Not quite a month ago, I lost a dear friend of more than 30 years to the coronavirus—Madeline Schofer Smith, a feisty redhead of German descent some 85 years young. Still can’t wrap my mind around it, let alone my broken heart.
Truth be told, Madeline wasn’t an easy person. A sweet little old lady one minute, she could come off as flinty, cold, and ready to rumble the next—that Teutonic bloodline, I figure. My own grandmother was German to the core, so I’m familiar with that odd mix of loving and prickly.
Mimi began her career with Bell Telephone (later NE Telephone) as a switchboard operator in 1953, climbing the ladder to ad exec until retiring some 43 years later. Seems they weren’t quite done with her even then, however, luring her back to single-handedly edit the yellow pages for the entire New England area—a job she continued doing well into her second retirement even as her worsening macular degeneration forced her to use a magnifying glass to get the job done.
She was in her thirties when she met and married Paul Smith, a man who shared her love of music, art, and travel. When he developed cancer a few years later and was forced into a wheelchair, travel became more problematic. It was during this time that the King Tut exhibit came to Washington, DC, something Paul was desperate to see, so this plucky, five-foot powerhouse drove him the 483 miles to the Capital, pushing his wheelchair through the entire exhibit herself. He died shortly after their return.
Music was Mimi’s life—all the more so after she lost Paul. The Manchester Choral Society and the various orchestras with whom she played viola for decades became de facto families. She also volunteered in the orchestras’ administrative offices, which is where I first encountered her in my capacity as Communications Director. Mimi, I quickly learned, adored all things British monarchy, and was a stickler for both proper grammar and correct musical notation. Things were always to be done In A Certain Way—thank you very much.
Tuesday morning, September 11th, 2001, as the office bustled with final preparations for our upcoming season-opening concert, Mimi barreled in, breathless with the news that the Twin Towers had fallen. Shocked and uncomprehending, I was quickly pulled into the comfort of her enormous, pillowed bosom. Our friendship was cemented by the consolation she offered all of us on that awful day. We became more than colleagues; we were from that point on sisters of the heart, occasional dinner companions and members of the symphony’s Ladies Who Lunch.
In mid-September, Mimi fractured a vertebra and injured her wrist in a fall from her second floor landing, ending up in a rehabilitation facility for several weeks. Another fall not long afterward sent her back to rehab—this time never to return. We attempted to phone her numerous times, eventually being told she’d been quarantined, infected by the coronavirus during a recent outbreak at the facility. A slew of comorbidities (diabetes, the macular degeneration from which she’d long suffered and, most recently, ovarian cancer) left her with little energy to fight the disease. Days later, this amazing woman was lost to us.
RIP, Mimi—you gutsy lady, you. You’ll be deeply missed.
Darcy Scott (Winner, 2019 National Indie Excellence Award; Best Mystery, 2013 Indie Book Awards; Silver Award, 2013 Readers Favorite Book Awards; Bronze Prize, 2013 IPPY Awards) is a live-aboard sailor and experienced ocean cruiser with more than 20,000 blue water miles under her belt. For all her wandering, her summer home and favorite cruising grounds remain along the coast of Maine—the history and rugged beauty of its sparsely populated out-islands serving as inspiration for much of her fiction, including her popular Maine-based Island Mystery Series. Her debut novel, Hunter Huntress, was published in Britain in 2010.