The end of April was a sorrowful time for the real estate community in Northern New York. During a four-day period, we lost four members. However, from those gray clouds, there have been some silver linings.
On Sunday, April 25, I received word that longtime member Janet Handschuh-Amyot had lost her battle with cancer. Janet, 57, broker of Heart Homes since 1999, was a 30-year member of the Jefferson-Lewis Board of REALTORS® and served on various committees as well as president of the association and past REALTOR® of the Year. She was also a member of the St. Lawrence County Board of REALTORS® for 20 years and a charter member of the Women’s Council of REALTORS® Tri-County Network when it started in 2008. She later served as its president. Janet also was recognized as Top Producer by the network multiple times. She was active in her community and church.
As I sat thinking of Janet and her contributions on that Sunday morning, as well as her infectious smile and the devilish gleam she would get in her eye, I thought that this would be a hard week for our members and staff. Little did I know.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, April 28, came the tragic events at Bridgeview Real Estate Services when Brokers Terry O’Brien and Maxine Quigg were killed by Barry Stewart, who was also a real estate licensee. Subsequently, Barry killed himself.
All of these deaths left spouses, children, siblings, parents, friends, and colleagues grieving. What did the rest of us lose because of this?
Both Terry and Maxine served on various committees at the Board of REALTORS® contributing their time and energy to make our members better able to serve the public. They created a real estate agency where agents support each other both professionally and personally. In addition, both supported the surrounding community as well.
Maxine served on the boards of Watertown’s Flower Memorial Library, the YMCA, and the Northern New York Community Foundation. All of these work to make our community a better place to live.
Terry devoted his time to youth sports and helping to mold and develop our next generation. He strove to make our community stronger one child at a time. He also volunteered and helped plan the annual “North Country Goes Green” Irish Festival.
The events terrified and saddened not only the real estate community, but also the general public. It also brought out the best of people in the area.
By Thursday morning, brokers and agents in other companies had stepped forward to offer support, office space, a listening ear, and a shoulder to cry on. I heard from members who talked about how Maxine or Terry helped them and gave them advice and were great to work with. Terry and Maxine always stressed honesty, ethics, and education.
The deaths touched a wider area as well. Starting on Wednesday night and continuing on succeeding days, I heard from real estate colleagues from around the state and nation. The staff and leadership of both the New York State Association of REALTORS® and the National Association of REALTORS® reached out and offered both the Jefferson-Lewis Board and Bridgeview support, advice, and help in a number of ways.
The city of Watertown organized a vigil on Saturday, May 1, that was attended by many people in and out of the real estate community. It was broadcast live on WWNY TV7 and streamed online by the station and NBC Watertown. Many people around the state and nation tuned in.
All of the above are examples of some of the love and support that has been expressed from the local area and beyond. While we still grieve the loss of life, it is heartening to know that so many were touched by the tragedy and reached out to help. My hope is that we remember not only those who were taken from us too soon, but also their legacy of giving back, their kindness, and their values. That will be the silver lining in the dark cloud that was the last week of April.