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Remembering Simone

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Today, I have the honour and privilege to offer words of remembrance for a dear colleague and wonderful friend.  I am not the only contributor.  What you will hear today is a compilation of stories and precious memories of our dear Simone being offered by the staff of St. Philip Neri.

Today, I have the honour and privilege to offer words of remembrance for a dear colleague and wonderful friend.  I am not the only contributor.  What you will hear today is a compilation of stories and precious memories of our dear Simone being offered by the staff of St. Philip Neri.

Simone joined our team in 2005 after having taught grade one for 39 years.  In many ways, we were more like a family than a staff.  We not only shared work responsibilities, we also shared in each other’s personal ups and downs.  Sometimes we disagreed with one another, yet even in moments of disagreement, there was always a deep love and respect for the other.  Simone was the Matriarch of our little family.  Staff members, including myself, often sought out her wisdom and thoughts on issues both personal and professional.  Simone’s advice was not only sage, it was offered with the tender love and concern that a mother would show her adult children.  I remember a time when I was avoiding making a difficult decision.  I was belly-aching about it to Simone.  After hearing me out, she looked me square in the eye and said with a hint of a smile, “Pat, be a man and get out from underneath the bed!” She then winked at me and told me that no matter what I decided, it would all work out for the good.  And she was right.

simoneSimone quickly established her reputation on staff as being a prankster.  In fact, in her first month on staff I had become Simone’s first victim.  At that time, I was working in the areas of RCIA and Sacramental Preparation.  I had nothing to do with funerals.  As was her custom, Simone always came to work early.  I usually arrived around 8:30 a.m.; Simone of course had been there since 7:00 a.m.  She greeted me at my office door with a note in hand.  The note had a name and phone number on it.  Simone told me that a lady named Myra had called from the funeral home.  Myra wanted me to return her call.  I looked at her and asked, “I don’t work with funeral homes, why would they be asking for me?” The ever-clever Simone replied, “I don’t know why she’s calling, maybe she’s a mother wanting to register her child for sacramental prep.” Well that seemed reasonable enough.  So I took the note, called the funeral home and was met with a belly laugh after I had asked to speak with Myra...Myra Mains.

Little pranks like these were used by Simone to initiate our newest team members.  When Theresa joined our team as our new Administrative Assistant, Simone agreed to watch the phones while Theresa went to powder her nose.  Upon Theresa’s return, Simone handed her a note, telling her that Anne had called for her while she was away.  When Theresa returned the call the person on the other end said, “Pizza Hut.” Theresa then proceeded to ask if she could speak to Anne Chovie!  Jokes like these were Simone’s way of telling a person just how much she liked them, and to establish once and for all that life, especially work-life, should be fun.

Simone could have easily worked as a party planner.  She pretty much organized every birthday we’ve had these past six years.  She made the reservations, got the birthday card, and arranged for a dessert to be shared back at the office.  As a staff, we will never forget the Christmas party she hosted for us.  Each person received a mystery menu.  We had the opportunity to select a certain number of items all given weird and strange names.    Some of the strangely named items were actual dishes of food, others were utensils.  So we had to choose carefully.  For our first course, some of us received soup without a spoon.  Others received a cup of coffee and a fork with no food.  When we told our Maitre d’ that there was a problem, she simply stated that the “House” doesn’t make mistakes and that it was our fault that we ordered the wrong items.

Simone was the ultimate team player.  She would often drop everything she was doing to give someone a hand.  It didn’t matter if you needed assistance purchasing items for an upcoming event, setting up tables and chairs, or if you are like me, and needed some assistance with punctuation and grammar, she was there.  When it came to marriage and funerals, Simone would meet with couples and families when it suited them the best.  She would rearrange her schedule before she would even consider asking others to rearrange theirs.  Simone’s life is marked by service; often putting others first.

Simone had a love for clothing.  Every day she donned some new snappy ensemble.  When one of us would make a comment about her lovely outfits she always offered the same reply, “Why this old thing...I had it for years, it was at the back of my closet.” All I can say, is that must have been one big closet.  Her sense of style was challenged by only two items:  her exercise ball, used instead of an office chair and her big gulp cup.  Due to a hip replacement, Simone used an exercise ball as a chair to give her better elevation when seated.  Simone believed firmly in drinking eight glasses of water a day, all eight glasses fit into her big gulp cup.  Imagine with me a stylish woman in a Donna Karan pant suit perched ever so perfectly on an oversized yellow exercise ball drinking water from a 7-11 mug.  That my friends, was our Simone.

