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The Blacks were all smiles after learning that their mother, Patti, center, had won south county's Mother of the Year competition. Joining Patti are her daughters Jami, left, and Jessi. Bill Milligan photo (click for larger version)

Oakville woman named Mother of the Year

Seventy-seven nominations submitted

After surviving a cancer scare in 1999, Mother's Day celebrations carry with them a taste of hope and opportunity for Patti Black's family.

Therefore, it seems only appropriate that Patti Black was selected as south county's Mother of Year. A total of 77 nominations were submitted for Call Newspapers' first-ever Mother of the Year Contest.

"In 1999, the doctors told my mom that one of her kidneys had a cancerous tumor,'' 14-year-old Jessi Black of Oakville wrote in her nomination letter. "I expected my mom to be unbelievably scared. But she was very calm about the whole situation.''

But her mom doesn't remember being all that calm after doctors told her about the tumor.

"All I could think about was who's going to take care of my kids,'' Patti said. "Your heart is wrenched. Your life flashes before you when you hear news like that.''

But Patti is a survivor and she now believes that every day is a gift.

"I didn't know you put that in there, Jes,'' Patti said when asked about her brush with cancer. "Wow. Well, it gives you a different perspective. You make the most of everything, live every day to the fullest after thinking you have cancer.

"The tumor was so large, they removed my right kidney completely,'' Patti said. "We still didn't know anything until four or five days after the operation. Then they told me they didn't find any cancer.

"I still have to go to the urologist every year,'' Patti added. "Everything, so far, has been great.''

Patti said she doesn't know if she deserves to be south county's Mother of the Year, but said she appreciates her husband, Phil, for making it possible for her to stay home with her children.

"I've got two of the best daughters anywhere,'' Patti said. "They're pretty incredible kids.''

Jessi remembers when her mom worked, making flight reservations for TWA.

"She worked nights and we didn't get to see mom that often,'' Jessi said. "We had an awesome baby sitter, but it's cool now that we get to see mom when we wake up and when we come home from school at night.''

Jessi's teacher, Sandy Lohutka of Victory Christian Academy, made copies of the contest entry form and suggested her pupils submit nominations as a writing challenge.

But Jessi didn't think her entry would go anywhere because "I never win anything.''

But her handwritten nomination letter tells a different story.

"She is the only person I put true confidence in,'' Jessi wrote. "I can tell her anything and she understands.

"Yes, my mom and I have disagreements. Even through disagreements she always handles the situation calmly, which makes me respect her that much more,'' Jessi's nomination letter stated.

Patti said she gets her demeanor from her father, Gene Hudson, a retired benefits administrator for Granite City Steel. He and his wife, Mary, who worked at the Granite City Board of Education, have retired and moved to Naples, Fla.

Patti attended Granite City South High School and worked as a billing supervisor for a Clayton law firm after graduation from a junior college there.

She and Phil lived in Bridgeton until moving to Oakville seven years ago.

"I wanted to nominate my mom because she puts up with my hyperness and me and Jami (her sister) bickering a lot,'' Jessi wrote. "My mom has showed me that faith and bravery can make powerful differences in outcomes.''

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