Two Rubenesque Women on a Mission

Aggie (left) and Renee (right) in Pompeii, Italy 2009

Renee: Graphic Designer, App designer

Best friend of 29 years: Aggie, VP / Director - Digital Media and Emerging Technologies, died ... from a pulmonary embolism in 2015 at age 55

"She was my other half, she knew what I felt before I did. "

How did you meet?

I met Aggie during my second week at CMP Media in 1986. I was hired as a production editor for VARBusiness magazine. During that week I received an inter-office memo (these are the days before email) from the Atex publishing system manager. Apparently, I did some things to the Atex files I wasn’t supposed to do. Nervously, I walked down to the manager’s office, knocked on the door and this voice said, “Come in.”

Sitting there was this woman with a big smile asking if she could help me. I asked her if she was the Atex manager. She said, “No I’m Aggie, her assistant” and told me that the manager wasn’t in. I told her that I received the memo and handed it her. She read it and burst out laughing. We were inseparable from that moment on.

What was the friendship like?

Our friendship was amazing. A mutual friend once described Aggie as my split apart, the other half of my soul. I think that she was right.

After that first meeting we became “work friends.” We met for lunch and talked. I was married back then, only for a few years. My ex-husband was a police officer and a rookie, so he had the late shift. I worked for a publishing company, so we worked late on occasion. I would see Aggie hanging out in the typesetting room with her colleagues. One night I was leaving and I popped my head into typesetting to say good night and there was Aggie with John and Lance sitting around a TV watching videos and having pizza. They invited me to join them and this became a weekly event.

A few months later my world fell apart, my husband and I were splitting up. It was at this point my relationship with Aggie became something more. I needed some technical help, called Aggie and asked her if I could come to her office. For some reason I broke down in tears. She let me sit in her office and cry. She waited and found the right moment to ask me, not what was wrong but, “How can I help?”

Then we were real friends, partners in crime. We were compatriots, we enjoyed many of the same things. Okay, Aggie was a true sports fanatic. I loved baseball and we had our beloved NY Yankees. It became a tradition to go to Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. Last year was the first Opening Day we missed in I don’t know how many years. We saw so many games together. Win or lose we stayed to the last out in the bottom of the 9th. Even if the Yankees were losing by 20 runs we wouldn’t leave. If the game started at 1 p.m she was at my place at 7 a.m., we would sit in the parking lot or walk around the stadium.

I remember we had tickets for the last game at the old Yankee Stadium in 2008. It was a night game. She picked me up at 7 a.m. because she read that if you got there by 11 a.m. they were going to let people on the field. I still have a medicine bottle filled with dirt we picked up from the warning track in center field, flecks of yellow paint that Aggie picked off of the foul pole in right field and dried pieces of grass that she picked from the outfield. So many games, so many moments. The last game we went to was Derek Jeter’s last game at Yankee Stadium. I never dreamed it was going to be Aggie’s last game too.

We loved Broadway, plays and musicals, we always went for her birthday. Aggie and I saw the Producers three times and she must have seen it another 10 times without me.

Aggie introduced me to sports other then baseball: Ice hockey, (which I really liked), basketball and football, which I tolerated. She tolerated art museums at first, but that changed a few years ago when she became a painter and she was terrific. Her paintings would take your breath away that is how good she was. She had this hidden talent, I am grateful that it was able to come out.

Aggie winning at Belmont Stakes

Road trips were our adventures. We traveled well together. We gave each other space and never let our idiosyncrasies bother each other. In fact, they often became some of our funniest moments. Before our parents became ill we would go on these spur-of-the-moment trips. We’d get in the car and say, “Which way?” We ended up in Maine, Niagara Falls, Cleveland, New Orleans — all of them wonderful. Only Aggie could make Cleveland wonderful.

One time, we decided to go to Maine on the 4th of July weekend. Our co-workers thought we were crazy. We didn’t know where we were going in Maine. We had no hotel room or anything. We brought sleeping bags and pillows and figured we could sleep in the car if we had to. That weekend couldn’t have been more perfect. In Maine, we stopped and got a map and found this town Booth Bay Harbor. We stumbled into a bed and breakfast, got tickets for a night cruise to see the fireworks; it all came together.

