Isabelita Abele

President & CEO, US Lumber Inc.
FWN100™ U.S. 2009

As an Asian American leader in what I consider the second part of my life, I recognized that what I am today has been determined in no small way by the “first part” of my life. I began facing serious challenges in my home town of San Pablo City where as a young adult I had become a teacher. Even though I had a university education, my salary as a teacher was inadequate to meet the needs of my family. I knew I HAD to make a better life and a better future for us. With relentless tenacity I applied again and again to every recruiting agency that came into my small town. I finally landed my ticket to the Big Apple and moved there with nothing but hopes and dreams in my pocket. I was sadly disappointed with the circumstances I found myself in. Upon arrival in America I became a mistreated domestic worker and was held against my will by my first employer. It took months of planning and praying, but eventually I literally fled one afternoon, while the employer was out, and sought the assistance of a friend who allowed me to hide in her home. My memory of these events is still vivid, even though that was many, many years ago. I would reflect on those days with sadness until I remember that I triumphed in the end. There were many bends along the road; some of them joyful, some of them painful, but all of them provided me with important lessons. Meeting my husband Merrill profoundly changed my life. With him came gifts of love and confidence in my abilities, perhaps more confidence than I had in myself at the time. Now, after nearly 36 years of living in the United States, I reflect on how far I have come. I needed strength, drive, and determination to realize my dreams. Changes in my life did not come easily. I made major adjustments that created major positive outcomes.