In Memory of Elsa Bandi
I am writing to you now with the sad news that our dear friend Elsa Bandi has passed on. It is almost impossible to express how much Elsa meant to Share Your Soles-and to me personally. She was treasurer and strong supporter of Share Your Soles, but more than that. She was my friend, my mentor, my confidante. Elsa was like a mother to me, and I loved her.
It all started about five years ago, when we met by chance (or fate) during a flight home from Florida. Elsa was returning from vacation, and I was coming back from Haiti. I remember, I was sick as a dog that flight, but Elsa struck up a conversation with me, and it was an instant love affair. She saw the passion I had for Share Your Soles and this sparked a desire in her to help. We began working closely together. As her involvement grew with Share Your Soles, our personal attachment deepened. Elsa became a second mom to me, and, of course, I became a member of her and Fred's family. It was a package deal.
Elsa believed in our organization with all her heart and threw herself into it. She believed in it not simply because of what I told her, but because she saw it firsthand. Share Your Soles may have opened Elsa's eyes to people and places she hadn't seen before, but she embraced all of it. She was even going to join my caravan to the next Burning Man! Elsa traveled with me at times, helping distribute shoes and offering emotional support. Most recently, even when challenged with illness, Elsa insisted that she was coming with me on my next trip to Kenya. I am certain that she will still be with me on that trip.
Elsa gave so generously to Share Your Soles. She constantly was thinking of ways to help move the organization forward, to make it stronger to ensure the work would continue. Elsa's belief in the work of Share Your Soles inspired everyone to dig deeper and work harder. Right through her final days here, she insisted I never let the charity down. She kept me going even when she was losing steam. She gave me her strength.
She was truly a woman of substance. When few women were in the construction business, Elsa and her brother ran b.Stromberg Construction Company, a commercial contracting firm. She gained real estate expertise while serving on numerous boards, including 20 years with the First National bank of Morton Grove, and 8 years with Three Crowns Park, a not-for-profit continuing care retirement community. She and her husband, Fred, were loyal patrons and supporters of the Lyric Opera. Elsa was so cool. Whether at the opera or a Burning Man event, she was in her element-all at once a classy woman and a crazy lady. Share Your Soles benefited from all the versatile talent, knowledge, and drive that Elsa developed over her lifetime-and I benefited too.
I was blessed to be at Elsa's side, holding her hand when she passed over. She believed in a life after death, and told me then, as she told me many times, "I've had a great ride." As much as I will miss her, I know that Elsa's love will continue to be a source of strength for me and for Share Your Soles.
Elsa wanted so badly to be at the upcoming Share Your Soles 13 Year Anniversary Celebration. In fact, she had hoped to one day celebrate the 23 year celebration with us. So, in her honor on May 24, we will be raising our glasses on her behalf. Kindly come out on the 24th to celebrate 13 years with Share Your Soles and to honor Elsa who was so much a part of this organization.
In Elsa's words, life goes on.
Love and Tight Hugs,
Share Your Soles