Molly Guevara has so many “adopted” grandchildren, it’s difficult for her to keep track of every one of them.
There’s her daughter-in-law’s niece, who as a little girl lost her grandmother and asked Molly if she would fill the role. There were also all the young men and women who Molly took in and raised as her own. Then there are her own eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
One of her proudest moments was this past May when her grandson, Ryan, graduated from Winslow High School. He was 13-years old when Molly began raising him. She was 76.
There are many more that have passed through Molly’s front door that refer to her as grandma even if they didn’t live with her.
Her daughter, Anita, said, “there’s hardly a time she’s not helping someone out. She just has a big heart.”
Her secret to winning over people is her big heart and her big hugs. There is a comforting but powerful sentiment to her hugs. They convey a sense of protection and sincere concern — just like a grandmother.
Another reason Molly, now 81, is so grandmotherly is that she has been taking care of people since she was a young teenager.
Molly moved to Winslow with her parents at age 6. She remembers the downtown area existing of nothing more than First Street and her grandfather picking up her and her family in a horse-drawn carriage.
As the third of nine children, it was natural for her to look after her younger siblings. But her life of service to others would truly begin when her mother suffered a stroke.
She was forced to drop out of high school as a freshman to care for her younger siblings and mother. Molly took a job as a dishwasher when she was 12 or 13-years old. One day the waitress didn’t show up and so she was thrust into her other career. She said she is sure she has waitressed in every restaurant in Winslow at some time.
In the late 1960s, she met two elderly ladies while working. They were moving to Winslow and asking advice on where to live. They became instant friends with Molly.
As the years passed, the two older women needed someone to look after them. Fortunately for them, Molly was there. Eventually, they moved to a nursing home in Chino Valley. Molly would still visit them on the weekends.
As she was caring for her friends, Molly was raising five children, taking care of her mother, who was also in a nursing home, and her father after he suffered a heart attack.
Her mother died in 1981 and her father passed two years later. Her two older friends died around the same time. Her husband, Willie, was killed in action in World War II.
Even after her mother passed away, Molly continued to visit the other residents of the nursing home.
Even though most people her age are retired, Molly hasn’t stopped serving others.
Since 2001, she has been a volunteer caregiver with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. Molly was recently awarded the Presidential Volunteer Award for devoting more than 4,000 hours as a volunteer. Last month, the Northern Arizona Council of Governments also recognized her unselfish contributions and bestowed upon her the Accomplished Elder Award.
She visits one woman now who is homebound, just taking time to talk with her and be a friend. Molly sees her three days a week but saves the other two so she can take care of herself.
Molly also volunteers for St. Vincent DePaul and looks in on other senior citizen friends.
“It seems to me I’ve helped a lot of people,” she said. “I helped the City of Winslow and my country because I enjoy it. Whenever I can, wherever I’m needed.”
She added that she wants people to be there for her when she gets old and needs assistance and a friend. And it wouldn’t hurt to offer a hug too.