Aggie was, and I am, a large woman. She stated very proudly to our co-workers, the doubters, “Never underestimate the power of two Rubenesque women on a mission!” That became our motto. No matter what we did or wanted to do, that is who we were. And we were proud of it.

As much heartache as we both endured, especially in the later years, what I remember the most was the laughter. Aggie had the greatest sense of humor. It was dry and quick. She always has an answer or quip. Sometimes we would laugh so hard that my sides would ache.

Kicks on Route 66. Renee and Aggie (right) at the end of Route 66. Their last great adventure together.
Renee and Aggie (right) at the end of Route 66. Their last great adventure together.

Our last trip together was a road trip starting in Chicago. We followed the old Route 66 all the way to Santa Monica, California. We had talked about it for years, bought books and always said we were going to do this. She had lost her job at Time Inc. and told me,  “Get two weeks off and I will plan the entire trip, I have the time.” Aggie created an amazing itinerary. That trip was six months before she passed away.

She was my other half, she knew what I felt before I did. I want to believe that I did the same for her. She was always there for me no matter what. When I lost my job at Conde Nast she got me interviews at Time Inc., always there with me. Aggie gave more then she received. In all my years I never had a friend like her and I don’t think I ever will again.

Describe how the friendship ended.

Aggie left Time Inc. in May 2014. A year before that she purchased a log cabin in Kerhonkson New York, a dream fulfilled. So during those months after she parted ways with Time Inc., she spent a lot of time at the cabin. I called her on a Thursday to see if she wanted to get together over the weekend. She said, “I feel like shit…I’m going to the doctor.“ She texted me on Friday to tell me she had bronchitis and was going to sleep it off over the weekend.

Sunday night I was home folding laundry and the phone rang. It was Aggie’s sister Laura. Before she could speak I asked, “Where is she?” thinking that she was in the hospital, in an accident, something. Laura said she was gone. I couldn’t breathe, I don’t even remember what I said. I vaguely remember asking: “How? When? Sunday night?” Her family didn’t know the cause of Aggie’s death. I didn’t find out until the wake that it was a pulmonary embolism.

How did you cope with her loss?

Honestly, I don’t think I have coped with her loss yet. It’s been a year and the pain is as fresh at that Sunday night. Aggie is all around me. I look around my apartment and in every corner there are pieces of her. Gifts she has given me over the years, photographs of our trips, goofy little mementos of all the things with did together are all scattered in my apartment. She even named my cat.

I lost my only brother at a young age. Aggie became not only my friend, but my sibling, my sister, my partner in crime.

Her service was surreal, family, friends, co-workers from every job she ever had came to say good-bye. Aggie could make friends in an instant. She could charm anyone with that infectious laugh, the dry and sometimes inappropriate sense of humor. You couldn’t help but love her.

We got each other through some of the worst times of our lives, my divorce, the death of our parents, the loss of jobs and we went through some of the best times together, road trips, nights out, Yankee games, Broadway shows, movies and so many other experiences. Even now when something happens good or bad I want to pick up the phone, text or email her. There are mornings I wake up and forget, and think I have to call Aggie today. Then I remember and need to get a hold of myself to get through the day.

For weeks after her death I could barely function. We worked for the same company. Everyone knew we were friends. Her former boss gave the eulogy and mentioned me along with her family. After a couple of weeks, I came back to work and it was hard, harder then when I lost my dad only five months before. Everyone meant well, but it was difficult. I wanted to see her walking the halls and coming up to the 23rd floor.

I’d lived alone for many years after my divorce, then moved my parents in with me when my mom became ill. After mom passed away, my dad stayed with me. After he passed away I was living alone again. I never minded living alone. I always liked my solitude. But I never felt lonely or alone. Now I do. After Aggie, I feel alone and empty, a huge part of me is gone

I am clumsy, I fall a lot, do stupid things. I always did stupid things in front of Aggie, and she would always say, “You dopey bitch!” I would give anything to hear her say it again.

Is there anything else that you'd like to add about your friendship?

Aggie was the one constant in my life. Other friends came and went, jobs changed, parents passed away, but she was there at my side, giving me strength and laughter.