Have you ever seen a steel U.S. penny? Was it in circulation? I have never seen one in circulation because they are so unique and rare.

Steel pennies were produced only one year – 1943. The United States was engaged in World War II, and the government focused all resources on the war effort. Food, rubber, raw materials, and metal were rationed to help the Allies defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Copper was one of the rationed items.

The U.S. decided to experiment with steel pennies in 1943. Back then, a penny was still worth something—and during the war, every penny counted. The steel pennies were coated with a light layer of shiny zinc. To date, this is the only coin in U.S. history attracted to a magnet. After one year of experimentation, the U.S. returned to copper pennies in 1944.

One of the main reasons I am interested in 1943 pennies is that my mother—Judy Henderson Myers—was born that same year. The same conditions that shaped the decision to make steel pennies impacted my Mom’s life as well. Her character is as unique and rare as those steel pennies due to the time and place she was born.

Mom (and steel pennies) made it to 80 this year. We celebrated her 80th birthday at First Baptist Church in Calvin, Oklahoma, on Feb. 4 (the day before her birthday). Many of her family members and her church family members came out to celebrate her and remember how she has impacted their lives.

Mom was born into a family that weathered the Oklahoma Dust Bowl and endured the Great Depression. Her parents knew hard times before the New Deal and knew hard times again when the U.S. entered the war in 1941. Despite all their challenges, Mom’s parents provided a good, stable, Christian home where love was more plentiful than material goods. A place where family and God’s Word were treasured above clothes, cars, and the “finer things.” The way they lived shaped her.

Mom was able to scrimp and save to attend college. When she graduated, she dedicated her career to teaching public school—which can be a thankless job. She taught some difficult, stubborn kids (including me). She made a difference. Her former students appreciate her much more today than they did back then. I see it every year on her Facebook page. When her birthday rolls around, many of her birthday wishes come from former students. This year was no exception.

Mom endured a hardship I would wish on no one—the untimely death of her husband. Dad was only 40 when he died in an accident at work. I was 14, and my sister, Lanette, was 16. Yet she soldiered on and never wavered in her faith. She doubled down in her parenting efforts and helped Lanette and me get through high school and college. All the while, Mom instilled the same values in us that she got from her parents: put Christ first and serve ours; treasure your family and friends; and to have a healthy view of stuff.

Mom retired from her teaching job early, but she never really retired. She simply redirected her work. She has managed to care for her house and 20 acres all these years—constantly picking up limbs and keeping more than an acre mowed.

Mom also threw herself into the work of her church—Calvin First Baptist Church. She helps with kids programs, the church’s free clinic, and their food pantry. She also serves as the church treasurer and is a perpetual church camp cook and sponsor.

Mom makes time for her kids, grandkids, and two great-grandkids. She often went to Alaska to help Lanette when she lived there and has often come to New Orleans to be with us. Now, it is so fun to watch her great-grandkids light up when they see her and to see her invest in another generation.

Mom was a gift to her parents and continues to be a gift to the rest of her family, church family, and the communities of southern Hughes County (from Calvin to Non). I am grateful for the way she has loved me and shaped me. I am thankful for how she welcomed my wife, Kimberly, into the family and for the sacrifices she has made for my son, Jonathan. She has passed along a legacy of care and concern for others.

To help people remember Mom’s 80th birthday, I secured about 25 steel pennies from 1943 (not nearly enough to hand out to everyone at the party). They weren’t much to look at. Most of the zinc coating had worn away. These pennies are a reminder of the difficult time in which Mom was born. It was a time of sacrifice and putting others first (they even rationed coffee during the war). The steel penny I kept will remind me of the great sacrifices Mom has made for me, the kids she taught at Calvin School, the lives she impacted at First Baptist and at church camp, and the way she has loved and led her family.

I am truly thankful for Judy Myers and blessed to call her Mom.

One thought on “As Rare as a Steel Penny: Celebrating Mom’s 80th Birthday

  1. I loved reading your sweet and great tribute to your Mom. She certainly did a good job raising you and Lanette.
    It was wonderful seeing everyone on Saturday.
    God bless.


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