Simone had an incredible love for children.  Of all her duties, she loved working with kids, both big and small.  Simone trained altar servers, organized Children’s Liturgy and Vacation Bible School.   She spent most Sunday mornings greeting little ones as they went downstairs for Children’s Liturgy.  Then she would lead them in song on the keyboard often calling out in between lines, “I can’t hear you!” and after the kids raised their voices, “Oh, now that’s better!” Her love for children was most evident when parents came into the office with their little ones in tow.  Simone always came out and greeted our little visitors.  If it was apparent that Mom or Dad had some lengthy business to do at our office, Simone would get paper, crayons, a pair of scissors and asked the kids to make something nice for Mom and Dad.

Once a school teacher...always a school teacher.  Simone never interrupted anyone during staff meetings.  Even when the creativity was high and staff members were excitedly speaking over one another, Simone would be sitting there quietly with a raised hand waiting her turn to speak.  When looking over the bulletin, an announcement or the Prayers of the Faithful, Simone would correct the spelling and grammatical errors.    Simone was a school teacher till the end.  Two weeks ago, a certain priest friend and I slipped out of our Diocesan Study Days to go see Simone at St. Paul’s hospital.  Like two giddy school-boys we told her that we were playing hooky and asked her to not tell the Bishop.  She looked at us both and told us to “Get back to class!”

Simone was truly an incredible woman.  She was strong, steadfast, loving, caring and kind.  She had a firm resolve even till the end.  A woman of great dignity and class, she has inspired many.  It is with great sadness that we say farewell to our beloved Simone, yet we have the comfort in knowing that her Creator has welcomed her home into His loving arms, and we can be certain that He has said, “Well done, good and faithful daughter, enter into the joy of your Lord.”

Comments

  • Guest
    Marci November 14, 2011

    Thank you Pat. That was wonderful!

  • Guest
    Amy Gantefoer November 14, 2011

    I agree. What a wonderful tribute!

  • Guest
    Derrick November 14, 2011

    I remember seeing her teaching children's liturgy. Exactly like you describe it. I thought, "Boy, she runs a tight ship." Her love for the children is evident through it all. Rest in peace Simone. Rest in peace.

  • Guest
    Jackie November 14, 2011

    Thank you Pat. What a fine tribute to Simone.

  • Guest
    Marty and Clare November 15, 2011

    Pat, you were able to express what many of us saw and felt about Simone.Thank you.

  • Guest
    Dwight Short November 15, 2011

    A truly remarkable woman and a very lovely tribute.

  • Guest
    Elaine November 15, 2011

    Thank you, Pat. She was truly a gift to us all.

  • Guest
    Darcie November 16, 2011

    Thank you Pat for such a beautiful tribute. Such wonderful stories and memories. She will be missed by many. God bless you Simone.

  • Guest
    Kevin Kowalski November 17, 2011

    What a beautiful tribute. I didn't know Simone on a very personal level but these words allowed me to see the wonderful person she really was. Thank you Pat and to all who contributed to these words. She certainly will be missed. May she rest in peace.

  • Guest
    Joseph Nsiah (Fr.) November 23, 2011

    Great tribute to such a dedicated worker. Simone was such a gift to the Parish of St. Philip Neri.She was a great contributor to making childrens'liturgies at Mass interesting.

  • Guest
    TJelinski November 24, 2011

    We all benefitted from Simone's gifts and talents. We miss her.

  • Guest
    Raymond Swayze March 14, 2012

    Thank you all for being part of Simone's life. Today is her birthday and I know we all miss her very much. She is still teaching and looking after us as we face each day in this physical world. Simone you are on my mind every day, I miss you.

  • Guest
    Patrick Clarke March 23, 2012

    Hi Ray,
    I agree, Simone is still my teacher. I miss her and remember her fondly. Take good care.
    Pat

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Guest November 23, 2017

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