R.I.P. - Jody Gillespie
As we travel through this life, we run into people whose influence reaches much farther, and much deeper, than they could ever know. Such was the case with Thelma Louise "Jody" Gillespie.
Most of us didn't know her given names, only that she preferred to be called Jody.
She exuded a self confidence that infected those around her, making them more successful than they would otherwise have been. And she never sought recognition for herself, even though it often came her way. She reveled in the success of others and it showed in her everyday life.
Born in the small community of Rural Retreat in southwest Virginia, Jodie came to us in Frederick County in 1971 at the tender age of 28. She entered the real estate business a year later and quickly rose in the successful ranks of skilled professionals.
Just a few years later she opened a small brokerage firm in the southeastern part of the county, and associated herself with two other agents who had a remarkable influence on not only the real estate business, but on other aspects of life in the county they called home. Jane McClure Henderson and G. Lee Teets were remarkable assets and examples for us all, and they took their lead from Jody.
Until Jane's death in a traffic accident in October 1981, Jodie's company, American Homes, was one of the most successful around. Oh, the firm didn't outsell the big companies; but its clients, both sellers and buyers, were given the same professional and ethical service.
Tragically, with Jodie's unexpected death last week, all three of the agents associated with American Homes have received their heavenly reward - and all at a much too young age.
Whenever you were around any of the three of them you knew there was something special about them. Usually they lead quiet lives designed to give back to the community without seeking any special favors for themselves. When Jane became heavily involved in the Sheckles house fiasco on West Patrick Street, Jodie and Lee took care of the loose ends for Jane. It was mostly Jodie because Lee also worked for the federal government in addition to his real estate practice.
It was Jodie who was the glue that held things together for so many throughout her years here. It is easy to recall her quiet demeanor and her wonderful laugh that could rock a room. And while she could be serious to a fault sometimes, there was always that sparkle in her eyes that told you she was enjoying herself and your company.
As a testament to her professional accomplishments, the Frederick County Association of Realtors bestowed its three most prestigious awards on Jodie in three consecutive years. She accepted her awards with a grace and dignity that exemplified her life both personal and private.
In 1985 she was presented the Charles S. V. Sanner Award, which is given annually to the association member who has best exemplified the highest of ethical standards. At the time she was only the fourth recipient of the award.
The next year the Realtors continued their recognition of Jodie's accomplishments by naming her the Realtor of The Year. Some would say that this is the top award given each year by the association, but clearly there are those who put the Sanner prize at the top of the list.
In 1986 Jodie received the award that perhaps meant the most to her. It was the Jane McClure Henderson Education Award, named in honor of her colleague, friend and confidant.
When we put the pieces together that Jodie, Joan Lapera and I shared the same birthday, although clearly in different years, we spent nearly a decade having lunch on that day.
While it is always wonderful to share one's birthday with family, especially with one's children, those lunches with Jodie and Joan were particularly enjoyable. For besides a birthday, we also shared a sense of humor and a bright outlook on life in general and Frederick County in particular. Over the years, and with no real plan, those lunches faded into memory - cherished though they will remain.
When Jodie went into a Baltimore hospital a little more than a week ago, little did anyone suspect that a simple operation to repair a knee would end in her passing.
Early on Thanksgiving morning Joan called with a sadness in her voice to say that Jodie's heart had stopped during the night, and, though medical intervention had revived her, she was on life support.
A few hours later Joan called back, her tears audible over the phone. Jodie was gone. She didn't know the details, only that our friend had passed away.
We are both heart broken, wondering just why someone like Jodie had been called home so young. We both realize, however, that it really isn't our place to question the why, only to reflect on the joy and happiness Jodie had brought into out lives and those of so many others.
While the personal loss is tremendous, the loss to the community, particularly those in real estate, exceeds the bounds of estimation. Even in death Jodie continued to contribute to her community by requesting that - in lieu of flowers - donations be made to Big Brother/Big Sisters of Frederick County.
In life she was acknowledged by her colleagues for her exception caring for others in her chosen profession. In life she was the center of a family to whom she was a devoted mother, grandmother, and constant companion.
In death she leaves us with the memories of a caring friend and colleague whose service to her fellow man will be missed.
Rest In Peace - Jodie Gillespie. You earned it.