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"The Complete Lee" by Jane P. Batten, 1978

A young girl died this spring. It was seemingly an untimely death, doubly sad, for she, like the earth, was still in her first season. My tidy mind balked at the thought of the interrupted cycle, the unfinished business of her life, the ends of experience not neatly tied. Yet her mother showed me photographs taken on a trip shortly before her death. A terrible disease has melted away the adolescent softness of her face and unveiled the beauty of the full blown bloom she was to become. Blue eyes, startling large, laughing out of a tanned face. Strong nose and chin, elegant cheek bones. The unadorned beauty of the fashion model in a summer layout. And her courage. Oh, the steady going on with the business of life in the midst of pain and anxiety. It took no notice of the fall signs, life slowing down like nature itself in those months. It ignored the nip in the air of colder, darker days to come. There was humor too, leaping at you unexpectedly like the autumn squirrel from a bare branch. She had learned a winter wisdom, the peace of the very old who come to accept today as a gift and regret not yesterday nor count on tomorrow. She warmed her hands in front of the fire of love from her family and friends and radiated that warmth back onto the givers. She, in a short time, fashioned a life more full than many five times her age. She gleaned everything important a man must know to make his living a finished product. The seasons of her life proceeded, if too rapidly, in good order. When she left the world, her cycle was complete, from taker to giver, helplessness to strength, babe to sage.

Information on Emily Symington Harkins Filer, CVA, Founding Executive Director

A labor of love doesn’t begin to describe how Emily has approached her work for LEE’S FRIENDS over the past twenty-three years. Emily was the certified, paid Executive Director and volunteer founder of LEE’S FRIENDS, but first and foremost she is Lee’s Mom, the single most significant reason for dedicating her life to achieving the vision of her daughter. Undoubtedly, it is largely a mother’s love that has made LEE’S FRIENDS the award-winning organization it is today.

Before Lee’s illness in 1978, Emily had had extensive management and leadership training in the health, social welfare, education and art fields. In May 1978, after Lee’s death, the Lee Harkins Endowment Committee asked Emily if she would coordinate a service program to carry out the mission of the endowment. Driven by passion and grief, Emily agreed to establish in the summer of 1978 the foundation for LEE’S FRIENDS and it has been her personal mission ever since. Emily volunteered her time for the first seven years of LEE’S FRIENDS. She became a certified volunteer administrator in 1985 and began getting paid for her leadership in 1986. She retired in 2001.

Aside from running the daily operation of LEE’S FRIENDS, being a driver and providing client services, Emily counted among her duties getting to know each volunteer personally. She accomplished this by teaching in the accredited training course. She also wrote and collected articles that were published in the monthly newsletter. Perhaps her most significant contribution to the longevity and success of the organization has been the connections she has made in the community, always looking for volunteers and support.

On behalf of LEE’S FRIENDS, Emily has been a gentle embrace, a warm hug, a tough-love counselor, a no-nonsense administrator, a loyal friend, a trusted mentor and so many more things to so many people in the cancer community, Lee would be proud of her Mom and all that she has accomplished to grow a quality volunteer service organization.

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