RMNAAFA Member Spotlight:  MaryAnn Leighton

It has been my pleasure to write the member spotlight for our newsletter over the past two years. This months spotlight was written by MaryAnn herself. I posed several questions to her and she responded with this beautifully written autobiography. Rather then alter it I decided to leave it just as she wrote it. On a personal note I would like to add how grateful I am to have met MaryAnn and how pleased I am that she joined RMNAAFA. I am delighted she agreed to be this issues member spotlight so more of you will have a chance to get to know her better. Patti Kelly
I was born in 1960 in Seoul, South Korea at Yongsan Army Garrison.  My father was stationed at Osan Air Base outside of Seoul, where he met and fell in love with my mother.  We lived in Seoul until 1962, when my father was then stationed at Lowry AFB, which brought our family to Denver for the next 4 years.  We then moved to Hill AFB in Ogden, UT until my father retired from the Air Force in 1971, bringing us back to colorful Colorado, where I’ve lived ever since.

Our family moved to Aurora in 1974 and I attended Hinkley High School, where I graduated in 1978.  I attended the University of Colorado at Boulder for one year, deciding not to return, because I just didn’t know I wanted to be when I grew up.

I’m the oldest of three children; I have one brother who also lives in Aurora, and my other brother passed away in 1996.  My mother passed away in 1983 of a long-term illness, but still lives on in my heart!  My father remarried in 1992 and he and my stepmother also live in Aurora.  My father is one of my best friends and the best man I know!

I love listening to all different types of music…country, pop, rock, classical.  I enjoy going to the movies, reading and love crafting of all types.  My favorite times are those that I spend with my family and good friends.

I haven’t had many vacations to speak of in my life; however, I did finally visit the one place on earth I’ve always wanted to see…Ireland!!  I was to travel to Ireland on business in 2000 and was so excited about the trip that  I asked my good friend, Linda to go with me, so that we could wander around the country together.  The business plans feel through, but I thought, it’s now or never…so Linda and I went ahead with our plans and spent two great weeks roaming the Irish countryside…it was FANTASTIC!  We were brave enough to rent a car and drive the narrow roads of Ireland, and it was so exciting!   We covered nearly 700 miles…it was the trip of a lifetime!  I can’t wait to go back and visit the entire UK!!!

I worked a number of odd jobs as a teenager until 1980, when I began working for American Express in their Fraud Prevention Department.  American Express sold off their money order division in 1991, which eventually became First Data Corporation (FDC).  I worked in the Risk Management Unit for nearly 21 years, in various aspects of the area, collections, credit and ultimately returning to my favorite area, the Fraud Prevention Department.  I was the Supervisor of Fraud Prevention from 1995 until I decided to leave the company in January of 2001.   It was a very difficult decision, but I thought it was the right one at the time.

Upon leaving FDC I decided to take a year off in order to spend more time with my father…he had been diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 1997.  He’s doing well these days, and I just pray he’ll be around for a very long time to come.   It’s been a wonderful year, that’s afforded me the luxury of being able to spend some quality time with him and stepmother…I know I’ll have to join the workforce again soon, and I don’t know what I’ll be doing, but I’m so grateful for the past year!

In the early summer of 2001 I happened to be chatting in an AOL BBW chat room one day when I was lucky enough to meet another BBW from Colorado…she happened to be Patti Kelly.  That day really changed the way I live my life as a person of size…it was the first day of the rest of my life!

In the chat room Patti and I started talking about things we enjoyed doing, and she mentioned swimming.  I told her I hadn’t been in a bathing suit or a swimming pool in about 20 yrs.  Patti told me I’d have to join her for a swim at her clubhouse someday soon, to which I thought, I’d love to, but worried nonetheless…could I really get into a swimsuit…I just didn’t know if I could do it!

A few weeks later Patti did invite me to join her at the clubhouse…in fact she invited me to attend the BBW pool party in July.  I was nervous and wasn’t sure whether I would go, but really wanted to, so I asked my friend, Linda if she wanted to go with me…she agreed and the rest is history.  It was one of the best days I’d had in ages…filled with lots of fun, good food and a wonderful new group of friends!

I didn’t join RMNAAFA right away, but attended several other events with the group and found them to be the most gracious and fun loving people I’d met in a very long time.  All my life I’ve been a person of size…not always the largest, but never the smallest in a group of people.  I was lucky in that life never seemed to short change me due to my weight…I had a wonderful group of friends and a good job with wonderful opportunities; however, my life seemed fuller once I found RMNAAFA…lucky once again!!!

It was a great feeling being with people who understood how it felt to be a person of size.  They opened their arms and their hearts to make me feel comfortable and welcome from the minute I met them.  It’s like life began at the age of 41 for me, and I look forward to the future now that it’s filled with newfound fun and friendship.   I’ve gained a lot since the first day I met the wonderful people of RMNAAFA…not in weight, but in confidence, happiness and some of the nicest friends anyone of any size could ask for!!!   Thank you!!!!

The Member Spotlight column is the work of Patti Kelly.

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