PULLMAN, Wash. — Two siblings who stepped in to raise their sister, a Seattle lawyer who raised her nephew when his mother could not, a mother who raised five Cougars, and a woman who supported her daughter through 10 surgeries are the finalists for Washington State University’s 2002 Mom of the Year Award.
Finalists Rebecca Botko of Los Angeles and Jennifer Botko-Scholz of Folsom, Calif., Kathy Cochran of Seattle, Kay Spoonemore Nelsen of Kent, and Rosemarie Ratcliff of Lacey, will be honored at an April 13 Mom’s Weekend Brunch at 10 a.m. in the Compton Union Building. The winner will be announced at the brunch.
Sisters Rebecca Botko and Jennifer Botko-Scholz were nominated by sibling Stephanie Botko, sophomore, for taking over the role of parent after their mother, Francis Kathleen Botko, died in a car accident in 1994. Jennifer, a WSU graduate, works as an analyst for Verizon Wireless and is a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. Rebecca is a teacher for a California high school and a varsity soccer coach. Both are members of the Philanthropic Educational Organization.
“After the tragic accident that placed my entire family in a whirlwind, my two sisters took over the position going from being 19 and 21-year-old sisters to advancing their lives to become mothers,” Stephanie wrote. “They became a point of stability that helped keep my dad, my brother and importantly me to keep looking forward…”
Kathy Cochran, a single Seattle attorney, took custody of her nephew, junior Robert Cochran, when he was 15, rather than let him be placed into foster care. Robert wrote that his aunt was there for him “financially and emotionally” despite a sometimes challenging adolescence.
Cochran was a 4.0 student at the University of Washington and graduated at the top of her class in law school there. She has been recognized in “America’s Best Lawyers.” She is chairwoman of the Over the Counter Drug Committee of the Defense Research Institute, and served on the board of director of the Washington Defense Trial Lawyers Association. In addition, she volunteers her services at First Place, a school for the homeless in Seattle.
Kay Spoonemore Nelsen, nominated by her sons Brett Nelsen, a senior, and Eric Nelsen, a freshman, works as a teacher at Kentlake High School and served as a gymnastics coach at Kentwood High School. She graduated from WSU in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and is a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority. She continues to serve WSU as a member of the King County Cougar Club and as a President’s Associate for seven years. Nelsen is the mother of one WSU alum and four current students.
“Our mom is unique in every sense of the word,” the brothers wrote in a nomination letter. “Her ability to do everything from teaching, coaching, sewing professionally, to fixing holes in the walls around the house we installed, is totally amazing. All the talents she possesses make her a Jane-of-all-trades.”
Senior Marie Ratcliff nominated her mother, Rosemarie Ratcliff, because “everyone’s life that my mother becomes involved in, she has changed for the better.”
Rosemarie is active in the community, leading a number of church activities and serving in the local chapter of Future Farmers of America Alumni Club. She raised three children and her nephew and has taken other youths into her home. Marie wrote that her mother always puts others’ needs before her own.
“At the ripe old age of 21, I have had a total of 10 surgeries … At every one my mother has not left my side from the time we got the hospital to the time we go home,” Marie wrote.
The Mom of the Year Award is presented annually to acknowledge the impact that mothers make on their children’s lives, to honor their personal achievements and to recognize the diverse contributions that they make to their communities.