The parish of Sainte-Thérèse of the Child Jesus recognizes a parishioner
Friday, April 22, 2022
CI Photo/Linda Petersen
Many family members and friends attended the April 17 Mass at St. Therese of the Child Jesus Catholic Church where Ida Romero (front row center, holding a plaque) was honored for her work in the development of Jordan Valley School.
MIDVALE — St. Therese of the Child Jesus Parish has honored parishioner Ida Romero, 87, for her work in establishing Jordan Valley School, which serves students with severe disabilities.
Father Jose Barrera, the parish administrator, presented Romero with a plaque honoring his service after the 10 a.m. Mass on April 17, Easter Sunday. Many of Romero’s family members were also present.
In 1956, Jolene, the third child of Ida and Nelson Romero, was born. Within months, she was diagnosed with severe Down syndrome. At the time, two of the Romeros’ oldest children were attending Bishop Glass School in Salt Lake City. One day, while Ida Romero was volunteering at school, she met Carmen Paulsen, another young mother who had a mentally handicapped son. Paulsen had helped organize a school for handicapped children in Salt Lake City and had suggested that Romero work to open a similar school in the South Valley region, but Romero did not feel up to the task.
“Mom thought, ‘I can’t do this’, but one day when she was having an extremely difficult day with my sister, she thought, ‘You know what? If she can do it, I can do it,” recalls Rachel Jenson, Romero’s oldest daughter.
Ida Romero first met her neighbor Henry Beckstead, then Mayor of Midvale. He introduced her to Bernarr S. Furse, the superintendent of the Jordan School District, who was supportive of the idea. Romero got a list from Midvale Elementary of 20 families with disabled children and she invited them to a meeting. The response was positive, so they organized a board of directors with Romero as secretary-treasurer.
The group began fundraising, and in February 1966 the Jordan Valley Day Care and Training Center opened in southern Jordan. In 1975 the school moved to a new building at 7501 South 1000 East in Midvale and was renamed Jordan Valley School. Today, the school’s 103 students receive individualized instruction and/or related services to maximize their self-reliance skills while contributing to their community.
“Our mom taught all of us, as well as our dad,” Romero’s third daughter, Sharon Garcia, said. “Watching our parents do that, going door to door trying to get parents to take their kids out – because at that time they were hiding the kids. To me, what they showed us is what hard work and perseverance is. You don’t take no for an answer; you keep fighting.
Despite Romero’s hard work to establish the school, Jolene was never enrolled because she was told her disability was too severe for the staff to adequately meet her needs.
“I was heartbroken; my hard work and effort was meant to benefit our daughter Jolene,” Romero wrote in a family book published about her by her niece.
Despite her disappointment, “she said knowing it helped thousands of children, it was worth it,” Garcia said.
In 1967, the Romeros found a place for Jolene at Utah State Training School (now the American Fork Developmental Center).
“Mom made the decision to put Jolene in American Fork because she didn’t want to encumber my brother and me,” Rachel Romero said. “We were the ones who helped a lot to take care of her. But I didn’t feel like it was ever a burden; for me, it was a way of life. I also look back and I think about the gift our parents gave us and the sacrifice they made to put their daughter somewhere to make it easier for Bob and I. They made a huge sacrifice, but I think in the long run, Jolene was happier there.
Jolene lived in the American Fork facility for 56 years; she died on March 16, a month before her mother was recognized for her work. Ida’s husband, Nelson Romero, died on April 2.
“We are extremely proud of our mother,” said Rachel Romero. “At that time, a lot of women weren’t doing a lot of things like that. I know it was for the benefit of my sister, but she feels that in the long run, it was her duty to do it for many. children who have benefited from it over the years. She felt that God had given her the purpose to accomplish this.
In January, an article about Romero’s efforts appeared in the Midvale Journal, a community newspaper. Sharon McPolin, a parishioner and friend of Romero’s, read the story and decided to host the parish presentation.
“I’ve known Ida for a long time, but I didn’t know all the stuff behind everything she did,” McPolin said. “It just inspired me and I thought our parish really needed to recognize it. She is just an inspiration to everyone in our parish; it needs to be recognized by all of us.