Friday, August 15, 2008

Remembering Abby

Abby Mandel Meyer 1932-2008

"Grieve not ... nor speak of me with tears ...
but laugh and talk of me ...
as though I were beside you.
I love you so ...
'twas heaven here with you"

Ilsa Pachal Richardson, Program at Service

Judging from the number of market bags that I own, I’d been going to Green City Market for several years before I met Abby Mandel Meyer in person. In 2005, my non-profit, Purple Asparagus, had agreed to organize the Market’s Saturday kids programming. We’d worked out most of the details of our involvement with her then-assistant, Jeanne Pinsof. Nevertheless, the final okay had to come from Abby herself. I’d been primed for my conversation with her by a board member of ours was also on the Market’s board so I knew that she had a reputation of being imperious. And while this personality was one that I’d become used to in my career in Big Law, as this was my first contact with someone of this stature in my new profession, I was nervous. I remember precisely where the conversation took place. It was late May and she was weaving in and out of the rows of Nichol’s vegetable plants. Trim and well-dressed with her notable Chanel sunglasses, we had our first of many conversations while walking through the Market. She was direct, but gracious, clear with her goals and appreciative of our efforts. Nothing like I had anticipated.

I’ve heard the complaint that Abby was “divisive”. Not surprising as she was a driven woman with big goals and a personality to match. She expected a great deal from those around her, but she demanded a lot from herself as well. And if you did a job well, she was quick to praise and her praise meant a lot because you knew it was honest and well-deserved. I always believed that this was the secret to working with Abby, which was difficult for some because it was a true test of your mettle. You could never phone it in with Abby – she always challenged you to do your best.

I’ll miss many things about Abby, her candor, her directness, even her characteristic shorthand in responding to emails. Only the week before she passed away, I had received an email response to a question I had asked: “lets talk mon.” Sadly, I know now why we never did. But most importantly, I will miss the opportunity of not getting to know her even better. She was a great woman who challenged and inspired and I personally am grateful to have known her.

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