Wednesday, November 28, 2007

We Were All Important In Her Eyes

Melanie Kotes (June 6, 1940 - November 26, 2007) seemed to possess the unique gift of convincing people that they were completely worth her time.

My first memories of Melanie date back a little more than eight years ago to the time when I was a nervous fifteen-year-old taking an introductory chemistry class over the summer at Dutchess Community College. When I thought absorption and emission spectra were the hardest concepts in the world to understand, she would take a break from her real job, as lab supervisor, and offer me of her time to help my lack of understanding. With no office hours and a full time job, she somehow was always available to be interested in me, and well, a host of other students as well.

My delight was great when the next summer I was hired to work with Melanie to move the contents of the old chemistry labs in Hudson Hall to the new chemistry labs in Washington Hall. I got to know Melanie as a friend that summer. When she would take a smoke break out behind Washington Hall, I would often go with her just for the company. She was a conversationalist and a realist. Her love for her family and her children was so apparent.

Melanie and I stayed in touch after I left Dutchess. Her office was my certain destination in returning to visit the community college. She was the one who genuinely cared to know what I was doing. She was sure to be so proud of me. She made me feel needed and important. Melanie always told me to be sure to come back again and whenever I did she always greeted me with the brightest of countenances.

When I started teaching chemistry locally, Melanie offered me, once again, her resources and her time. She offered her laboratory space and planned a field trip for my AP students to gain experience with advanced chemical instrumentation.

Throughout this current semester, Luke and Hannah, now at Dutchess, have come home and reported to me on an almost daily visit, how Melanie helped them, how she explained to them what no one understood and how she helped them with a lab problem. Her job description included nothing about tutoring, but she did it gladly. She thought that people were important.

An unexpected stroke took Melanie so quickly. How deeply her presence is missed.