Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rest in Peace

I have a sad entry for Winter Blues Week today. I found out last night that my friend from West Cummington, Cynthia Risk, died last week. I had no idea she was thirty years older than me. She seemed younger.

We were good friends when I lived there. She was different than the other Ladies of the West Cummington Benevolent Society. She was elegant and accomplished. She was the Martha Stewart of the Hilltowns, and I mean that in a good way. She grew fabulous gardens, created her own stunning needlework and was a master chef. When she made some fancy dinner, it looked just the cover of Bon Apetit.

She was political too. Between the two of us, we broke the lockhold that the old line families had on town governance. It started with the elections system. The same person had been the Warden for decades. We came to a meeting and questioned authority. They got so irritated at our audacity, they all quit. They were sure we could never run an election. They were wrong. We not only ran it well, we made it more inclusive so anyone in town could participate in the process. Both of us served as wardens at different times. Eventually, Cynthia became Town Clerk and held the office for many years.

When we first met, we were neighbors. She lived just two doors down. We met because of her youngest son Doug. Doug was brain damaged at birth. If memory serves, it was because the umblical cord wrapped around his neck during delivery. He wasn't retarded but he had difficulty speaking. I was one of the few people who could understand what he was saying and had the patience to wait out his stuttering. He spent a lot of time at my house and talked about me all the time at home.

She was a widow by the time I met her. Not an easy life with six kids, but she made it look effortless. The kids all kind of looked alike. Two sets of twins and the oldest two might as well have been, they were so hard to tell apart. Only rarely, when she wistfully spoke of her days in Tuxedo Park did she seem vulnerable. She was a strong woman. And smart. She graduated from The Northfield School and Smith College. She received a master's in Economics from Yale University. She worked in financial institutions in New York City and Chicago.

I can't link to the obit, it's subscription only, but she came from a very interesting family. Mrs. Risk was an enrolled member of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe (Dakota). Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman (Ohiyesa), the first Native American to receive a medical degree, and the doctor who reported on the massacre of Wounded Knee, was her grandfather. She spoke fondly of trips camping and boating with her Grandpa and Uncle Ohi (Jr.) on Lake Huron.

Funny, I was thinking about her last week. Unfortunately when I left West Cummington, I had to cut off all contact from those ladies because I didn't want my ex husband to find me. They still spoke with him and I just couldn't take a chance on a momentary slip-up in conversation that would give away my location. I was wondering if it was safe enough to try to contact her. Now I wish I had.

Rest in peace, Cynthia. I'll miss you.


At 5:44 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello from Ginny Risk. We saw this (years ago) and appreciate your sentiments. We are thinking of you.

At 11:31 AM , Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Ginny! Think of you all often. Wondering about Doug. Send me an email and let's catch up.


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