Remembering a dear friend

I should have been able to write this column a year ago, soon after my dear friend died.  But very occasionally, we lose someone who simply remains with us.
Intellectually, you know they have passed, but every time you think about them, there is a brief pause before your brain reminds you they are well and truly gone. It is always a bit of a surprise.
For me, that person is Willy Ginaven, the woman who brought libraries to life in the Encinitas Union School District.
She was the matriarch, and was more than just alive. She was that someone who rocketed through life, keeping more balls up in the air than you even possessed.
There are lots of busy people, but very few who manage to multi-task with absolute grace. I love to say I am racing through life with my hair on fire. I flatter myself. Willy went at thrice my pace, and her hair was never even singed.
She had the kind of energy and drive everyone covets, but eschews as they hit that snooze button one more time.
Looking back, I wonder just how much the woman actually did sleep. She buzzed through life, making good things happen, whether at work, at church, with her walking group or her grandchildren.
Anyone who had the great fortune to work with her, learned how to love their job and do it better.  I can’t think of a more valuable gift. No matter where you fell short, her only response was to make time to drop everything and help you. When you succeeded, she glowed for you.
The library at Ocean Knoll Elementary School has been dedicated to her memory, and I know it is where her soul resides. There, where she began her career, I can hear her voice in my head, and easily see her sitting on the floor with a group of enthralled youngsters, or hustling up to me for a hug.
As I listened to so many speak of her friendship and accomplishments, I could so clearly see her grin crookedly, and say, “Oh, stop now.” I could easily picture her stepping out from behind the stacks, to everyone’s surprise.
It is annoying that trying to find enough superlatives for Willy just sounds trite. She had her life challenges, as we all do, and sometimes she shared them. When she did, you relished it, feeling special for her confidence. But she was never looking for advice on how to handle the things that life throws at you. She always had a battle plan in place. She was a master problem-solver.
One day, I expect I will think of her and not immediately be transported to her house at another library aide luncheon. I may no longer expect to turn from a gaggle of kids in the library to see her standing there grinning. I will possibly lose that sense that she is just around the corner, or that I could pick up the phone and call her right now.
But I rather hope that never happens.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer, remembering what she really needs to tell Willy the next time she sees her. Contact her at


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