During the recent presidential campaign, it became clear that the world finally caught up with us as a climate emerged for acknowledging grandparents: We learned that Sarah Palin, the Republican nominee for vice president, was about to become a grandma and Barack Obama, then Democratic candidate for president, had supended his campaign for a few days to visit his ailing grandmother.
At Grandparents.com, we've scoured the news for grandparents, famous and not-so famous, who have affected the world, leading through example or changing the way we think. As the year comes to a close, we celebrate these extraordinary individuals who embody the finest attributes of today's grandparents — love, strength, and bold new perspectives — with our first Top 11 Grandparents awards.
11. Paul McCartney
The former Beatle proved that the birth of a grandchild never gets old — even if it's your sixth. The call of the American open road and the celebration of his 66th birthday with new love Nancy Shevell couldn't keep Sir Paul from flying back to England to meet his new grandson, Sam, born to daughter Mary.
10. Sarah Palin
Despite the controversy surrounding her teenage daughter Bristol's pregnancy, the vice-presidential nominee stood strong in support of her child. Nary an excuse flew out of her mouth, nor did she give a cold shoulder to the baby daddy. Instead, Palin embraced the situation and declared that her first grandchild will grow up in a loving family.
9. Sonia Briggs
Armed with her medical bag, weapon, ammunition pack, and her laptop (to keep in touch with the family), Sonia Briggs, 50, left the trappings of regular life to assume her role as a corporal nurse in Britain's Royal Auxiliary Air Force in Afghanistan. The grandmother of three humbly told the The Mirror she wanted to do "her bit," giving patriotism a new face along the way.
8. Dolph Overton
Serious collectors seek out the most beautiful and rare examples of the objects they love. For the North Carolinian, Korean War ace, 82-year-old Dolph Overton, it was a 1929 Ford 4-AT-E Tri-Motor airplane hit by bullets during the 1941 attack Pearl Harbor. Overton restored the plane and then decided it was time to sell, saying some things are more important than possessions. The funds will pay for the education of his ten grandchildren.
7. Louise Stoll
Watching her pregnant daughter awkwardly exit a plane carrying a toddler on one hip, a car seat on the other, and a diaper bag, Louise Stoll, 69, of Vermont, had a simple idea — ditch the car seat. Stoll designed the Child Aviation Restraint System (CARES), a harness for children between 22 and 44 pounds, making it easier for little ones to travel. With nearly half of all grandparents living 200 miles or more from a grandchild, according to an AARP survey, Stoll's invention helps bring families together safely.
6. Jacilyn Dalenberg and Crystal Sirignano
No parent wants to watch a child suffer through the pains of infertility but Jacilyn Dalenberg, 56, of Ohio, and Crystal Sirignano, 52, of Michigan, showed an uncommon level of support by acting as surrogates for their daughters' children. Dalenberg gave birth to three granddaughters and Sirignano to a girl and boy. Sirignano called it, "the best experience of my life."
5. Shimon and Yehudit Rosenberg
The three-day terrorist siege in Mumbai over theThanksgiving holiday claimed the lives of 163 people, including Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, who ran the city's Chabad-Lubavitch center. Rivka's parents, Shimon and Yehudit Rosenberg of Israel, won't let an act of hate destroy the couples' legacy. They are raising their two-year-old grandson, Moshe, and said they will rebuild the center.
4. James Lewin
James Lewin, 65, was walking his newborn granddaughter in her carriage after a holiday celebration when a pickup truck came careening toward them. The Colorado grandfather pushed the carriage to safety but sustained life-threatening injuries that he continues to battle in the hospital. Lewin's heroics have become a symbol of the unconditional sacrifices grandparents make for the youngest generation.
3. Pope Benedict XVI
Okay, so he's not a grandpa, but the rock-star pontiff ingratiated himself to our cause when he said grandparents are "a treasure which the younger generation should not be denied." Speaking at a conference last April meant to highlight grandparents' roles in families, the Pope called grandparents "a precious resource … to be better valued." We couldn't agree more.
2. Marian Lucille Herndon McQuade
Marian Lucille Herndon McQuade, the West Virginia, housewife who lobbied for the creation of Grandparents Day, passed away this year at the age of 91. Her work serves as a national reminder to take the time to honor everyday heroes who make the world a better place for their grandchildren.
1. Marian Robinson
Her son-in-law Barack Obama got the lion's share of ink this year, but Marian Robinson, 71, is truly the "unsung hero," as the President-Elect referred to her on 60 Minutes. As the First Granny, Robinson is likely headed to D.C., at the behest of her daughter, Michelle. So far, grandparenthood has been hectic, with Robinson putting her own needs second to those of her granddaughters, Sasha and Malia, by devoting herself to maintaining their daily routine during the campaign. An extended Obama family proves the importance of grandparents in raising strong children. Now might be Obama's time, but the future is Sasha's and Malia's, as far as Robinson is concerned.
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