She forced us to dream big

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by Linda Bond, Commissioner – 

Commissioner Linda BondIt was the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, 2003 when I first met Mrs. Joan Kroc. Lt. Colonels Don and Debora Bell and Lt. Colonels Doug and Diane O’Brien arranged for the meeting and we went for lunch at her winter home in the desert.
Of course, I had been prepared for the meeting, having heard the human-interest stories surrounding her kindness to the Army. But I was not prepared for the encounter with a woman whose graciousness and intelligence exceeded her physical beauty and monetary wealth.

While we had several contacts throughout the year, I purposely did not initiate a lot of those. In fact, there were times that I had wished that she was not rich, because I would have loved to have heard more from her on the subjects of politics, music and world affairs. She was extremely well read, informed and discerning. She was so alive!

During my furlough in July, it was such a shock to learn that a routine check-up resulted in further tests and that Mrs. Kroc was terminally ill. Having received the word from her executive secretary, I was asked to phone Mrs. Kroc. There were no “whys” or “how can this be?” just a matter-of-fact request, “Will you speak at my memorial service?” She assured me that she was at peace.

On Sunday November 23, it was my privilege to participate in her memorial service. The service was a small family gathering and was held at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego. It was led by Reverend Robert Brom, Bishop of San Diego. Reverend Theodore Hesburgh, President Emeritus of the University of Notre Dame delivered the message. President Jimmy Carter, Amanda Latimer (her granddaughter) and I offered personal reflections. The musical prelude and interludes were by harpist Elena Mashkovtsena.

It was interesting to me that the service took place so close to two of the most important seasons of celebration, Christmas and Thanksgiving. One emphasizes generosity, the other gratitude. Therefore, I centered my comments on her generosity and our gratitude. Anyone who had association with Joan Kroc could speak of her generosity, but not just with reference to her material wealth. She was generous in her personal interest and warmth. She was generous in her concern for the world. Hers was truly the Christmas spirit.

In sharing some of these thoughts during the service, I referred to John 3:16, as powerful a Christmas story as the gospels declare. God’s generosity is rooted in his great love. To love and to care is to give. If in truth one is generous in spirit, then giving is the outcome. Focusing on Thanksgiving, I expressed gratitude on behalf of The Salvation Army—thankful that wealth did not isolate her; thankful that she forced the Army to dream big; thankful that her vision resonated with our mission; thankful that God who loves a cheerful giver gave his spirit of generosity to someone of means; thankful that she trusted us and found us to be trustworthy.

In some ways, she mirrored William Booth’s fighting spirit in her giving. So I shared the famous quote of the Founder, “While women weep as they do now…I’ll fight,” but I used her vision for the Kroc Center, “While children lack opportunity as they do now…I’ll give.”

Remembering the day [Martin Luther King Jr. holiday] that I met Mrs. Kroc and aware of her intention for the community center, I concluded my remarks with, “I have a dream.” “One day, there will be a special gathering of people similar to those who are here, a politician, perhaps an Olympic athlete, a musical artist, clergy and maybe even a president of the United States. One by one, they will tell their story, relating that life held few opportunities for them, until they walked through the doors of The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center.”

At the conclusion of the memorial service, Mrs. Kroc’s executive secretary spoke to me about this idea of the dream. She said that this was exactly what Mrs. Kroc envisioned. This was her dream, to see these centers as life-changing places, places where young people, in particular, would be denied no opportunity to excel and communities would be changed as a result.



by Carol Seiler, Major –  Families enjoy the pool at the Kroc Center

Thank you, Joan Kroc

Thank you, Joan Kroc

by Robert Docter –  It’s going to take a lot more than a couple of words

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