Alice Redmond is a classy lady with a great sense of humor and a twinkle in her eye. I first met Alice at church and was immediately impressed by her warmth and smile, not to mention her taste in jewelry! But Alice is more than a well-accessorized southern woman. She has a deep faith in God and a commitment to making a difference in her community.
Alice doesn’t “sweat the small stuff” and understands what is important in life. She learned these life lessons the hard way. She survived a parent’s worst nightmare – the death of her 17-year-old son, TJ, to bone cancer.
Born in Griffin, Georgia, Alice moved all over the south and ended up back in Griffin to finish high school. Her family later moved to Wichita Falls, Texas, where she graduated from Midwestern State University with a degree in Elementary Education. She first met her future husband, Tom, in Wichita Falls where he was stationed at Sheppard Air Force Base as an instructor pilot. Alice and Tom married in 1975 and Alice taught elementary school while Tom served in the Air Force.
In 1975 their first-born, TJ (Thomas Joseph Redmond III) was born, followed by two daughters, Robin and Jae. In 1979, Tom left the Air Force to join Delta Airlines and they moved to Peachtree City. Alice took time off from teaching when the children were little, but went back when Huddleston Elementary opened. She later taught 6th grade at Booth Middle School.
Tell us a little about TJ’s illness and how it changed your life.
TJ was diagnosed with stage 4 bone cancer in 1995. He was running track at McIntosh High School and first complained of his leg hurting. By the time his condition was identified, the cancer had spread. TJ only lived for sixteen months after the diagnosis, but he packed a lot of living into that time. He went skiing, camping and on mission trips with our church.
I learned so much from TJ. He was my hero and I nominated him to be one of the torchbearers in the torch relay before the 1996 Olympics held here in Atlanta. He was selected and the news media picked up his story. Everyone was blown away by TJ’s attitude and strength. Looking forward to the torch relay kept TJ going. After carrying the flame, he began to fade and died six weeks later.
I’ll never understand why this happened to TJ, but I know God has a plan for my family. He gave Tom and me comfort and strength when we needed it most. I go back and read the journal I kept during that time and remember how uplifted I was by God’s grace. Otherwise, I can’t imagine how I could have survived it.
What are some of the lessons you learned during that difficult time?
I learned what is important and not important! None of us knows how much time we really have, and we need to use it wisely. Going through the journey with TJ matured me. I felt like I grew up. I’d never had anything traumatic happen to me before. It totally changed the way I looked at life.
Family is so important. When I see people who are estranged from family members, I want to grab them and tell them to swallow their pride and forgive and ask for forgiveness. Also, parents today spend a lot of time trying to keep their kids safe from any suffering or negative experience. In reality, kids need some of these experiences to prepare them for what they may face in the future. Suffering causes growth and you learn many life skills.
Tell us about your own bout with cancer after TJ died.
Two years after TJ died, I got breast cancer and underwent surgery, chemo and radiation.
My first thoughts were about how this would affect my girls. How would I tell them I have cancer because to them cancer meant death? I told them, “You have seen cancer at its worst but this is not it.” For me personally, it wasn’t too big a deal. The cancer was caught early and I had already been through far worst with TJ’s illness.
What are your passions now in this stage of your life?
I look at things through the prism of my faith – that God puts us here for a purpose and He has a path for us to take. Sometimes our path takes twists and turns that we would not choose. But God is in control. My greatest joy is Tom and my girls. Robin is 30, married to Jon and lives in Cumming. She is a 7th grade language arts teacher. Jae is 28, lives in Peachtree City, teaches art and is a photographer.
I love my church, First Baptist Church of Peachtree City and serve as the Single Adults connection group leader. These folks teach me more than I teach them! My close friend, Sara Strandburg, and I started the Manna Ministry that provides meals after a funeral. I love interacting with the families and comforting them in any way I can.
I also volunteer at the Wellspring Living Resale Boutique. I’ve worked there in various capacities since the store opened and right now you can find me behind the cash register. The money raised through the store directly benefits the girls who are clients of Wellspring.
In my spare time I enjoy reading and attending the monthly “Sister Chicks” Book Club with friends. When Tom retires we hope to do more traveling. I’d like to see the Holy Land and some of the wonderful places in America like the Grand Canyon. But most of all, I love spending time with my family and friends.