At Wilton Meadows Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, they call Marie Bourdeau “Mama.” She is a much-loved nurse assistant/caregiver who has worked at Wilton Meadows for 20 years, almost when it opened its doors. There are residents who rely on her to eat, take a shower, get dressed. She is also the real mother of Mia Love, the first black Republican woman to be elected to the House of Representatives, from Utah’s 4th Congressional District.
Talking about her daughter, Bourdeau is filled with pride, but she’s also down-to-earth, realistic and not overwhelmed by her daughter’s success, because “even as a little girl, Mia was always in charge. She knew what she wanted and could tell you to ‘do this and do that.’” Mia Love’s natural leadership qualities were always apparent, but so were her mother’s. “When I talked, they listened,” she said, referring to Mia, her sister and brother.
Love’s parents came to this country from Haiti with not much more than $10. The first stop was Brooklyn, where Mia was born in 1975. When her daughter was five years old, Bourdeau decided the city was no place to bring up children, and the family moved to Norwalk. Mia graduated from Norwalk High School, and went to the University of Hartford, where she studied theater arts, hoping to get a job as an actor. Bourdeau recalled. “She went from audition to audition. Before she heard from one, she was at another.” She finally was offered a role on Broadway, but she was about to get married and that was more important. She met Jason Love at college and they married in 1998. He is a computer science expert. They have three children.
Mia was raised a Roman Catholic, but in college she learned about The Church of Latter Day Saints, and became a Mormon.
“My backyard was full of missionaries!” Bourdeau recalled. Love moved to Utah. If this was a problem for Bourdeau, she soon adjusted.
“Utah is my town, “she said. “I go there to help with my grandkids. And the Mormons! They don’t smoke, do drugs, or drink and they wear conservative clothes. They have groups for everything.”
She remembered getting all dressed up to go to church in Utah and when she was told her dress was too low-cut, she said “But I’m not a Mormon!”
Mother and daughter admire each other tremendously. “I’ve been working all these years,” Bourdeau said. “When I think of Mia, I see what I was working for.” One of her precious possessions is a photograph of herself with three-year-old Mia.
“Mia put this on Facebook, saying, “This is the woman who made me what I am today.” In Sarasota Springs, Utah, Love was on the city council, then mayor. “They love her in Utah,” Bourdeau said.
What’s next for Mia Love? Senator? President? “No,” Bourdeau said. “Look at Obama, his hair is turning white!” With smiles and laughter, she said, “But now I must get back to my people!”
“Mama’s back!” could be heard nearby.