Long-term sociology department benefactor, Ms. Barbara J. Szyman, has passed away

(Nancy Kasper has provided this memorial notice)

In Memory Ms. Barbara J. Szyman (1930-2018)

We have learned of the sad news that long-term benefactor, Ms. Barbara J. Szyman, passed away this June 2018.

Ms. Szyman began her association with the Department in 1981 when she established a memorial fund for her niece, Barbara Lee Tomczyk, who had passed away from cancer.  Barbara Lee was a former graduate student in the department and after her tragic passing, her aunt created the Barbara Lee Tomczyk Memorial Fund.

Ms. Szyman was a friend to not only the department but to me for 25 years.  Over this time, I learned about the careers she held, how she still thought about Barbara Lee often, how she had no children of her own but considered her sister’s children like her own, she told me about her grandchildren and great grandchildren.  And while we never met in person, we were phone pen-pals.  She would send a contribution to the Tomczyk Fund and then call me in a week or so to see if I had received her check, and we’d talk anywhere from 30-45 minutes about everything.

I learned she worked at MIT, but she quit to travel Europe with her friend 50 years ago when it was unheard of for two women to go off alone to a foreign country where she spent 8 weeks roughing it.  She returned in later years with her sister and another niece to visit London, but the amenities were much nicer than the first time!

She learned about me and my family over the years always taking an interest in my grandson who she never forgot when sending a contribution to the Fund.  She always had some trinket or pictures for me and a Susan B. Anthony dollar in the envelope for JT, always giving us all her best wishes until we talked again.

We spoke in January 2018, and I had just written her with an update on the Fund.  When we spoke, she said she probably wouldn’t be in touch again until July.  That’s because she had given me a check for deposit with an increased amount for the Fund.  I expected to hear from her then but didn’t which wasn’t unusual as she kept fairly active with Meals-on-Wheels in the area and activities at the Center, so I didn’t think anything of it until I received a call two weeks ago from Ms. Szyman’ s sister saying she had passed away in June of this year.

I felt like I had lost a part of my own family we had been friends for so long.  I can’t imagine not hearing from her.  I will miss our talks and our exchange of pictures, Christmas cards, and notes.  Sometimes out of the blue I’d get a card with some pictures of her home and surrounding areas or newspaper clippings of events going on in New Hampshire, or even still she’d send me information on dogs and cats because she knew I had a dog.  She always said if I was near her I should stop in and we could talk more and have lunch, but it never happened, and for that I’m really sad because I think I missed out on meeting a truly wonderful and unique person, but I will always cherish our phone/pen-pal friendship.

You will be missed!
Your friend,

Nancy Kasper