BJ's light will continue to shine

Everybody knew her. She was an icon, a mainstay, a beloved figure zipping down the street in her sleek little car with the personalized license plate, "BEEJ." You'd see her chatting with her friends at Mani-Pedi. You recognized her from the checkout line in Kramer's. You may have even spoken with her, briefly and cheerfully. When she departed, you'd smile, and your step acquired a little spring, just because of this brief interaction.

She was BJ Chimenti, a longtime resident of Hinsdale and a perpetual source of happiness in the world. If you were lucky enough to meet her, however briefly, you became her friend. She thrived on the life stories of new people she met; she made connections. She shined.

A tiny little slip of a woman, BJ was a giant in the local volunteer community for decades. Her energy was boundless, spontaneous, effervescent. BJ dedicated herself to the voiceless and the helpless; she provided hope.

BJ traveled the world, but it is impossible to think of Hinsdale without her presence. From the Hinsdale Humane Society to The Community House, her work epitomized selfless love.

I keep expecting to see her. Maybe she'll be walking her pup, Bugsy, through the park in Clarendon Hills on her way to Starbucks. Maybe she's holding court with her dear consort Norm at a merry table in Vistro. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see the flash of her smile, a glimpse of her signature blond bob.

She really hasn't left us, you know. BJ's light, too amazingly bright to be contained in one wee person, is now shining throughout all who knew - and therefore loved - her. BJ made the clichés come true; she beggared all description. Wickedly funny and boundlessly compassionate, BJ was a delightful combination of sophistication and warmth.

Amidst a year marked by the tragedy of so many friends and family taken away from us before their time, BJ's passing broke my heart. She was the third member of our Community Revue family to leave us this year, after our beloved Dick Johnson and Ly Hotchkin had the nerve to go away without consulting with the rest of the cast first.

The revue is crushed by these losses; they are becoming too many to bear. And we can't even hold each other tight and cry as we so desperately need to do. We pray for Time to help us pass our days with less sorrow.

I almost didn't want to write this column about BJ; I was reluctant to possibly have people tell me they are "sorry for my loss." Because BJ's passing isn't "mine," it's ours. Her life, her indelible presence in the lives of others, was a profound gift to us all. We are all better human beings for having spent time in her glow.

- Susan O'Byrne of Hinsdale is a contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].