Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Last week we lost a dear friend.  Carolyn Hemming was a close friend of us both, but especially of Gal Friday (GF).  These two were so close, they were like sisters.  Carolyn, of Polish heritage, was called "Chutchy" for aunt by her adoring nieces and nephews but became known as Chutchy or Chutch to many.  Chutch, her husband, Denny (my fraternity brother), GF and I formed a fearsome foursome during college.  Together we did all the crazy things college kids do and probably some extras.  GF became a welcomed member of Chutchy's family and continues to be part of the family today.  When Chutchy delivered her first daughter Allison, Dennis and Carolyn gave the infant the middle name of Benay after GF. GF even became "Chutchy" Benay to Allison and her sister Judy and their cousins.

Chutchy and Denny stopped to visit a couple of months ago on their way back to Florida.  Chutchy didn't look too healthy and we knew from frequent phone calls, she suffered with respiratory problems.  She was on oxygen and had lost many pounds.  However she retained her indomitable spirit and we knew she'd courageously fight her illness and outlive us all...so we believed.  God must have had different plans as he called her home last week.  Before continuing, I must try to give you a quick overview of Carolyn Tekla Grimm Hemming.

Carolyn was a looker with a firery spirit.  A professionally-trained designer, keen businesswoman, accomplished golfer, terrific wife, mother and grandmother, fantastic caring friend to so many, local leader and superb cook, she won respect from everyone coming in touch with this force of nature.  To me, her most-telling two characteristics were making sure everyone had fun and insisting it be done her way.  She threw theme parties for every conceivable reason.  Her parties promoted the most ingenious costumes and she always dressed poor Denny in the most outlandish of all.  Chutchy's shindigs rivaled any Broadway production.  Her flair for drama was only surpassed by her passion for fashion.  She attended a fashion school in New York City, studied public relations at Utica College and earned her Syracuse University degree in fine arts. GF claims Chutch could take a piece of fabric; give it a twirl and out would come a dress or drape or whatever the occasion called for.

Did I mention firery spirit?  She demanded people listen to her opinions and if they didn't agree, well tough...unless you found a way to present another side which GF sometimes managed to do.  Chutchy was a highly principled woman about as stubborn as anyone I ever met.  She lived by the old adage, "If you don't stand for something; you'll fall for anything" and Chutchy stood for many things.  She championed worthy causes and helped many local families.  I figure the best description I can conjure up is her being a tough and talented whirlwind.  She was a happening, a bigger than life presence. 

We received the call from Chutchy's daughter Allison last Tuesday and we both were heartbroken but GF was shattered.  We planned to drive to Utica, NY on Friday to pay our respects to family and friends at the funeral home.  Saturday was the funeral followed by a tribute luncheon at Grimaldi's, my favorite restaurant in town.  On Thursday GF casually sashayed over to me and sweetly asked, "Honey, would you dash off a poem about Carolyn you can read at the funeral mass?"  Notice she began her request with "Honey."  This is very significant because when she normally directs me to do anything, she calls me "Ed."  When she's mad at me, my name becomes Edward.  But when she wants something she knows is going to be hard for me to swallow, it's "Honey."  So when I heard "Honey," my ears stood on point; I knew something difficult was going to be requested.

GF asked me to dash off a poem about Chutchy, the most multifaceted, grandiose person known to mankind.  You don't just dash off a lyrical remembrance to a force like her. I mean tomes could be written about this woman.  This was a daunting challenge, but it got worse ; she then told me to keep it to one page.  This was like asking an ant to run the Great Wall of China and back overnight.  So I sat at my keyboard and put my rigid digits to work.  I composed a zillion four-line schemes that correctly applied to our subject, but discarded  the vast majority to succeed in keeping the verse to one page.  Family and close friends will recognize some references to actual events but I hope all readers of my poem ascertain the flavor and sense of largeness of this remarkable lady. So with apologies for not including all the wonderful characteristics of a most amazing personality, here is my one-page composition. 

A Salute to Carolyn Tekla Grimm Hemming

From Grimm to Hemming, Denny’s true find
Wonderful memories of Carolyn come to my mind
A Renaissance woman with talents galore
Great wife and mother and oh so much more

Her family saw her as the ultimate Queen
While friends viewed her as star of the scene
For certain a star who gave all a thrill
Comedy and drama with professional skill
Any soul mired in sorrow, she’d answer the call
With empathy she yearned to care for us all
Her way with pathos morphed laughter from tears
Sympathetic compassion through all of her years

The Creator I called her, with smile on my face
She’d transform old leather into dainty soft lace
For Judy’s wedding, she began to revamp
Created a cathedral from an old Catholic camp
Allison’s Big Apple apartment flamed and burned
Carolyn fled to her side distraught and concerned
Found a new place, created a warm home
Crafted from old things of wood, glass and chrome

She’d create sumptuous servings upon her stoves
Prepared with olive oil, lemons and garlic cloves
Anticipating her meals brought instant delight
Be it served morning, noon or into the night

Delicious were her dishes of meat and fin
Cept’ the Thanksgiving she stuffed ole Tom with gin
She goosed the bird, she pushed full throttle
Diners wished she’d emptied the gin from the bottle

A force of nature so aptly named
Excitement for all, everyone claimed
Devilish, funny, a spirit of fire
A whirl of humanity we came to admire

She brightened our lives and this we applaud
She’ll now bring a smile to the lips of her God
She left to us all her caring touch
We’ll always love you, our wonderful Chutch

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