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May 17, 2012     The Adams County Record
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Page 10 Community Spotlight "I want them to be strong critical thinkers, knowing that serving others is a huge part of life;' said Tirzah Stuart about her hopes for her girls' futures. She and husband, Greg, parent three beautiful children rescued from the foster care system. Tirzah never enters any venture half-heartedly. Her petite figure houses fierce loyalty and fiery advocacy. Greg fights forest fires nationwide. They're all about family and community, and making the world a more tolerant place. "Tirzah" is a Biblical wold meaning "she is my delight." Her childhood started in Ogden, Utah, with frequent moves from her dad's Army career. She lived in Germany, Georgia, Korea and Japan before returning to Ogden at age 9. In the very diverse population of Army base life, ethnic and rdligion differences abound. Her parents raised her and her sisters, Becca and Morgan, to respect everyone's differences and cultures. Her father, Rick Tolman, an avid outdoorsman and tender hearted father, became an elementary school teacher and children's author after military retirement. Back in Ogden, Tirzah first learned about prejudice. Suddenly she found herself in a world that attacked her diverse experiences and outspoken commentary. Wednesday, May 16, 2012 The Adams County Record Tirzah and Greg Stuart Parenthood Comes in Threes "Junior High was a torture session;' she sighed. High school rebellion finally brought her much needed friendship. "We were-the misfits, the artsy, writers' club kids going to debates and working on self expression;' she explained. Graduating high school the youngest in her class, she became a runaway cowgirl in the wild, wild West with her German Shepherd Meg. Pushing herself hard on a Corriente rodeo cattle ranch in South Fork, Utah, she gained the respect of her cowboy cohorts. Training horses, riding herd and working search and rescue with Meg provided the freedom she craved and the challenge to prove herself. "There were so many awesome- moments;' she recalled. Today she captures those moments in a historical romance novel she's writing. But some of those memories she'd rather forget. Working on a dude ranch in Montana, she fell in love With a cowboy's cowboy who charmed her with humor and rainbow dreams. Together they trail rode ranch guests and serenaded them with romantic campfire ballads. Wedded life dreams raged into nightmares as her husband's party life sucked him down the maelstrom. A late miscarriage took her twins. Alone and broken, she dragged herself back home. "There just wasn't anywhere else I could go;' she mourned. Slowly healing, she enrolled in the Veterinary Technician program, regrouped her faith, and took up reins on a more cautious life-horse. Her friend set her up for an on-line church dating service...and Greg Stuart restored her broken trust. Greg was everything she had come to Value; loving family life, industriousness, and outdoor adventure. An exceptional high school wrestler, he'd grown up in Utah with hardworking parents, and had already begun his forestry career. His delightful humor and indelible patience won her over. They coordinated j o b s while she completed h e r schooling, and moved to Council for his new position. As a Forest Service C r e w Supervisor, Greg lives on constant fire watch, fighting fires nationwide. During the winter he drives a propane delivery truck, anything to help make ends meet. Tirzah and Greg's busy schedules and Greg's long absences could defeat a happy home life, but instead they enhance the household joy. It almost became a household of sadness when they learned they couldn't have children. They opened their hearts to foster care adoption; Over 100,000 of these special needs children await forever homes in America. Endless classes and Boise trips earned them foster care licensure, and the long wait began. Greg was fighting a California fire when the call came that three young sisters were available. On August 1, 2008, Tirzah picked up .Emma, Gracie and Riley, and brought them home to Council. The girls had never lived together as sisters, and chaotic survival coping skills had replaced their healthy growth process. They came with a myriad of night terrors, abandonment, shyness and tragedy. Greg's grandfather died two days later, and the girls were thrown into a huge mix of newfound Utah relatives. "I felt overjoyed, terrified and inadequate;' recalled Tirzah. Determined not to let them down, she prayed, poured through books and sought any available resources to help her rehabilitate them. The girls' adoption availability remained unstable, and Greg and Tirzah sweated through a year of uncertainty. Finally, three little Stuarts permanently joined the family. By Deb Wilson Today, the girls' laughing brown eyes give no hint of their traumatic pasts. Exuberant Riley, 10, watches out for her sisters and opportunities for adventure. Tenderhearted Emma, 9, loves people and animals deeply. Gracie, 7, proves dynamite laughter comes in small packages. "I'm on my own island just having fun;' she'll grin as she grabs everyone up in big hugs. The girls love singing, 4H, exploring, grandpa Rick, and their menagerie of house pets. Tirzah's aging dog Meg still watches over th Stuart household. What's the secret? Faith, laughter, affection, and clear house rules, say Greg and Tirzah. "We totally love these kids" said Tirzah, who immerses herself in their activities. '.nd I still have the biggest crush on Greg:' Each time Greg returns from remote wilderness fires, he carefully evaluates how to best merge with the family. "I watch Tirzah in awe;' said Greg. "She is a natural mother, tuning in on each individual need" Tirzah began serving others early in life. She started a rape crisis line at 14, and ran an inner city youth program in Ogden. In Council she ran the school art-mom program, led girl scouts with Kim Mahon, and managed her Wildwood Book Store, which sadly closed last year. She advises parents on foster adoption, and serves on the Adams County Health Center Board. She's helped run church youth group for 10 years, and provides young women's counseling. Greg shares his own kindness, quietly delivering a needed load of firewood, or plowing out a snowy driveway. "Don't sweat the small stuff;' Greg summed up. "At the end of the day, )ust make sure everyone is loved, happy and safe" Tirzah added, "Family and community are so much bigger than any one person. We need to work together to make sure these little ones' adventures come true" Writer's note: Thank you to the readers who voted fortheir favorite mothers to be this week's community spotlight. Unfortunately many declined an interview, but we appreciate them just the same.