Death of a kindest, loveliest co-worker.
On what had been a beautiful Saturday afternoon on the last day of April in Boston was disrupted by the news that a woman driving a motor scooter had been killed by a Duck Boat. A man riding in the scooter sustained minor injuries.
If you have spent even a day in Boston’s Back Bay or Downtown areas you are bound to see a Duck Boat full of tourists. They are the preferred vehicle of the Boston Red Sox during World Series parades. Following the 2013 World Series parade, pitcher Jake Peavy liked his Duck Boat so much that he bought it. But World Series glory was the furthest thing from my mind when I saw a picture of that scooter crushed under the Duck Boat.
The following day my roommate Christopher Kain asked me out of the blue, “Did you know Allison Warmuth?”
The moment Christopher asked the question I knew Allison was the one who had been killed. It felt like a kick in the gut. In the days that followed there was a dull ache in my chest. You see Allison was a former co-worker of mine at Lexington Insurance (an affiliate of AIG), where she worked as a health care insurance underwriter, a job that she landed straight out of college following an internship. She rose rapidly through the ranks and had just accepted a management position with AIG’s Chicago office where she had planned to pursue an MBA in her spare time. Allison’s life was going in the right direction. Yet all it took was one wrong turn. She was 28.
Shortly after learning of Allison’s death, I took to Twitter to express my thoughts. The following day I received a direct message on Twitter from a reporter with FOX 25 news requesting an interview. When I first saw the request, I was initially hesitant to do it. After all, there were people who could do her memory far better justice than I could. But after all the kind words she had said to me, I figured I could give her a few kind words of my own.
I believe nearly all of us have known at least one person in our lives whose presence make the day brighter and more bearable. The workplace can be a difficult place where double talk is an unofficial language and tempers can flare with ease when things go wrong. The best way I can describe Allison is that regardless of your station in life she always found the time to say hello and chat with you and did so with a smile full of warmth and kindness. I have no doubt the people whom she served meals on Saturdays at The Women’s Lunch Place felt this way about her.
Because of the nature of the workplace, our conversations seldom lasted more than a few minutes. But those few minutes were pleasant ones whether we were talking about breakfast, running her latest race, her knitting and a hammock she wanted to use during lunch in the Boston Common. And yes, I also remember her telling me about the scooter. The reality of never again being able to have these conversations with her hit as I watched her coffin being moved past me at her funeral this past Saturday.
Despite the somber occasion, I was amazed at the dignity and resolve of the Warmuth Family. In his eulogy, her father Ivan spoke the words no parent should ever have to utter when he said, “I envisioned a day when I would be standing in a church with Allie when she grew up. I didn’t envision this.” Yet somehow managed to convey a remarkable sense of humor as when he spoke of her optimistic nature, likening her to the girl who happily played in horse manure because she knew a pony was around somewhere. Said that Allison “looked like her mother but acted like me.” He would also quote Allison’s mother Martha who impressed upon her, “It doesn’t matter how pretty and smart you are if you aren’t kind.” It is clear that Allison inherited some very good qualities from both her parents.
These qualities would be on display following the funeral when they (along with her two sisters Heather and Sara and brother-in-law Colt) greeted and thanked everyone who attended the service. A lunch reception would follow which included a photo and video tribute to Allison. Toward the end of the proceedings, I would learn from family friends that the lunch was actually organized by the Warmuths themselves. I am sure that organizing a lunch would probably be the last thing on the minds of most parents who had suddenly lost their child, and who could blame them? Yet somehow, in the midst of traveling from Plattsburgh, New York, arranging a funeral and a burial, somehow they went to the trouble of feeding more than 100 people after the caterer they booked had suddenly fallen ill. In what is only the beginning of their darkest hours there is surely something to be said for a family who went out of their way to take care of others.
We are now living in an age where crudity and cruelty have become virtues. Yet it is good to know that not everyone casually and easily submits to what is fashionable. While I wish I could have known Allison better, her warmth and kindness will always remain with me. With all the lives that Allison touched during her brief but well traveled journey, she leaves some very big shoes to fill. Somehow, though, I think Allison would agree that the challenge isn’t to fill her shoes, but rather to better fill our own.
Robbie Shade/Flickr-Creative Commons