A Millsboro mother of 12 and a passionate mom from Milford will be honored in April by the Delaware Association of Mothers.
Lou Ann Rieley, 52, was named 2013 Mother of the Year, and Kim Hoey-Stevenson, 47, won the title Young Mother of the Year. The pair will join 2013 Mother of Achievement Jane Lough Schneider of Townsend when they are all installed by Gov. Jack Markell in April.
The three women will then travel to the National Mother of the Year competition in New York City at the end of April to compete for national honors in their categories.
Rieley's children are now aged 10 to 31. Three of them live in Washington, D.C.; the rest have settled near the family's 20-acre farm on Gravel Hill Road near Millsboro. During her service as Mother of the Year, Rieley said, she hopes to teach others about the important role of family in the lives of children.
“I hope to bring dignity back to the role of traditional motherhood and the importance of family,” Rieley said. “Families have callings; they have a destiny. Some families are very musical; some are into the arts. For our family, it is working in government and helping others.”
Rieley was adopted as an infant, so she has always believed it was her job to care for others, the way her adoptive parents cared for her.
As she speaks, a child cries, and her 13-year-old son goes to check on baby Nora, one of Rieley's grandchildren. “There's a sense of responsibility for each other,” Rieley notes.
When Rieley was married, she knew she would have as many children as God allowed her. She said she knew her mission was to open her arms and home to any child who God sent.
“Choosing to have 11 natural-born children has often brought ridicule and unsought recognition,” said Rieley, who adopted one son. “Experiences have given me opportunity to practice what I teach my children: patience, kindness, self-control, and to guard my heart and keep my peace while carefully choosing my words.”
Her children grew up helping on the farm, raising cows, horses, goats and pigs.
Seventeen-year-old Thomas is an agricultural entrepreneur, while 13-year-old James is an apprentice herd manager at Hopkins dairy farm outside Lewes.
Joshua, 14, Christopher, 16, and Matthew, 10, are homeschooled.
The Rieleys' oldest son, Shaun, 31, is a combat veteran working for the National American Legion. Erin, 19, is a mental health worker with the Family Research Council, and Katelyn, 25, works as a trauma center nurse, all three in Washington, D.C.
Living near the family farm in Millsboro, Michael, 29, is a father of four and a restaurant entrepreneur, while Mark, 27, is a career military man now attending college. Daughter Megan, 23, lives with her husband and provides home care for Sussex seniors.
Kelly, 21, recently moved back to the Rieley home with her husband and daughter, and works as a military police officer with the Delaware National Guard. Whether it was encouragement or financial backing, the Rieleys supported all their children.
During financial troubles, the family pulled together; several of the children opened Mountain Mudd stands across Sussex, the only business the Rieleys started that was not a success. When Rieley was ready to give up on the venture, she said the children wanted to keep pushing to try to make it a success.
“These kids are a vital part of our family's success,” Rieley said. “It is a testimony to the kids' spirits to stand together with the family and lay aside their social lives to work for the good of the family.”
Longtime friend Mallory Derby, who nominated Rieley, said Rieley pioneered homeschooling in Sussex County, cofounding the Kings Kids Academy for homeschooling. In her nomination, Derby said the Rieleys opened their home to any child who needed love, expressed through food, faith, hugs, training and prayer.
“Homeschooling gives us a sense of family purpose and a sense of family unity,” Rieley said. “Our kids are not distracted by negative peer pressure, although sometimes they can do that to each other, but here the family becomes the socializing agent.”
In addition, nearly 30 years ago, Rieley and a group of women founded the Sussex Pregnancy Care Center in Georgetown. The Rieleys are members of Abundant Life Church in Georgetown, and Rieley is active in the Sussex County Republican Party. Her husband, John, is chairman as well as president of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce.
“There are a lot of good moms all across the state, and I feel I can serve as a spokesperson for them all,” Rieley said. “Mothering is never over, and now I have grandkids to take care of. You never know who God is going to send next.”
Motherhood was life-altering
Kim Hoey-Stevenson of Milford says having a child changed everything for her.
“Every job, story, volunteer position, radio station I listen to in the car – everything I do, I think about how it will affect my daughter's life, as well as the example I am presenting,” Hoey-Stevenson said.
It was this perspective that earned her the title of Young Mother of the Year for 2013. Hoey-Stevenson will join Mother of the Year Lou Ann Rieley,
“I was shocked when they told me I won,” said Hoey-Stevenson. “It's such a great honor.”
Her 8-year-old daughter, Lydia, and her husband, David, joked that if Hoey-Stevenson was the young mother, how old was the old mother. Officials choose the young mother based on the child's age, she said.
In addition to their daughter together, Lydia, David had six children prior to marrying Hoey-Stevenson, and the couple has 13 grandchildren.
“My priorities became very clear once we had Lydia. It is God, family, job,” she said. “I'm a mom, and that's my job.”
At 38, Hoey-Stevenson became a stay-at-home mom when Lydia was born. She recently returned to work as part-time development director for a Lewes-based educational foundation that provides funding for innovative teaching and character development.
“Every child is different, and I believe a parent should help the child explore different avenues and ideas and encourage those in which the child shows interest without taking over,” she said. “I always say being a parent makes me stronger and weaker at the same time. I know I can stand up to anything for the sake of this child, but also that a small slight to her can feel like a crushing blow to me.”
As secretary of the state Republican Party, Hoey-Stevenson has been involved in many campaigns in Kent and Sussex counties, including working for Glen Urquhart. She said working on campaigns taught her a lot and helped her show the importance of government to her daughter.
“I really want Lydia to have these good role models of a strong woman, so she knows that if she wants to be president, she can go out and do that,” Hoey-Stevenson said.
When a babysitter got a tattoo, Hoey-Stevenson sat down with Lydia and explained the permanence of a tattoo.
“I said, remember how you used to like Barney? Well do you like Barney now? Well what if when you really liked Barney, you got a tattoo?” Hoey-Stevenson said. “Think about that before you ever do anything permanent to your body.”
Hoey-Stevenson has a degree in psychology and co-authored the book, “Overcoming Misfortune: Children Who Beat the Odds,” a book that explored the positive side of psychology. She is a freelance writer for Reuters, Gannett, the Associated Press and the News Journal, Parade Magazine and Delaware Beach Life.
“Every child is different; they aren't lumps of clay. There is no recipe that if you throw all of this in, you will have a super kid,” Hoey-Stevenson said. “The job of a parent is to educate, equip and empower a child to become a responsible, thoughtful, caring and independent adult.”
The awards will be presented by the Delaware Association of American Mothers and Gov. Jack Markell at 2 p.m., Tuesday, April 16, at the Governor's Cafe in Dover. The national Association of American Mothers Inc. convention will begin Thursday, April 25, in New York City. For more information, go to www.AmericanMothersDelaware.com.