Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering Jill Marie Maurer-Campbell

Jill Maurer Campbell was afraid of heights, but that didn't stop her from fulfilling a lifelong dream of skydiving when she was in Australia or from trying out as many roller coasters as she could. It also didn't stop her from working high up on the seventy-eighth floor of the World Trade Center. She wasn't crazy about the idea, but her loyalty and commitment to her boss, Rob Patterson, was stronger than her anxiety.
Jill was independent and career-minded, but she never gave up her baby blanket-or
"tickle", as she liked to call it.
Jill was petite, only weighing about 115 pounds, but she could put away the biggest
steak Neiderstein's had on the menu.
Although she was spontaneous-taking spur-of-the-moment trips or making last­minute plans-she was extremely organized and saved everything in neatly organized scrapbooks, including a letter she wrote to the tooth fairy when she lost her first tooth.
Jill had wanderlust, diligently saving her money so she could see the world, but she was rooted in family and never strayed far from her hometown of
Middle Village, Queens. When she married Steve, the couple settled just blocks away from her childhood home.
Jill wasn't predictable, but she was grounded and loving, and she always followed her heart. And the one thing that inhabited her heart, from the time she was a little girl, was a goal she always knew she was moving toward: the dream ofJake...the little boy who lived in her heart, years before he was even a reality.

Jill’s Smile

Jill was a beautiful woman who made a lasting impression on everyone she met.
Jeanne says her best physical feature was her smile, and it seems that the one thing so many people remember about her so vividly was exactly that warm, happy smile.
"The way she smiled could really make you feel better, even on your worst days."
Steve Campbell
"She was a beautiful person who could brighten up a room (or a bus, or an entire school) with her smile." Michael Williamson
"We miss your beautiful face, the sound of your voice...your laughter, your great smile (that could light up a room)." Linda Maurer
"I will always remember your smile, your wonderful laugh, and the joy that you brought my family." John Campbell
"I miss walking in every morning and seeing your smile-or that look like you're ready to kill someone!" Lorena Munoz
"I will never ever forget the first time I saw Jill. She was coming in for a second interview with Helen, and she walked in and gave me a beautiful, sincere smile." Saida Guadalupe

Born June 2, 1970 to Jeanne and Joseph Maurer; Jill Marie Maurer as a toddler and young girl was exuberant and a dancer. She was the type of person that we all have met (if we’re lucky) at one time or another in our lives that you just can’t help but gravitate toward. When family got together it was Jill the cousins tended to surround, knowing something fun was just around the corner.

During childhood, Jill and her sister Linda took tap, ballet and jazz dance lessons, which led to many performances by the cousins at family gatherings at the Maurer household. Once rehearsed, the adults would be led down to the basement or the Maurer Multiplex and were treated to memorable performances, which they had to pay for of course (smart cookies those kids).

At Christmas time the Maurer family would travel upstate; no not
Westchester (the state does encompass more than just the five boroughs you city folk), but to the Adirondacks to visit Santa at the North Pole, NY. Each year they would celebrate making decorations, trimming the tree with the elves and other children. Later on in the evening Santa would stop by to see the tree and have dinner with all the children and families there. The following morning allowed everyone to witness Santa and the elves hard at work preparing for the holiday.

In summer, the family would head to Daniels, which is a family-oriented resort in Pennsylvania. Meeting annually with many of the same families each year I’m sure added additional warmth to the memories.

As Jill was very much into family and family traditions and wanting to build on that, it was her intention to make the family sojourns to Daniels and Santas North Pole with Jacob so that he might have the same type of wonderful memories growing up that she had. Jacob will go with his grandparents Jeanne and Joe, since this is what Jill wanted and I am sure he will have those wonderful memories and love that she had growing up.

The Steuben Society, which is a German-American group, was another family tradition, but one that she had already gotten Jake involved with. From a very young age, Jill and her sister Linda marched in the society parades, waited on tables at the club and assisted in raising money for charity. After each years Steuben boat ride, Jill would gather as many volunteers possible and would go pass out any leftover food to homeless people around the docking area.

According to Jill’s Mom, Jeanne, “the Steuben Society was very good to us after Jill died. They had a special dinner at the Waterfront Crab House in Long Island City in honor of Jill. . They presented us with a plaque and gave Jake a fireman’s medallion in honor of his mother.”

Even though Jill was an excellent student she was not an introverted book type. Her husband Steve recalled a reunion he attended with her and said, “a lot of people commented to me that even though Jill was very bright, she always had time for everyone and mixed in with everyone. She was always very approachable and social.”

Jill was focused, not afraid of what others thought of her, said her mother Jeanne. Her father Joe recalled, “We used to call her ‘Chinese Water Torture’ – she just kept hammering at you until you gave in.

Following graduation from high school, Jill enrolled at
Adelphi University and graduated magna cum laude with the highest grade point average in the communications department. She celebrated by backpacking with her roommate, Jill O’Donnell through Europe, with stops in London, Paris and Spain. In the years following she would also visit Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Australia – and being Jill, she formed and sustained friendships with people she met.

