked in this department for 3 years, coordinating with the FBI. She did clarify that work in this area is not what you see on television and involved a lot of paperwork and little action.

After completing her tour, Kathy and her family relocated to Kernersville in 1983. They had moved from a suburb in Maryland where everyone worked, and you did not have many opportunities to know your neighbors. Determined that she would be active in her new community, Kathy and her family joined a local church, where she met some people who have become her closest friends. She also became part of a group that was then known as ‘Kernersville Newcomers,’ but is now renamed ‘Kernersville Newcomers and Neighbors.’ One of her best early memories of life here was the smallness of the town, which offered just enough for a young family. Reflecting on the differences of growing up in a large family and having a smaller family, Kathy shared that in a large family somewhere along the way you were responsible for the younger siblings, learning to get along and to compromise. With smaller families, you do more for them than they do for themselves. There is not as much need to compromise if everyone has their own phone, computer, and TV. This could prove to be problematic when entering the work force or becoming part of a group, as you need to learn to get along with and listen to other people.

While discussing Mother’s Day, Kathy believes that the day is important because Moms do so much, and she credited a close friend with describing ‘Mother’ as the heart of the family. When talking about her own mother, who is still very mentally agile while in her 90’s, she described her strength and unshakeable faith. With a chuckle, she added that with nine kids, her mother needed both! Kathy learned about her religion as a child, but as an adult she realized that there was so much more to learn which included becoming a better version of herself and doing the next right thing. Kathy added that May is the month that Catholics honor Mary as we honor our own mother, and that she takes us by the hand to lead us to her son. Kathy realized that her mothers’ strength came from her faith, and the memory of her mother while she was growing up helped guide her when raising her own. Kathy laughed as she repeated the old saying of “Wait until you grow up and have kids,” and how she would call her Mom after something happened with her kids and apologize for what she had done as a child. When asked what she would like to share with new mothers, Kathy stressed the importance of being consistent, and no matter what, love your kids for who they are and resist comparing them to others. Each child offers something unique to the family and to the world.

Kathy would like to say thank you to her friends and church family for being there over the years, thank you to her boys for staying local, and to Kernersville for being such a great place to live!

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