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Saying Farewell to a Strong Woman

December 7, 2018

Inspiration and wisdom for women entrepreneurs

Sometimes you just don’t throw away reminders of a period of your life because you think you’ll forget the memories, people and lessons. Four months ago, I was reorganizing a draw in my office when I came upon a July 9, 2003 Syracuse Post Standard Business Section newspaper. On the bottom of the full page of our city’s newspaper was an announcement of a new small business column called “Ask The Entrepreneurs” which would tackle small business questions. Next to the title was a photo of three local business women – Ann Marie Stonecypher, Julie Briggs and myself.

The column was an idea by two of us who approached our third woman business friend Ann Marie to join us in the endeavor. We were all tied into small business in Syracuse, New York and thought we had wisdom to share with others. The column would tackle business questions on diverse subjects with unique answers from the three of us. We never answered the question the same way. The column was written by women but addressed issues pertinent to men too although the three of us would have loved it to just relate to women’s issues in business.

It was a period in life when women really needed other women in business friends to succeed in their new entrepreneurial careers. There weren’t many of us at the time and local banks and colleges weren’t interested yet in supporting women entrepreneurs. The “women entrepreneurship market” wasn’t hot 15 years ago. It was just beginning. In those early days, women really needed and depended on other women experiencing the same career pros and cons and sharing the wisdom with each other. This is why the three of us were friends and why we felt the need to write a column in our local newspaper to help other small businesses – especially women running small businesses.

The morning the article appeared in the paper, I called Ann Marie to check on her and ask her if she saw the article since she was in the hospital. I remember her telling me she showed the photo of the three of us to the oncology nurses taking care of her in the hospital explaining, “This is what I really look like.” She was ready for a double mastectomy to rid her body of breast cancer. She had cut her long, signature beautiful, auburn curls from her head anticipating the reaction to chemotherapy after the surgery. Ann Marie was a brave and confident woman who wanted to survive, live and get back to her business and life. I remember being proud of her for the way she handled herself before and after her surgery.

She returned to work and wrote the column with us for many years. Eventually she left the column to focus on her growing business AMS Models. I respected her for being able to walk away from our column to take care of herself and her enterprise. We ran into each other once in awhile at women’s business events. Over the years I heard she battled more health issues but our paths had gone separate ways. I was fortunate to see her a year and a half ago at an event to benefit Maureen’s Hope Foundation, a foundation created by my friend Susan Bertrand, who lost her sister to ovarian cancer. I wished her well and told her I would pray for her.

The last six months since I’ve been battling Alopecia Areata and losing all my hair, I have often thought of Ann Marie and how strong she was shaving off her hair, wearing wigs and not letting anything stop her during her illness. It was difficult to learn this peaceful, cold morning she lost her life. Knowing her spirit, I am positive she fought to the end with the same resolve, strength and hope as she did back in 2003 when I had the chance to know her best. I hope she lays in peace now knowing she has touched the lives of many people, including mine.

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