Following college and travel, Jill began working as a video editor at National Video, but chose not to continue down this career path with its hours, low pay and no time for a social life whatsoever. After what I am sure was the usual searching she settled into a career as an AA at Baseline Financial. When her boss, Rob Patterson, who started the business in his garage, sold to Thomson Financial, they kept him on and moved the business to the World Trade Center Jill agreed to stay on regardless of her fear of heights due to her dedication and admiration for him.

Jill was so successful in this career that she was offered the office manager position; but passed on the opportunity so she could spend more time with Jake.

Regardless of the order of my tribute; the egg did not come before the chicken or vice versa – I don’t know. Jill met the Steve Campbell at a party her cousin Laura threw for her husband Tom; Steve was the missing piece of the equation that together would result in “Jake...the little boy who lived in her heart.” Suffice it to say, they were meant to be. Jill’s cousin Lisa recalls giving Jill and Steve a ride home after the party and could not help but overhear some of the conversation, which sounded as though “they seemed to know each other’s thoughts. It was almost eerie.”

Jill and Steve dated for a little (destiny doesn’t always have to take forever) while before Steve popped the question while on a trip to
Boston in December of 1998. He chose a whale watch boat ride as the proper place for the nervous request and did it outside due to his nervousness of asking in front of a lot of strangers. No surprise that Jill said yes, but I thought perhaps it was because it was so cold out; though this was not the case as they spent the rest of the ride watching the water, enjoying the view of whales and dolphins.

Jill went about planning the wedding of her dreams in the short four months of their engagement; a short four months (to Easter weekend the planned wedding date), which for many would not be near time enough. For Jill, this was no challenge, as she did not hesitate in making a choice when she saw what she liked or wanted. The first gown she tried on was the one she would wear and Stewart Manor was the location for the reception; why look further when one knows they have found the perfect location.

Following a family oriented wedding, in which many relatives played a part; Jill and Steve went off on a romantic seven day cruise to the Caribbean for their honeymoon; enjoying Saint Martin, Saint Croix, Saint Thomas and San Juan along the way.

Little time was wasted in beginning the quest for Jake, although conception was not immediate. Jill required minor surgery to remove scar tissue, but following a short few weeks for recuperation they were able to begin trying again.

The day that they found out they were pregnant also happened to be Jill’s Mom’s birthday. Their gift to her consisted of a Precious Moments figurine of a little boy with a baseball cap and a Happy Birthday, Grandma card; leaving Jeanne (Jill’s Mom) wondering whether the card may have been misread at the card shop before realizing she and Joe were going to be grandparents.

At last my love has come along,

my lonely days are over and life is like a song.

At last the skies above are blue,

well my heart was wrapped up in clover,

the night I looked at you.

I found a dream that I could speak to,

a dream that I could call my own.

I found a thrill to press my cheek to…

a thrill that I have never known.

You smile…you smile and then the spell was cast.

And here we are in heaven…

for you are mine at last.

The Etta James arrangement and recording of “At Last,” as well as Irish lullabies were the musical selections Jill would play each evening for Jake while he took up residence within her. She cut out smoking, drinking and ate healthily and honed up with all sorts of reading material in an effort to prepare for the caring, loving and raising of their miracle.

Following 24 hours of labor Jacob Joseph Campbell entered the world on November 4, 2000 at 9 lbs, one ounce; no small feat for someone with Jill’s small frame. During the name selection process, Jill thought that “Jake Campbell,” would be a good name for a future player on her favorite team the NY Mets.

Jill concentrated on giving Jake a good foundation for life with music, reading, talking to him and even taught him sign language (brilliant!!!) to ease communication between them.

Jakes christening allowed for a dance between Jill and her son to the song she dedicated to him; “I Hope You Dance.”

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.

You get you fill to eat, but always keep that hunger.

May you never take one single breath for granted.

God forbid love ever leaves you empty-handed.

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean.

Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens.

Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance.

As fate would have it, the family took a memorable cruise to the Bahamas in August of 2001, allowing all together to put, not taking “one single breath for granted” into practice.

On a day, whose date need not be spoken, Jill received a picture of her, Steve and Jake taken at her nephews christening on September 9th via e-mail. Her cousin received the “read” notification from Jill’s e-mail allowing family the knowledge she had seen the photo of the beautiful family she had created one last time.

Jill Marie Maurer-Campbell

June 2, 1970September 11, 2001

Thank you Jill

Great thanks and admiration to Jeanne Maurer, who I hope was not going out on any kind of limb in sharing pieces of their child’s life with me, a stranger. However, based upon who Jill is, I cannot imagine it was not offered willingly by all. No family is perfect, but the love and closeness this family shares isn’t the case for everyone on this earth. I take away from this experience a piece of my life that would never have been without it.

This project at once struck me as a wonderful idea and one that I did not hesitate signing up for; that said, it has been a gut-wrenching, stomach-twisting process. But in that process I have been touched by someone I never had the honor of meeting, but feel as though I know, if only in passing. May God bless all the families and friends directly affected and those with no familial loss; yet still feel a hole at their core as I do. Theirs is a challenge that many will not face in their lives and whenever possible they deserve everyone’s support.

It’s been five years and I may not think about it everyday; but I will never forget, nor will I likely ever forgive.

In the end though, the woman with the travel bug now has the universe as her playground; my guess is she is looking into it.