Kate – Strength, Tenacity, Resiliency, Advocacy & Gratitude

“Tomorrow is a new day. How lucky are we to get to try again?”

– Kate McGoff

Meeting Kate over Instagram and speaking with her, I found myself inspired and encouraged by her positivity and resiliency. And through our conversation, I realized Kate and her story would inspire others as well. I am so grateful she is willing to share.


Everyone has their hardships and challenges, it’s a part of life, however overcoming these challenges with strength and gratitude is difficult. Kate became a single parent at a young age, giving birth to her son Max. When all her friends were finishing up college and planning their career life, she found herself back home with her parents, pregnant and alone. The father of her child, with whom she dated all through college, was suddenly out of the picture leaving Kate to face not only being a single mom, but also going through her first pregnancy by herself. With her parents by her side, she still struggled as her friends could not relate which added to her loneliness. Once her son arrived, Kate transformed that loneliness turned into a powerful love.

“Being a single mom was the hardest but most rewarding thing I have ever done and will always be one of the most important chapters of my life. While it was the hardest and most exhausting chapter, it made me who I am and more importantly, showed me just how strong I am.”

Kate explains that her loneliness was not just about being physically alone, it encompassed a tremendous void mentally as well; having no one with whom to share in her pregnancy, coparenting, child support, legal matters, etc. Aside from her parents, who supported her greatly, she found that many people just didn’t understand her situation. “It was difficult to find someone to listen.”

So, Kate took action and created an online support group for single moms. A group for women to meet other women dealing with similar hardships she was facing. She created a ‘safe space’ for support. Her support group on Facebook is called the ABM Single Mom Squad and offers a place for women to meet other single moms, ask questions, and find community. Today, though her life has changed, Kate remains an advocate and continues keep her DMs open. She uses social media to be a beacon for others facing the many challenges of motherhood.


Kate finds Kyle and the rest is history… Well, not really. COVID hit, and like so many of us, Kate’s dream wedding was postponed numerous times until she and Kyle decided to forgo their big family wedding and exchange vows in her grandparents backyard on the Inter-coastal of Palm Beach — the same place her grandparents were married.

The solution was a beautiful one but not without its challenges, as their family and friends could not attend. One of the most difficult absences for Kate was not having her father there. He was in the ICU during COVID and is immunocompromised. “No ones attendance was worth their health or life.” My dad gave us his blessing and mailed a giant cutout of himself (in his brand new suit he bought for the wedding) as a surprise for me to take pictures with. Like so many affected by COVID, Kate found joy in the simple ceremony knowing that her love story was a gift.


After trying to grow their family for over a year with many doctor visits and procedures, Kate and Kyle were finally pregnant. “I was ECSTATIC!” Kate’s dream of having another child was finally coming true. But her pregnancy took a traumatic turn and Kate found out from her doctors that her baby had “no heartbeat.”

Hearing those words was devastating, and she and Kyle had to join together to heal from the loss. Kate is thankful to all the family and friends that came to their side to offer support, and highlights the presence of her husband as a significant and powerful source of understanding, companionship, and love.

“I assumed all was well (and that it was a girl)! I will never forget those words at my first appointment “there’s no heartbeat”. To be honest, I blacked a lot of it out…I had so many family members and friends rush to our side but ultimately it was my husband. He didn’t say much but he was there — which, for me, was so different than any pregnancy experience I had ever had. Knowing I had a partner to get through it with made a large difference.”


“I start everyday with a grateful heart.”

Today, Kate and Kyle enjoy life as a family of four, welcoming the newest addition, their daughter Brooklyn. In Kate’s own words:

“Days will be hard, but if I have made it this far, I feel like I can do anything. I look at the kids and the life I have formed around me and can’t help but be grateful. I remind myself so many people are in the trenches where I once found myself. I know I don’t want to go back there, so I do everything in my power to constantly remind myself. You will find notes to myself in my phone, on my computer, in my car, on my mirrors – always reminding myself of just how grateful I am and knowing someone always has it worse.

I hope to be able to keep my optimism for a long, long time but I wouldn’t be me, and I wouldn’t be honest if I said some days were hard. But as I tell my kids and husband, tomorrow is a new day. How lucky are we to get to try again?

If you’re in a tough spot, stuck in a valley – know that you have people around you. If you don’t, and you’re reading this – you have my Instagram. Send me a message, I am always here to be a listening ear and an online friend.”

The Dress

Kate found StoneWear Ceramics on Instagram and she was drawn to my work. “I was instantly drawn to the ACTUAL WORKS OF ART that Erika creates.”

