published Saturday, December 7th, 2013

Mohney: ‘I want my life to make a difference’

By Nell Mohney

I met Maxine Alper when we were helping plan an event sponsored by the American Lung Association. I was impressed by her amazing energy and her willingness to perform the most menial and time-consuming tasks. Most committee members felt we couldn’t commit that much time and fulfill our responsibilities.

On a snowy day in February 1996, I decided to confront Maxine with a question that had been nagging my mind. I turned to her and asked, “What motivates you to serve others in such a consistent manner?” Then I added, “I know that you are married to a doctor and have children and grandchildren, so how do you find time to serve our community so effectively?” Her answer was concise, revealing and pure Maxine: “I want my life to make a difference for good and God.”

Last spring, the American Lung Association of Tennessee’s Women of Distinction board created a new category to announce at its annual luncheon. It was called Diamonds of Distinction to honor four women who have served our community for several decades. Obviously, Maxine was first to be named.

Last Saturday, I was stunned to read the newspaper account of Maxine’s death. I had seen her only two weeks earlier, and she was her usual energetic and vibrant self. Her obituary was long and impressive, listing the organizations in which she had served. Her community involvement covered a broad spectrum from being a member of the first local human rights commission to being a founding member of Friends of Special Children.

Then on Sunday at the celebration of her life, I was aware the other three women who were named with Maxine as Diamonds of Distinction — Mary Barker, Jo Ann Yates and I — were all present. It’s likely we were thinking some of the same things: “Life is beautiful and fragile and short,” and more especially, “I want my life to make a difference for good and God.”

Nell Mohney is a Christian author, motivational speaker and seminar leader. She may be reached at

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