The New Jersey press called her the “woman going against the grain”, maybe because she found herself in a job that is largely held by men. The fact is she did not get with a stroke of a pen but by sheer hard work and determination to prove herself in the most deserving fashion. Our 2017 Love Awardee, Lita Marcelo Abele rolled up her sleeves and got to work. The first thing she did was get to re-educate herself and worked her way up. No stranger to education she got through with flying colors and would soon head her husband’s company, U.S. Lumber. The job that may looked so masculine but in reality the nitty-gritty of the lumber business she find easy to handle and with grace. The passionate poem of Joyce Kilmer, “Trees” so passionately define her steps as she steers her company; U.S. Lumber to a future she feels comfortable navigating; this time along the “grain.” Freddy Panes, P.R.O. with Past President Hermie Aczon had the rare opportunity of interviewing Lita. Click here to view FASSJ Souvenir Journal
FASSJ: You have always been a person who is determined and focused. Did you have that mindset even when you were in the Philippines?
LMA: Yes, as a matter of fact, before I came to America, I had a teaching degree. My teaching career provided for me and my family. I began my life in America as a domestic worker, having escaped the struggle of poverty in the Philippines, where I had two small children and limited resources. I reflect on those days with sadness and discomfort… until I remember that I triumphed in the end. My journey took me through many stops along some bumpy roads, but all of them leaving me with these lessons learned.
FASSJ: You evolved to become a community leader, and a business woman? Did that come easy or were there major adjustments into your life?
LMA: You won’t often find that the things that change your life come easy. To that point, I’ve made many major adjustments throughout the years – I’d say that the most impactful ones were based on self-teaching and personal growth. I would read, read, read… anything I could get my hands on for getting new ideas, thought and information.
I also sought out structured teachings, like seminars, conferences, internet programming and online classes. I do strongly believe that continued educa-tion is worthy and necessary, but most of your applied knowledge will come from your life’s experience.
FASSJ: Running a business is no easy task: it’s a whole new world of responsibilities and requires a lot of energy? Where do you get all that?
LMA: I could give you a standard answer about staying physically healthy and exercising, but while that is important, I feel that taking care of your inner self is a critical factor. I intentionally stay away from negativity, jealousy, gossip and closed-mindedness.
FASSJ: I gathered that you went to attend business classes. You really dig into the business side of things, I suppose Merill was on your side?
LMA: Meeting my husband Merrill profoundly changed my life. Every opportunity that came to me is because of Merill, and I thank him for his gifts of love and confidence in my abilities. Now, I reflect on how far I have come in nearly 36 years of living in the U.S. and note that despite where the opportunities first come from, one has to have the strength, drive and determination to realize your desired dreams. Having a solid support system is an invaluable asset.
FASSJ: As a member of the board of Rowan University, to what extent will you go to encourage younger Fil-Am Students to engage with our community?
LMA: I was instrumental in the creation of RUPAC. This have allowed our younger Fil-Ams to be aware of their roots and engage their fellow students to know about our culture. I also started with Rowan and exchange study program that the University is coordinating with the University of the Philippines. We are making progress.
FASSJ: We attended an event where you hosted the NJ Senate President and State officials; and also welcomed Ambassador Cuisia and Consul General de Leon. It looked so natural for you to be conversant with them. Had it always been your personality?
LMA: No. I was once very shy and intimidated by others that seemed, from my own perception, to be more skilled or more educated than I was. I had to learn, and continue to remind myself, that we are all capable individuals and that we each have experiences that contribute to the people we become. Even if someone has an impressive background in their field, I have come to recognize that I too have an impressive collection of my own skill-sets and knowledge. In coming to America, I promised myself that I would never hide my talent and abilities, for that would allow another person to feel more powerful than me. In fact, this idea is central to my personal philosophy as I am now better able to celebrate and harness the true talents of others. Why would one individual silence their voice, when everyone stands to benefit from its wisdom?
FASSJ: Words to live by..?
LMA: Because of my experiences, I believe in sharing my knowledge with others to help them work toward the achievement of the American Dream: “Education is the foundation for all growth. Sharing the knowledge one has learned with the community promotes new opportunity for leadership within you and within others.”
” I reflect on how far I have come in living in the U.S. and note that despite where the opportunities first come from, one has to have the strength, drive and determination to realize your desired dreams. Having a solid support system is an invaluable asset.”
FASSJ: If you are going to give advice to a young person, what would it be?
LMA: Don’t hide your talent and embrace who you are, ask questions and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Adversity can only tear down your structural resolve if you choose to live with it silently. In fact, most people actually seek ways to help each other for the simple human fact that it feels good to make others feel good. Take advantage of the ability to join forces, create partnerships, seek mentors and use good advic
FASSJ: What are your plans for the future, in regards to your involvement with the Fil-Am community?
LMA: I would like to stay involved serving as a mentor for the Filipino Community in organizations I have chosen; and share my knowledge and experience to those who are planning/starting a business. I will continue to give philanthropically to those who I choose to be deserving in our community.
FASSJ: What is inspiring to you? Who do you get inspiration from?
LMA: Watching my husband build this company from the beginning and support the idea that we can do anything . What inspires me now is the drive to be more successful and create a better life – I want to see my business become a legacy to my children and grandchildren. They are the ones that I get inspiration from each day.
FASSJ: Are there things you missed about home?
LMA: Spending quality time with my relatives just reminiscing all our childhood times, laughing , talking, and all cherishing the happy times. I miss eating the locally grown fruits, such as atis, lanzones and all the original home cooked Filipino dishes.
FASSJ: Last book read?
LMA: “The Self Architect : Redesigning Your Life” Edited by Linda Ellis Eastman. Just having recently published this book, I am one of several co-authors in this international release. My topic matter of “Breaking Barriers of Diversity” is something very important to me and this was a special project that I much enjoyed.
FASSJ: Things you would like to do; if given the chance to go away for a year?
LMA: My idea of the perfect year away would be to relax and unwind on a cruise around the world and make sure do some shopping at each port.
FASSJ: Are you spiritual?
Editor’s Note: Lita Marcelo Abele is recipient of many local community, State and organizational awards because of her tireless efforts in promoting the ideals of good business, and good citizenship. FASSJ recognizes her tremendous work for our young Fil-Am students in her capacity as a member of the board of Rowan university in Glassboro, New Jersey.