2007-07-06 / Society

Never let fear rule life

- Aida Lawless
By McKenzie Sunday Cub@TheColumbiaStar.com

Aida Lawless Aida Lawless My grandmother, Aida Lawless looks like your typical grandmother. She does the normal grandma act; she loves to bake and go to her granddaughters' dance recitals. Few people could guess that in her youth, she spent days hiding in a volcano to escape Japanese soldiers, or she honeymooned at a forgotten wonder of the world, the Banawe Rice Terraces.

This grandmother was born on the island of Negros Occidental in the Philippines. She grew up around her parents' farm at the foot of a volcano, Mt. Kanlaon. When the Japanese occupied the Philippines during World War II, she was forced to learn to speak and write Japanese.

Aida met her future husband, Robert Lawless, while he was teaching at an American school in the mountain resort city of Baguio. Aida married Robert in the Philippines without her mother's approval. Her mother refused to speak to her for four months and did not attend the wedding to protest Aida's marriage to a foreigner, but her mother forgave her when she had her daughter, Ilona.

In 1968, Aida moved to Englewood, New Jersey with her young family where she had a son, Andy, who was later diagnosed with autism and now lives in a special needs home in Florida.

After Aida and Robert divorced in 1978, she traveled along the East Coast, spending her last traveler's check on a helicopter ride over Niagara Falls.

One of her greatest accomplishments was learning to drive at the age of 52, one step in her ultimate triumph to be, as she said, "Independently living in a foreign country."

Her life is full of triumphs because of her determination to "never let fear rule life." After retiring from her job as a financial aid counselor at the University of Florida, she moved to Columbia to be closer to her daughter and grandchildren. She now resides in Finlay House and brags that at the age of 80 she takes no pills, and often says to her grandchildren at dinner, "In onion there is strength."

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