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Xavier Hermosillo is the President of, a national Crisis Communications, Marketing, and Management firm he founded 23 years ago. He is a former political chief of staff, an award-winning reporter and photographer, and a former radio talk show host and TV commentator in Los Angeles. He has co-founded two publicly-traded companies where he served as a member of the Board of Directors and as the Senior Vice President of Investor Relations and Corporate Communications. He has also served as a Hearing Examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission on police officer discipline cases, and holds degrees in Administration of Justice and Business and Communications. He can be reached at

In this first week of 2006 most of us are excited about the prospects of what lies ahead, how our lives will be improved, or perhaps impacted by those around us, new and old friends, new and old enemies, the leaders, the clueless, the wannabees, the incompetents, et al.

For me, this year has started off terribly with the sudden death of my Mother-in-Law right after Christmas. One of the oldest myths that we deal with in life is that Mothers-in-Law are bad, mean-spirited, out to get the men who married their overly-protected and most- favored daughter, who are gold diggers, etc., etc., etc. Not in my life. My wife's Mom, Mary Zunich, was as close to being a Saint as my late Sainted Mother Blanca. To have been a part of the lives of these two women is to have been blessed beyond belief.

I often share these personal experiences with you because I feel they reflect a view of life that journalists should consider when they write or report about everyday life and this is certainly one of those moments as we enter the New Year.

Who needs New Years' resolutions for future success when you have had the benefit of sage advice from someone as highly accomplished in life and as wonderful as Mother Mary, or simply "Ma" as I called her?

I often hear politicians and community leaders talk about the need for mentors in our society, business leaders or actors or sports stars who are seen as having a special ability to give great advice on life for young and old to follow in order to make it in this world. I used to believe some of that until I met Mary.

She'd had a few of her own tough bumps in life, but as I got to know her lovely daughter, I could see that she had been mentored by a very special woman. Not only did Mary teach her the basics of life and of being a good person, but she taught my wife about so many things that are more important and substantive than just cooking, sewing, working, gardening, whatever.

Mary taught all four of her daughters to be strong, independent, responsible, wise, assertive, unafraid, focused, family-oriented, nurturing, involved in the world around them, and to be loving, decent, nice human beings. These traits all landed squarely on the girls, but I am convinced that since my wife was the first-born, and went through the training over and over again with her younger sisters, she got an overdose of being a great person and learned the most.

Yet, after we met, fell in love, and got married (it was the second time around for each of us), we went though the same adjustments and problems that all newlyweds experience. Each of us had two children from our previous marriages and merging the two families was not without its challenges.

And when I felt I just didn't understand my new wife and what in the heck was going on with her, I was pleasantly surprised - no, shocked - that I was able to express my frustrations to my Mother-in- Law who took a genuine interest in my concerns about her daughter. Mary offered advice, a little bit of history about my wife's first marriage, helped me better understand my new wife's frustrations, as well as her aspirations, in ways that my wife was still trying to learn how to communicate to me.

Mary was never judgmental about her daughter or me. She sought to provide help, not criticism, to nurture, not nag, and to bolster my desire to be a better husband, not to belittle me for failing to fully understand what her daughter was about.

When friends of mine or co-workers would complain about their nosey, domineering, controlling Mothers-in-Law, I would just chuckle or smile with a surprised grin. They would seek my support of their plight and I would back away, saying, "I've got the greatest Mother in Law in the world" and you could see they thought I'd gone insane.

Mary, mother of four daughters, took me in and treated me as her only Son. Only my real birth Mother ever called me Son in a way that had the kind of feeling and substance that Mary conveyed. It was more than just a way to address me; it was her way of saying I was worthy of her love, almost as much as her daughter, my wife, was worthy of her love. Our marriage brought four kids into this new blended family and Mary didn't miss a beat. She treated my two boys as if they were related to her by blood. It must run in her family genes because my wife also treated my Sons the same way she treated her own Son and Daughter, and in many ways, it created a bond with my now-grown Sons that is closer and stronger than with their own birth mother.

When we were out in public, people would sometimes think my boys were really my wife's Sons because the chemistry was so good, so natural, so easy and normal. I quickly learned it was an extension of how my Ma, my in-law Ma, had passed on her special gift to her next generation.

Mary worked for many years in the Baldwin Park School District in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, and I hope all those who passed before her realize what a tremendous opportunity they had to learn about the really good parts of life from her.

We hear a lot about problem children today, bad schools, bad teachers, gang violence, and babies having babies, lack of respect for parents, lack of attention to kids, and the need for parents to take more responsibility for their kids, and so on. Mary was the epitome of a mentor who didn't seek the role and who never used it for her own gains, but was a shining example of a woman who gave of herself.

She was a natural. She had the look that would catch your attention when your mind was headed down the wrong road. She didn't hesitate to interrupt an off-color joke when the timing was inappropriate or the audience at hand was not suitable for such material. She had her own sing-song way of dong the right thing at the right time in the right place and providing guidance without appearing over-bearing or controlling.

Mary spent Christmas in the hospital, preparing to leave her earthly bounds after years of fighting the after-effects of smoking for too many years. I find it ironic that her generation, often referred to as "the greatest generation" for its heroism in World War II, its leadership over communism, and its old style "Leave it to Beaver" and "Father Knows Best" family values, was also the biggest sucker to the tobacco industry's sales pitch to the poison of cigarettes.

Next time you're working on a story, don't go straight to the athletes, movie stars, or politicians for an outlook on life. Seek out the quiet people in the school district offices, behind the counter at the library, or walking out of a Moravian church on Sunday. Look for the ones who have that quiet quality of peace and strength under their smile, the ones who can be in a conversation with an adult one moment and then smoothly reach out to a child and provide direction and attention with ease.

Try to find the people who live to love the world and the people around them, not for a political agenda or personal gain, nor for money or fame, but because they want to leave this world a better place than how they found it.

Mary Zunich did that for a lot of people and after 24 years of being married to her eldest and most wonderful and beautiful daughter, I start out this new year rather sad, but secure in the hope that others like her will carry on. I am also secure in the knowledge that I share my life with one of Mary's greatest pupils and best ambassadors of love and life, a fantastic mother to my Daughter and step-mother to my Sons, who gives me the hope and the strength that will make 2006 our best year ever.