I don't normally write obituaries. But, two friends died this past week and I feel impelled to tell you about them. Let's not call this an obituary – let's call it a tribute to the lives of Lyn Leto and Dana Jackson.
I first met Lyn more than 40 years ago. She was a Reading Specialist in my school district. Lyn was a smart, efficient, empathetic woman – nothing like the blonde jokes that one might apply to girls with her hair color. She worked her way into the job of District Reading Coordinator – working with teachers to improve the basic skills of all the children in our schools. The position was important and required a serious educator – and that's what Lyn was.
However, "serious" is not a term I think of when I think of Lyn. She had a wicked sense of humor. She could be self-deprecating, but underneath that camouflage she tweaked your nose with sharp barbs. With her lovely smile, big eyes, and friendly manner, Lyn could charm the monkeys out of the trees.
Lyn and I shared a common love for the English language. We enjoyed showing each other new books we found. We commiserated together at grammatical errors. On trips to the New York theaters, we relished the idiosyncrasies of the dialogue. Many times, we would break out laughing at the same time – knowing that there was at least one other person who had caught a subtle meaning.
When Lyn left teaching and opened an antique shop, I mourned the loss of a fine educator. However, she became a fine antiques dealer, too. Whatever she did, she did with class and energy. Her home was decorated with taste and style. Well, almost. With all the dogs and cats surrounding her, sometimes it was hard to see the décor. Lyn was quite the animal lover. Having had no children of her own, she adopted pets and devoted herself to their care.
On one visit to our home, Lyn asked me to take her shopping. I asked what she needed. Her answer – "Nothing, I just want to shop." We hit some of the local stores and she shopped with a vengeance. She came home with 4 watches. I was amazed. Her husband Sam told me that when Lyn found something she liked, she bought multiple copies of it. That's the way she lived her life – when she loved something, she loved it with her entire being.
When Lyn contracted breast cancer, she knew that she was in for a tough road ahead. Her sharp wit attacked the cancer. She would laugh about missing a breast, saying "Now when I get tipsy, there's a reason for it." Her treatments were hard and debilitating, but each time we saw her, she had on make-up and wore a smile. Near the end, she wanted to make a difference, so she created "cancer cards" that put feelings into words for loved ones. She called her flip-flops her "combat boots." Her artistic side allowed her to create beautiful sentiments.
Lyn died on September 11 – a date she wouldn't have picked if she had a choice. Now those she left behind will always have another cause for sorrow on 9/11.
I met Dana Jackson 12 years ago. She was the realtor who sold us our home in Pawleys Island. Smart, attractive, competent, and friendly, Dana quickly became more than our realtor. In social situations, she was a true Southern lady – full of charm and grace.
When Dana drove us around the area, seeking possible homes for us to see, she breathed life into the geography. She told us about her favorite restaurants, her shopping haunts, and her ideas about good neighborhoods. It was from Dana that Jim and I learned the basics of our new community.
Dana and her husband Mike ran a construction business. In Mike's words – he couldn't have done it without Dana. She was the CEO – the "big cheese." He said that he was just a day laborer. When they constructed their own new home, Dana's taste and decorating skills made it a haven of comfort.
I'll never forget the day we decided to buy our home on Carol Lane. Dana told us that the current owner, Mrs. Cox, was unhappy about selling and moving to a condo in Colorado. Mr. Cox had died and his wife wanted to be closer to her daughter, but hated to leave her beautiful Pawleys Island home. When we got to the house, Dana went right to Mrs. Cox and gave her such a big hug. They cried together for a short time. Right then and there, I knew that Dana was much more than a realtor. She was a magnificent, caring human being.
Whenever we ran into Dana – in a store, restaurant, or even grocery shopping, she was always ready with a hug and a smile. Her beautiful personality just shone, even brighter than her gorgeous blonde hair.
Dana passed away on September 3, surrounded by loved ones, after a battle with cancer.
These two women were forces of nature. They brought a lot of joy to those who loved them. I will remember them always.
(IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: JSMITH798@SC.RR.COM OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.)