NORTH TONAWANDA – Sara K. Hood has not had an easy life. But it has never dampened her spirit.
She experienced the hard life of the wife of a coal miner before relocating with her husband to North Tonawanda. She lost her husband of 32 years, Charles, and in January, lost her companion of 30 years, Andrew Colville.
She has also fought tough battles as a city alderwoman and more recently faced a number of serious medical conditions, including a rare blood disease.
But none of that can get her down.
“I’ve always had a positive attitude – I’m disgustingly upbeat,” Hood says with a laugh. “I feel tired, and that’s the worst part. I want to do more.”
Hood turned 82 last week and is in a difficult battle with her health, so she would be excused if she decided to sit on her laurels and perhaps even become bitter about the hand she has been dealt.
But that is not Sara Hood’s way. She remains positive about life and recently volunteered to step up as a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross and the importance of giving blood.
She said that she was a regular blood donor and had donated 17 gallons of blood since the 1960s, but now she needs blood, something she never expected. She wants others to take up the cause and become donors.
“I, once the giver of blood, now am the receiver,” Hood said. “People should realize that this is the best gift that they are ever going to give.”
It sounds like you have been extremely active in your community.
I was extremely active. I was alderwoman for 10 years, from 1980 to 1990. I went door to door every time I ran. I still have the spiral notebook I kept of calls that I would get.
What made you decide to become an alderwoman?
I was asked by the Republican Party. What started all of this was that I went with a friend to the local International Joint Commission, and I started reading some literature there about the new sewage treatment plant they wanted to build, and the more I read, the more I realized how terribly costly it was going to be. I started a petition drive with over 8,000 signatures and presented the petition in Albany with then-Mayor Betty Hoffman, but it never got anyplace. They turned a deaf ear, but because of my involvement, the Republican Party asked me to run for Council. Which I did, never expecting to win. But I won, and was there five terms.
What are you most proud of doing as alderwoman?
Two of the things I am most proud of is that I instituted a work-for-taxes program with the Department of Public Works. People who were in arrears of their city taxes could work, and that would be applied toward their tax bill. That no longer exists. Another I instituted was Kids for Kids, where people would bring toys and things they didn’t need anymore, and people in need could come and buy things very cheaply. We did this around Christmas time. I just loved working with and for people. That was the best part of my job as an alderwoman.
Did you have any other jobs?
I was appointed by George Maziarz, who was city clerk when I ran, and then county clerk ... he appointed me as the supervisor at the Niagara Falls Department of Motor Vehicles, and I was there for approximately five years, and then at 65 it was time to retire. While I was alderwoman, I worked as a secretary at K-D Supply and also S&S Equipment Inc.
Public service can be a tough job.
When you are in politics, I always said, you have to develop the skin of a rhinoceros because you are out there in the public, and people will take shots at you. But I know that if I am doing a good job, they can say anything they want. You have to let it roll off your back. I really am proud of what I have accomplished.
Now you are facing some serious medical conditions and have stepped back into the spotlight. Can you tell me why?
I was approached by the Red Cross through a letter I had written for The Buffalo News’ My View column. They asked if I would help with the drive. I was proud to do this.
Why is it so important to you for people to give blood?
I have a double whammy diagnosis. In 2009 with JAK-2, (a gene mutation of thrombocytosis), where my bone marrow makes too many platelets. In 2012, I entered treatment at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, where a bone marrow biopsy performed by Dr. James Thompson led to a diagnosis of RARS-T (refractory anemia with ringed sideroblasts associated with marked thrombocytosis). My body had stopped making good red blood cells.
What is your prognosis?
It could turn into leukemia. Right now it is chemo and oral medications. One of the medications I take costs $12,000 a month to help my body make blood. Heaven only knows what that is doing to my body. I’ve lost a lot of weight.
How do you stay positive?
It’s my faith. I really don’t think about it. I don’t take a step without my Lord Jesus Christ. Everything is in God’s hands, and I can just lean back in his hands and relax and let him carry the load. If I did not have that faith, then maybe I could not deal with it.
But you’ve had a lot of loss.
I am so fortunate. I was blessed to have two long-term relationships. I have so many good friends. You choose your friends for those who bring out the best in you. I had a recent bowel surgery, and so many people stopped by the hospital they almost threw us out. And family – two wonderful and responsible children. Sharon, who lives in California, and Scott, who lives in Dallas. My nephew comes every week to have dinner with me. I have five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
What do you tell others who may withdraw when they have things like this to deal with?
You can go one of two ways. But I want to make people aware. I can’t take them by the hand and lead them.
In all, what will you be most proud of?
I hope I am a good person. You pray to be a good person. I do love to give. It almost embarrasses me to be a receiver, and you have to learn to be a good receiver as well, but I will help anybody I can. I have always been that way.
Hood suggests that people who want to help should give to their local hospitals, Roswell Park and the American Red Cross. Upcoming American Red Cross blood drives will be held: from noon to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at MidCity American Red Cross, 301 Meadow Drive, North Tonawanda; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Tuesday at Niagara University, Lewiston Road, Lewiston; 1 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at Faith Lutheran Church, 2730 Transit Road, Newfane; 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Lockport Elks Club, 6791 N. Canal St., Lockport; and 2 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Tonawanda Fire Department, 44 William St., City of Tonawanda.
Information at www.redcrossblood.org
Know a Niagara County resident who’d make an interesting question-and-answer column? Write to: Niagara Weekend Q&A, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or email email@example.com. email: firstname.lastname@example.org