She immediately saw her dress made by me in her home. “I have always said if I could wear my dress every day to keep it on display, I would. Now I can display it in my home without having to squeeze my newly postpartum body into it.”

Kate’s dress is a bespoke iteration of Suzanne Neville’s 2019, Carmella. The original gown did not include the bow. Suzanne, Kate and LovelyBride, Atlanta worked together to make her dress exactly how Kate envisioned.  They lowered the back and added the big bow (a Kate staple). Kate then paired it with a gorgeous rhinestone veil and earrings from Untamed Petals.

I am so excited that Kate agreed to become one of our very special ‘Stronger Than Stone Brides’. Her story is inspiring and what strikes me the most is Kate’s resiliency and generous nature to share and help others. She’s a perfect example for us to find hope and strength knowing that ultimately love is the goal. Welcome to the STS Family Kate!

Shannon Hendrix – When Love Conquers Loss

“To be selected as the Stronger than Stone recipient is humbling. The love any mother has for her family cannot be severed by time, distance, or even our physical body’s limitations. I have learned that the prayers of my grandmother are still being answered, my mother’s love and our relationship continues past her time on this earth, and I am continually strengthened by all those whom I love and who have ever loved me.”

While searching for my next Stronger Than Stone bride, Laura, sent me an email nominating her sister Shannon. Laura’s words were passionate and filled with gratitude for all that Shannon does and represents for the entire family. Self-sacrificing, supportive, hard-working, and resilient are some of the attributes Laura used to describe her big sister.

I just had to learn more.

Although every family experiences challenges and loss, some may feel that Shannon and her family have faced more than most. And through loss, Shannon has been the continued source of strength and resilience, for which many depend on. Her selfless sacrifice and dedication through service and action for others is the light that shines through much of Shannon’s journey. She leads with her heart and through this her actions ease the burden for others.

Inspired, I sent off on a journey of discovery. I received emails from Shannons children, Whitney, Bo, Beth, and Wes, and from her husband, Chris. With each email, there was a common thread; service, light, and strength.

The theme of my moms life is working hard to help other people even when shes going through heartbreak.” – Daughter, Whitney

“Recently I have gone through a big life change that has also affected her but she was able to be cool, calm, and collected in order to get me through these hard times.” – Son, Bo

“When she is surrounded by darkness, she’s always knows how to find the light.” – Son, Wes

“She stayed strong for us so that we didn’t have to carry all the heaviness alone.” – Daughter, Beth

“Shannon is “stronger than stone” because she can hold the weight of the burdens of others.  I have seen for more than 30 years Shannon is one of those unique people that everyone seems to just love being around.  The closeness that comes from that invites so many people to use her as a sounding board for advice or to just be there as a supportive friend.  She certainly has been that way to me.” – Her Husband, Chris Hendrix

Shannon met her husband, Chris in 1987 at Samford University in Birmingham, AL. She remembers shopping with her mother for her wedding gown. She only tried on three dresses and her dream wedding gown turned out to be the the first once she tried on.

32 years have come and gone since their wedding day with many joys — such as  the birth of her four children, all born in the 90s — along with some challenges and life-changing losses. Shannon’s father passed away suddenly in 2000 followed by her mom’s in 2003. Her sister, Laura, also had a baby, Ella Faith, in 2003 who lived only a few months due to a condition called Hypoplastic Left-Heart Syndrome. Through the best of times and worst, Shannon did not waiver in the love for her family and used that love to lead the way to comfort and healing those around her.

“She was the person who always showed up, who cooked the meals, sent communications to a support team of family and friends to field questions, and ask for prayers. She was the one that stocked the pantry at the Ronald McDonald House with snacks and staples, not just for her family,  but for everyone staying there. She is the one, who,  while caring for 4 young children, did all of this while traveling back and forth from Michigan to Tennessee to care for her dying mother.  And somehow, she continued to maintain her fabulous sense of humor that has the ability to lift the mood of the most desperate situations.” – Sister, Laura

And as we know, life is never predictable and can deliver devastating blows. This year, while Shannon was planning and preparing for her daughter Beth’s wedding the family faced the shattering and untimely loss of her beloved daughter-in-law, Lisette who would have been a bridesmaid. At age 22 she died from an undiagnosed heart condition known as perinatal cardio myopathy, leaving her son, Bo, and 13-month-old granddaughter, Nova.

Shannon as always, was there for her son and entire family, making sure needs were met and plans were in place for the healing for her son and granddaughter.

“Through all the ups and downs in life— seasons of abundance and joy as well as loss, the truth is that life is precious.” – Shannon

Shannon holds events like her own wedding on June 22, 1991 — as well as the ones she helps coordinate locally — as celebrations that bring encouragement, support, comfort, tolerance, and love. She holds to the happiest of times to lift herself and others through seasons of heartbreak and loss.

