It’s somewhat hard to believe, since she does a triathlon every summer, but Linda Mendro is turning 80 this week.
If you know Linda, you’re already aware of her kindness and generosity, her passion for music, and her dedication to humanitarian causes — most notably the Peniel House Orphanage, which Linda and her husband, Wayne, support financially through a wide network of supporters that they’ve cultivated.
What you might not know is that she’s really funny. While Wayne is the comedian in the family, Linda can deliver some zingers in her understated manner, causing everyone to crack up.
Linda’s son Ben Mendro tells of the “dark” side of his mother’s humor: “At our house in Arlington, we had a bird’s nest above our garage, which was annoying us with the droppings in the driveway and on our cars. My mom is an avid birder and has a very special place in her heart for all birds. We were talking to her about this nest and what to do about it. When we described the birds that were using the next, she realized they were cow birds, which are notorious for taking over other birds’ nests, laying their eggs in them, and essentially evicting them from their homes. Her lips tightened and she said, succinctly, ‘Get rid of it.’”
Linda is the epitome of humility, grace and tolerance. “She’s not perfect,” says her daughter Jennifer Duguay, “but all her imperfections just make her more admirable and endearing. She’s super strong but doesn’t have an ego. Raising us, she was really a model, giving us guidance in a quiet way.”
One of Linda’s imperfections, her granddaughter Johnnie Duguay-Smith says, is her terrible sense of direction. “She will sometimes turn left coming from the Twisp River into town when she’s trying to drive to Hank’s even though she has lived her for more than 50 years.”
But, Johnnie says, Linda loves to travel, especially by train. “She and I look the train to Ashland, Oregon, to watch Shakespeare plays when I was in high school and it was one of my favorite trips.”
Another of Linda’s imperfections is that she is not technologically gifted, Johnnie says. “One Christmas she told someone to go grab the LapPad to take photos — she meant the iPad.”
Linda may not have mastered all the intricacies of modern technology, but her mastery of the piano extends to the benefit concerts she offers and the hours she spends teaching piano to youth of the valley, as well as volunteering as the accompanist for the annual Missoula Children’s Theatre production.
Linda’s generosity is legendary. “If you compliment her on anything — a scarf, a sweater, a bowl in her house — she will immediately try to give it to you,” Johnnie says. True to form, Linda has asked for no gifts for her birthday. Instead, she hopes friends and family will donate to Peniel House. Checks can be made to Compassionate Vision and mailed to 317 Poorman Creek Road, Twisp 98856 or you can Venmo@Wayne-Mendro.
In her 80 years Linda has endured the loss of many loved ones, Jennifer says, including her mother, who died when Linda was just a child, and later, her five older siblings. “My mom is the only one left of her generation,” Jennifer says, “so she has kind of become a mother figure to all of my cousins and a grandmother figure to their children. I bet there are 75 family members who she calls on their birthdays.”
The community is invited to celebrate Linda’s 80th at the Twisp Valley Grange on Friday, Nov. 11, from 6-11 p.m. “Anyone who knows and loves Linda is invited to come,” Linda’s family says.