TOWNSEND — “So many things happen in your life you don’t fully understand, then one day you say to yourself, look how blessed we are,” said Elaine Shank of Townsend.

For Elaine, a prayer she had since she was a young girl was to have a family she could call her own and to be a mom. Not having a mother or father in her life and being raised by her grandmother was the driving force for her to fulfill dreams of motherhood.

“We were kids raising kids. I was 16 and Joe (her husband) was 17, high-school sweethearts,” she said. “There were hard and difficult times, but we made it through as a team, and I see my family as such a treasure,” she said.

Elaine shared how they borrowed $1,000 from her grandmother, who believed in her, for a compressor. That is how she and Joe started their auto-body business.

Joe and Elaine Shank will be married 38 years on May 12. They have two daughters and six grandchildren and own Harbor Auto Body in Townsend.

Joe knows he wouldn’t be where he is today without Elaine and the support of the community.

“We’ve had our ups and downs and struggled to make ends meet when we were younger,” said Joe. “She has always been a strong sense of support at the shop, always volunteered at the schools and has been an incredible wife, mother and grandmother. I can’t thank her enough for all she does,” said Joe.

He talked of how he believes his wife’s difficult times as a child drive her each and every day to be a better person, not wanting her children to go through what she had to endure.

He wonders how she juggles everything while still keeping her family a top priority in her life, doing all she can do for them.

“She is always helping someone out, always smiling, always so positive and full of energy,” said Joe. “She is the love of my life.”

“Traditions are such a huge deal to my mom. She really pushes to keep family and extended family together. My friends are like her kids. Christmas Eve, Fourth of July, Sunday dinners are so important to her and she makes them all so special, includes my friends and she loves a house full,” spoke daughter Darleen Lessard.

Darleen cherishes her mom so much and feels she is one of her best friends. They live next door to each other and Darleen loves knowing her mom is next door, it’s very comforting. Darleen and Elaine walk every Wednesday morning together — their time to connect.

Ten-year-old grandchild Madison enjoys spending time with Grammy at her house and the beach house and all the holidays. “She has lots of energy. She’s always cheering me on and plays pretend games with us. She’s so much fun!” shared Madison. Nine-year-old grandson John shared that Grammy usually takes them out for ice cream and enjoys playing basketball with them. “She is super nice and says I’m sweet and takes us to get candy,” grinned John. Six-year-old Will gets so excited and loves when Grammy picks him up from school. “I love going places with her and helping out at the shop,” voiced Will.

“The most important thing my mom has taught me is independence and how to be respectful of other people by respecting yourself. I look at what she has done; built an empire of a family. Her family is so important and what she wanted for us was stability, love and trust. We know life isn’t perfect, but as long as you have parents that love and adore you, you can do anything,” spoke daughter Wendy Williams.

Both daughters, Wendy and Darleen, can’t say enough about how their mother plays such an active role in their children’s lives. Elaine is a hands-on Grammy, always picking them up or dropping them off from school, taking them on vacations, going to sporting or school events, being able to be a kid herself and just play with them; Elaine doesn’t miss a beat. Both feel their mom really tries to prioritize fitting everybody in, including their father and her friends. They’ve both seen at an early age that their mom makes time for their dad. Elaine has taught them that there is no bigger gift you can give your children than maintaining a strong, loving relationship with your husband.

Wendy is amazed by her mother and her ability to overcome the obstacles in her life and hopes at her age she has such a close relationship with her kids, grandchildren and husband.

Eight-year-old grandchild Lilly says her Grammy is so important to her and she does some really awesome stuff with them. “I can’t be good without her,” shared Lilly. Six-year-old grandchild Joseph shared that his Grammy is the best one he could ever have and he loves her so much. “I love going to the store with her and playing cards,” added Joseph. Two-year-old grandchild Abby was giggling on the phone when I spoke with her. She loves how Grammy buys her new clothes and brings them to Disney.

Along with taking such good care of herself physically, which helps her stay so young at heart, Elaine has also nourished her friendships throughout the years. Elaine has been so inspired by so many other women in the community.

Carole Collins has been friends with Elaine for over 40 years. “Elaine should be mother of the year! She gives it her all! She has always been there for me and my family. She is like a second mother to my children and that is where her heart lies; family is most important,” shared Carole.

Jane Wilder has known Elaine since 1971 and Elaine was the maid of honor at her wedding. “Elaine has helped me through the struggles in my life, she is just so remarkable. I think one of her greatest accomplishments was when she got her GED when her daughter Darleen was going for her master’s degree,” proclaimed Jane. Jane sees how Elaine’s children and grandchildren are such a priority in her life, but she also is so proud of what her friend has accomplished for herself.

Cathy Knox and her husband Harold were all high school friends with Joe and Elaine. Cathy said Elaine has the biggest heart of anyone she knows. “She really knows how to make someone feels special; it’s such a unique quality. She’s an amazing mother, wife, friend and cook and we have had such good times together. She’s a sweetheart” rejoiced Cathy. Cathy is also in awe of Elaine’s ability to give her full attention and that one-on-one time to so many.

Elaine is so proud of her daughters and how loving they are to their children and what they have accomplished in their schooling, careers and as wives. She truly feels that you’re not just a mom, but a wife also, and if mom and dad aren’t good and happy, the kids won’t be either.

“I’ve had a dream fulfilled in my life of having a family and I have truly learned that relationships, mother and wife. Teaching your children to be independent and having a balance of friends in your life is also an important value as a woman,” added Elaine.

Elaine acknowledged her grandchildren are an extension of how she feels about her daughters and she is blessed to be able to share so much.

She has certainly learned to let go of the negative things in her life along her journey, focus on the positive and live from the heart. She speaks volumes to not letting the tough things in your life prevent you from moving forward.

“I’m inspired myself to know that something really good comes out of all the struggles you go through in your life. We have created a wonderful life,” said Elaine.