By Katherine Costa:
Even though I only met Jill once, I grew up hearing stories about her from my dad, Bob Costa. My dad, Jill’s former husband, used to show me pictures of their adventures around the world. He always spoke so fondly of this smart, independent woman who went on to get a PhD in English from Harvard.
As I excelled in school as a young student, my dad always said to me, “You should meet Jill. She is a smart like you. I think you two would get along.” The way he spoke about her, I could tell she must be a special person.
Sadly, it wasn’t until my dad’s funeral in 2015 that I finally met Jill. She drove all the way from Maine to attend the services in Boston, accompanied by her daughter Anny. I was touched by their presence there, and deeply moved that they made the journey. At long last, I finally met Jill, and she was just as wonderful as my dad had described her. I felt a completion I can’t fully explain.
It turns out that was the first and last time I ever saw Jill. We remained Facebook friends and occasionally exchanged messages. She wished me and my brother well on my dad’s birthday. I found a book about the Azores that she gave my dad in 1982; her inscription read, “For Roberto on his birthday, with happy memories of a summer in the Azores.” A month to the day before her death, on June 30, I emailed her from the Azores, while I was on a trip exploring my dad’s family roots. I knew Jill and my dad had stayed in Ponta Delgada in the seventies. When I sent her a picture of the city, she responded, “Thank you for thinking of me and bringing back memories. I admire your adventurous spirit.”
It is fitting that Jill’s last word to me was “spirit.” Jill clearly has an indomitable spirit, and I know her spirit lives on in those whose lives she touched. I myself did not know she was ill. When Anny sent me the news of her passing, I was heartbroken to hear that the world lost such a strong, influential woman, but also heartened to hear all of the stories of the ways Jill has impacted those around her. As a teacher myself, I am inspired by the way she supported her students and pursued ESL certification even during her final months of illness. While my connection to her is somewhat unconventional, my life has been touched by hers in a special way. I am honored to attend her services on behalf of myself and my father, who I know would be there if he could.