I Just Try to See the Best in People

Always an academic high-achiever, Saimi Read wanted to be an astronomer seventy years ago, but her professor informed her this ambition was out of the question for a woman.

93-year old Saimi is still rueful about being barred from fulfilling her dream career because of her gender. Nevertheless, she did become a brilliant academician, earning a master’s degree in the challenging field of physics. In her atomic physics and dynamics classes, she was often the only woman and sometimes the sole student.

Three years ago, it was decided that 90-year old Saimi should move from her home in New York to Cincinnati to be near her only child, Elaine.

Although Saimi still feels a bit of umbrage over the move –“Nobody asked me,” she asserts -- she also points to the many pluses of relocating to Cincinnati. Foremost is her proximity to family, including Elaine and husband Bob as well as Bob’s parents, Mary and Bob (the two mothers-in-law have a strong bond), and her grandson, Jeff. Although her granddaughter, Robin, and her family, including Saimi’s first great-grandchild, Colin, live out of town, they visit each other whenever possible.

Not only is Saimi’s Mariemont apartment reminiscent of her New York digs, but she has also reinvented many of her New York habits. Every morning she buys the newspaper on the corner. She works the crossword puzzle, keeps up with current events, and listens to radio broadcasts from the Met.

She and Elaine go to the movies, eat out frequently, enjoy beautiful country drives, and go on vacations together, including annual trips to see Saimi’s 97-year old brother, Neil (also profiled in this exhibit), who lives in Massachusetts. They attend the Cincinnati Opera and travel to enjoy other concerts, such as a recent excursion to Dayton to hear the Ten Tenors. Once a week she and Elaine eat breakfast at a favorite local coffee shop, the Village Kitchen.

The only clash occurs when Elaine tries to mother her. “My mother is fiercely independent.” Elaine says, “At times like this, her Finnish stubborn streak comes out.”

Painting, a hobby that Saimi began when her husband, Don, was in the army and continued with while raising Elaine, has now become her passion. She has joined an art salon of four women artists who regularly gather at their teacher’s home to paint. Her painting, Nantucket, was featured in a 2007 calendar published by the Southwest Ohio Council on Aging.

Saimi’s health habits have always been virtuous, including walking throughout New York and practicing yoga. She never smoked and still only occasionally indulges in a glass of wine.

Elaine characterizes her mother as quietly caring. “She makes you feel that she understands you,” Elaine says. “She is lovingly supportive and always puts a positive spin on things. She’s so resilient, probably because she’s a Finn -- nothing can floor her!”

Saimi simply says that she hasn’t experienced too much bad luck in life. When she does face adversity, she adjusts. “You need to deal with what comes at you and make the best of it,” she says. She placidly accepts the things she can’t change. “Both my parents were positive,” Saimi notes. “I just try to see the best in people.”

With a philosophy of “Whatever it takes – don’t give up,” she is a strong believer in having goals. Her eyes gleam with amusement. “ I still haven’t given up,” she announces. “I will live ten more years, at least. I’m still healthy -- why shouldn’t I live to be 100?”

Saimi Read