Having tasted bitter and sweet, survivor chooses sweet
Do not call Nina Sedule-Ross a victim. She prefers the term survivor. And she’s survived plenty. This petite whirlwind of inspiration is this day busy relocating her Creations art gallery to Taylor Street in downtown Punta Gorda. It’s the place she’s dreamed about having for many years while raising her daughter and supporting her husband’s dream to be a physician.
She grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania and Dover, Del. The year she graduated high school, the country was at war in Vietnam and civil rights battles were waging in American cities.
“No one in their right mind would stay in Dover,” she thought at the time, so she left for the University of South Florida, declaring art her passion and major. Because of its reputation as a party school, her parents weren’t thrilled with her choice. Respecting their wishes, she found a less distracting environment to study and transferred to the University of Delaware in Newark, graduating with a degree in psychology.
After graduation, Ms. Sedule-Ross and her boyfriend satisfied their wanderlust by making a cross-country road trip. “We took off in a van, just me, him, a dog and all our earthly possessions,” she recalls. Though she left him behind at a gas station barefooted and without his wallet (unintentionally, of course), he asked her to marry him a few years later while they were both graduate students at Boston College.
For the next several years, Ms. Sedule- Ross worked while her husband pursued more advanced degrees. In Morgantown, W. Va., where her husband was a doctoral candidate, they became the parents of a baby girl. She describes the transition from Boston to Appalachia as “culture shock,” where she worked at a center serving a high-risk, low-income population, with “hardscrabble lives.” Yet she was struck by that population’s ability to be positive despite their circumstances.
From there, the trail led to New York City, where her husband worked at The Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Ms. Sedule-Ross recalls happy days spent with her toddler in City Island, a historic seaport neighborhood.
At 37 years old, Ms. Sedule-Ross’s husband enrolled in medical school in Portland, Oregon. Ms. Sedule-Ross and their daughter established a home back in Delaware while he was in med school. She became a school counselor at a junior high school and stayed involved in her daughter’s many activities.
The turbulent sixties were behind her. She had survived years of moving around the country. She was coping well with raising her daughter in a long-distance marriage and facing surly teenagers on a daily basis.
Then in 1989 came an incident that would challenge her ability to survive. She thinks the intruder may have crawled up a trellis to get into her bedroom where he waited for her to retire for the night. When she entered her bedroom, he came out of hiding and assaulted her at knifepoint. Though he was later labeled a serial rapist by authorities, she’s still not certain he was ever apprehended for his crimes.
In 2001, with her daughter now in college, Ms. Sedule-Ross moved to Port Charlotte to join her husband, now a practicing M.D. “He told me to take my time to decide what I wanted to do here,” she said. She lost no time in finding the Center for Abuse and Rape Emergencies Center to volunteer.
She’s worked the hotline and been on the hospital’s first response team for sexual assault survivors.
About eight years ago, she first spoke publicly about her experience when asked to share her story at a C.A.R.E.- sponsored victim rights event.
Today, she co-facilitates a C.A.R.E. group of survivors of domestic violence. There are women at different stages in the group, she said. “Some who escaped can be role models and others never get there, but we all draw strength and knowledge from each other.”
Creations’ move from East Marion to Taylor Street means more space and visibility for the 25 Florida artists who sell their paintings, sculpture, pottery and other works at the gallery. The unveiling of the new space is expected in mid to late August.
Her daughter Nicole is now a prosecutor married to a policeman. A friend calls the couple, “Law & Order Delaware.” Ms. Sedule-Ross suspects what happened to them one night in 1989 may have influenced her daughter’s career decision.
As the owner of Creations, Ms. Sedule- Ross says she’s “the bookkeeper, landscaper, accountant, greeter, floor scrubber and public relations specialist.”
But she’s no victim. She refuses to let one horrific experience rob her of the abundance of life. ¦