I never met Stella May Brown Weaco but reading her obituary and watching a TV report of her memorial lunch at Women's Lunch Place, I wish I had. The people who knew her testify to a life of dignity, kindness, profound politeness and consequence from a destitute street person. I’m just going to give you some of those quotes.
"I remember seeing her on the coldest, snowiest night you could imagine," said Dr. Jim O'Connell, president of Boston Health Care for the Homeless, who first encountered Stella in 1985. "We would be frightened for her health, but she would politely decline our offers to take her someplace to spend the night. She was robust in the true sense of the word."
"Stella was a ray of sunshine - that was her nickname, 'Sunshine,' " said Kate Ebbott, a volunteer at Women's Lunch Place
"I think she knew everyone's quirks by sitting and looking," said a tall woman who dined there with Stella for a decade. "She'd look at you and you'd almost feel she knew things about you."
Said Julie, who was taking refuge from Wednesday morning's chilling rain, "It was uplifting to be in her presence."
"We would offer her food and a blanket, and she would always be exquisitely polite and always smile,"
"Stella was a great woman who quietly taught people life lessons. Those eyes - I used to say, 'How can you say no to her smiling eyes?' "
"As I was leaving, I asked Stella if she wanted me to get her anything," Reilly said. "She looked at me and said, 'You know, Sharon, I don't need a thing. I have enough.' "
Reading this article and hearing this report were uplifting. Considering what people said about Stella Mae Brown Weaco, her grace seems to transcend her death. To hear that such a person, someone who had the ability to touch so many people so deeply while living on the lowest level our society lets people fall to, was a lesson in practical optimism. Here is an example of the reality that dignity and worth can be created out of the humblest of resources by a single person of transcendent good will.