I feel we can all be inspired by Shannon’s unending and unconditional love for her family. Her smiles is contagious, her actions are healing and her love is powerful.

Welcome to the Stronger Than Stone family Shannon. We are so lucky to have found you!

Mrs. Martha Mae Ophelia Moon Tucker

“I’ve always wanted to try on a wedding dress.”

Mrs. Martha Mae Ophelia Moon Tucker was watching her favorite film — Coming to America — with her granddaughter, Angela Strozier, when she mentioned the wish aloud. It wasn’t something she’d shared before, and at 94 years old, it wasn’t something that Tucker actually envisioned experiencing. However, Strozier heard her grandmother’s wish, and, with the help of her family decided to bring that dream to life.

“She never wore a wedding dress when she got married,” Strozier said.

Tucker was born in Alexander City, AL in 1927 and moved to Birmingham when she was 15.

In 1952, she married the love of her life, Lehman Tucker Sr.
However, at the time, Black women were not allowed in bridal shops, Strozier explained, so the family she worked for loaned her a navy blue dress.

Tucker worked alongside Civil Rights leaders fighting for voting rights in Alabama and, in 1963, became a registered voter and poll worker. She retired as a chief poll worker in November 2020 after working elections for 57 years, having dedicated decades of her life and career to making sure Black votes counted and Black voices were heard.

She and her husband had four children, 11 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchild and one great, great grandchild. After 25 years of marriage, Tucker’s husband passed away in 1975.

Though she says she has no desire to remarry, she never gave up the desire to see herself in a wedding gown.

On July 3, 2021, following a surprise makeover and trip to David’s Bridal, Mrs. Tucker tried on wedding dresses for the first time and found her dream gown, surrounded by her family.

“You know, I can’t even express how special it was. It was too special,’’ Tucker said. “I’ve been wanting to do that a long time, just put one on.”

mrs tucker with stonewear gown

Find the full article on AL.com

Valeria Lento Palmertree

At the young age of 8 years old, Valeria Lento Palmertree arrived in Miami Beach, having immigrated from Argentina with her parents and younger brother. The family arrived in the United States with three key possessions, hope, opportunity, and each other.

Having no familiarity with the English language and little by way of luxuries, Valeria’s parents; mother, Norma Mabel Serchia, and father, Tiziano Lento, built a vibrant, multicultural home for their two children, drawing on a different type of wealth, and celebrating a richness they had in abundance. They gifted their children a warm childhood, supported by a foundation of hard work, fierce determination, infinite love, and relentless hope.

“My parents always made us feel like we weren’t alone; they taught us that we had deep, cultural roots, and that we could overcome anything as long as we had each other.”

From those roots, Valeria blossomed, achieving milestones and experiences well beyond those accessible to her parents. She graduated both high school and college, first-generation; she found a career that allowed her to explore her passions and explore the world; and, eventually, she discovered her own love story with her now husband, Sean Palmertree.

“Everything I’ve done and get to do is because of their sacrifice. There was a point where I realized that I’m my parents’ American Dream, and I have to honor that.”

However, Valeria’s foundation, formed around and by the enduring, ever-present truth of family, was tested after the tragic and sudden loss of her mother, followed swiftly by the loss of her father.

During their first year of their marriage, Valeria and Sean endured ten months apart, as Sean had been deployed overseas. During his deployment, Norma, Valeria’s mother, fell seriously ill, and was confined to the ICU for two months, with Valeria as her designated caretaker. Upon Sean’s return, Norma urged her daughter to go to her husband.

Shortly after the couple were reunited, Valeria received a call that her mother had passed.

“She wanted me to be with him. It was like she wanted to remind me, as she had always done, that I could overcome anything as long as I had my family. Sean, for myself and for my mother, was the answer to that promise — I’d found love, and I would never be alone.”

In the year following Norma’s death, Valeria’s father, Tiziano, began to suffer from early signs of dementia, and Valeria found herself as a caretaker for her parent once again. However, while Valeria shared an understanding and closeness with her mother that had spanned her lifetime, the time together with her father revealed a different side of the man Valeria had known through her childhood. As she writes:

“Growing up, I didn’t always understand my dad. He was stern and strict and strong-willed and much too serious about everything…[But], when my mom unexpectedly passed away, I finally saw my dad’s vulnerability, his weakness and his undying love for the woman who sacrificed everything for her family… As his caretaker, I got to know him in a different light, and my heart opened up a space for him that had for too long been choked up. Now, I finally understand him.”

Twenty-two months following the death of her mother, Valeria’s father passed away after battling a severe case of pneumonia.

