Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Oct. 9, 2000

Caring for 42 foster children was labor of love

By Lynda Jensen

If love is the answer, then the question must be "Would you take care of 42 children as a foster mother?"

Marvilla Hubbell said "yes" 42 times to that question during her lifespan.

Hubbell, 67, lived in Howard Lake for 20 years starting in 1970, and currently lives at the St. Mary's Care Center in Winsted.

Marvilla never received her high school diploma, although she finished grade 10. "I always wanted to be a nurse," she said.

She started life early and married at the age of 16. She started caring for foster children at the age of 31.

"This was God's plan," Marvilla said. God gave her a deep love of children and she lived her life tending to their needs.

The children that Hubbell cared for were in abusive situations and often times needed emergency care, she said. They ranged in age in from newborns to six years old.

The most foster children she had at one time was three at once.

Many of the children were also of mixed racial descent - in a time when it was unacceptable for black, white or mixed descent children to be together in a family.

Racism was ever-present for the Hubbells. One time, they were asked to leave a restaurant because she was holding an African American baby that was a foster child.

"Nobody wanted mixed children," Marvilla said.

This social pressure didn't stop Marvilla from loving these children.

In fact, the Hubbells ended up legally adopting two of their foster children, Jerry and Brian.

Brian was blind and born with a progressive hearing loss. Marvilla went to school to learn how to use sign language.

The Hubbells also reared four children of their own, Kenny, Dennis, Debra and Kimberly.

Kenny - their youngest - was born with a chronic lung disorder. He contracted lung infections and had numerous surgeries over a span of five years. "They told me he wouldn't live a year," she said. Kenny survived and is doing fine today.

Marvilla enjoys 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

This is especially true since about half of them were babies. Marvilla spent many sleepless nights comforting these little ones, teaching them to take formula.

Marvilla remembers her first adopted child in 1964, who was a little girl 11 months old. The girl was two years old by the time she left the Hubbells' home.

One girl that the Hubbells cared for as a young child returned 18 years later to see them again, although it took detective work to find the Hubbells.

"She got a pin from Sunday school for making one year of perfect attendance," Marvilla said. The pin had the name of the church imprinted on it. From this, the young woman traced the Hubbells.

"I would like to see all the kids all in one place, but they're scattered all over the United States," she said.

An often-asked question is "How could you give them (foster children) up?" Marvilla said.

"I think the greatest pleasure was in meeting the people who adopted them - seeing the expression on their faces," she said.

Her work with abused children would be enough for several mothers to handle, but Marvilla made time to do this and while raising her own family, as well.

Nowadays, she is confined to her bed, since she lost both her legs to illness. Last year, she was in a coma for four months and endured 13 surgeries on both her legs. She's suffered from colon and breast cancer as well.

Of course, this doesn't stop her from volunteering at St. Mary's, where she helps with the newsletter there, folding and sorting invitations and other tasks. She recently helped a Winsted teacher collate pages for workbooks.

Marvilla also enjoys a hobby of making crafts with plastic canvas.

"You take what God gives you," she said. "You thank Him for the day He's given you and ask for the day tomorrow. . . And He gets you through," she said.

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