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Lessons In Business And Life From Gertie Danner

By Kyle Danner

With Mother’s Day almost here, I’ve been thinking about the lessons my mother taught me. She was 84 years old when she passed away three years ago due to a bad heart condition. Mom didn’t hold regular classes for us on what to do and what not do. She put her lessons into action.

This is what I learned from her:

Have Faith: Mom prayed every morning and attended Mass daily (I was raised Catholic). Whenever things were particularly tough, whether in business or in life, Mom’s standard answer was to “pray about it.” I’m not a religious person, but I cannot deny the power of faith.

To me, faith is that deep belief that everything, one way or another, will turn out okay. Maybe not exactly the way we want it to, but it will be okay. Granted, that may seem to run counter to my preference for science, but faith keeps us going. It certainly helped Mom going in the face of numerous hardships.

Serve Others: I learned the value of service to others early in life. Mom was an active member of our church. Whether it was baking a casserole for a funeral luncheon or serving on the parish council, Mom gave her time, talent and treasure. As a little kid, I enjoyed helping her. It’s what we did together.

Being part of a community was a reminder that there is something bigger than us in this world. Yet service to others wasn’t just about volunteering. It was about greeting others, and including strangers with a warm smile and open heart.

Work Hard: The woman was a workhorse. If she wasn’t working in one of the family businesses, she was at home cleaning, doing laundry or fixing dinner. From sun up to sun down, Mom was always on the move. She taught me my earliest lessons in project management.

Mom made lists whether it was for a church function or dinner party.  She project managed Thanksgiving dinner complete with a detailed shopping list and time outline. She wanted things done right and knew a well-laid plan was essential.

Enjoy Life: Mom knew how to have fun. Whether it was traveling with dad or enjoying a glass of good wine, she knew the importance of time off. She loved to laugh and she was up for anything too.

For a photography class I took, she took this picture:


It’s not the sweet little old lady everyone thought she was. She was a good sport about it, and it became a class favorite.

Like moms everywhere, she was an extraordinary woman in the most ordinary ways. I miss her, but remember the lessons she taught me. Whether you work for mom or mom works for you in the family’s business, share the lessons she taught you. More than likely, she won’t take credit.

Gertie certainly wouldn’t, but it’s good for your mother to hear and for you to share.