It was clear, she explains, that he died of a broken heart.

Today, Valeria honors her parents through her own life, love story, and colorful, cultural legacy. She continues to grow, both deepening her roots into the rich, nurturing ground of her heritage and past, while turning her face to the sun, blooming radiant and resilient in glow of a bright future — and the promise of love as she writes this next chapter of her family story. Like the wedding dress sculpture created for her by StoneWear Ceramics by Erika Hitchock, Valeria is “Stronger Than Stone.”

“Seven years later, I try to honor them in everything that I do. My journey prepared me to be strong, and I was born to be resilient.”

Lauren Urey

After celebrating their wedding in Charleston, South Carolina on October 18, 2019, newlyweds Lauren and Matt Urey departed on a New Zealand honeymoon cruise that December. However, what should have been a dream romantic getaway instead became a fight for survival. On December 9, Lauren, Matt, and 36 other vacationers set out to explore the exotic, volcanic Whakaari, or White Island. Despite notifications of significant seismic activity and warnings of heightened eruption risk, neither the tour company nor the cruise line notified the excursioners and proceeded to continue the tour of the White Island volcano as planned.

“It has been over 10 months since that awful day. Some days it feels like it was just yesterday and other days it feels like it was ages ago.”

Unbeknownst to the 47 vacationers, visitors, and guides on the island that day, the trip to White Island would change their lives forever, and only half of the group would return alive. At around 2:11 pm, the White Island volcano erupted, engulfing the party in ash, noxious gas, and smoke. Matt and Lauren took cover behind a rock and braced themselves against the scalding ash and debris.

“I just held his hand, I just told him, ‘I love you, I love you,’ and like he said, I thought it was only seconds until I would die. I just wanted him to know how much I loved him,” Lauren says.

Lauren suffered extensive burns to her neck, legs, stomach and face. Her lungs were badly affected from the toxic gases in the eruption. Matt suffered burns to more than half of his body, including his hands. The couple spent the next two months recovering in separate hospitals until they were able to reunite return home.

Today, Lauren and Matt continue to persevere, and the strength of their love and resilient spirit serves as a source of growth, healing, and support. The couple recently celebrated their one-year anniversary, and despite enduring a year colored by pain and loss, their outlook is bright, and their love is stronger than stone:

“I can’t believe it’s been a year already! It definitely hasn’t been the year we expected but our love is stronger than ever. I love you so much and I cannot imagine my life without you in it, Matt Urey.”

After discovering her story, I created a wedding dress sculpture of Lauren’s gown to honor her strength, compassion, and the relentless love she and Matt share in the face of such pain and hardship.

“I was so touched to receive this amazing work of art!” Lauren says. “After everything I have been though in the past year, this was such a beautiful gift to receive. I couldn’t wait to put it front and center in our living room, where I can look at it and reflect on all the good memories from our beautiful wedding day. Even after everything we’ve been through, those moments are forever meaningful and bright and full of happiness. It truly was the perfect day.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The Legacy of RGB

“Born in 1933 in Brooklyn, New York, Bader taught at Rutgers University Law School and then at Columbia University, where she became its first female tenured professor. She served as the director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union during the 1970s, and was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1980. Named to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, she continued to argue for gender equality.”

As a person versed in navigating life’s trials, overcoming obstacles, and flourishing in the face of adversity, the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaves in her wake an iconic legacy of strength, resilience, and compassion. Seen as a fighting voice for women’s rights, equality, progress, and hope, Ruth Bader Ginsburg served as a beacon of truth, a protector, and an advocate for preserving the humanity of a nation.

She was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993, and served as the second Supreme Court female justice, advocating for women’s rights and paving the way for generations of women until her death on September 18, 2020. For more information and further details of RBG’s storied career and monumental legacy, visit History.com to explore comprehensive insight and biographical content.

justice ruth bader ginsburg-Photograph by Sebastian Kim / August

Dr. Kerry Anne Perkins

In the midst of protests erupting in the wake of historic and prevalent racial injustice, Dr. Kerry Anne Perkins and her husband, Michael Gordon, found themselves alongside passionate protestors marching to honor the memory of George Floyd. The couple joined hands and the march in an iconic display of love, hope, and unity in the face of tragedy, hate and sorrow.

Upon seeing the stunning photos of the pair, I knew that this was a moment I wanted to help them capture with a ceramic wedding dress sculpture. Dr. Kerry Anne inspired the creation of Stronger Than Stone, and leads this initiative as the first ‘Stronger Than Stone’ bride. Her strength, her grace, her perseverance, and the courage that she and Michael share remind us all that humanity is more powerful than hatred — and that love is even stronger than stone.