Thank You, Elaine Brantley
If you have ever walked through the TC cafeteria, then surely you were blessed with a healing smile and a "thanks, hon" from Elaine Brantley. On the morning of June 9, 2003, Elaine passed away. As Cynthia Greene, Academic Secretary for the Nutrition Program said, "Elaine-gone, but not forgotten."
For almost twenty-four years, Elaine brightened the days of the people who walked through the cafeteria. Her official title was "Sage Cashier," but she was much more than that. She was good therapy. She was a reason to come to work in the morning. And, she was simply a good friend. When the news came out about Elaine, the TC Community poured out their grief in e-mails. Adjunct Assistant Professor Leah DeSole offered a Navajo prayer:
Happily may she walk.
May it be beautiful before her.
May it be beautiful behind her.
May it be beautiful below her.
May it be beautiful above her.
May it be beautiful all around her.
In beauty it is finished.
In May, Elaine was given the Student Senate's award for making on outstanding impact on the lives of students. "Elaine is a gem! Even after so many years at TC she is always quick to smile at everyone who comes through her line at the cafeteria," said the student who nominated her. "Her sweet demeanor and cheerful disposition have made her every student's favorite, and her habit of referring to everyone as 'honey' or 'sugar' makes New York City seem like home to the hundreds of students she helps everyday."
Exactly one year ago, Erica Staton, who works in External Affairs, went to the Cafeteria to get an apple turnover and to learn more about Elaine. The following are excerpts from that interview.
Born and raised in Harlem, Elaine inherited her southern grace from her parents who moved to New York City from the Carolinas. She married her husband Ulysses in 1968. "Thirty-three years of marriage, that's a long time, Hon," said Elaine with her unforgettable, melodious laughter. After 15 years of marriage, she and Ulysses were blessed with their only child, Eboné. "Eboné has only known me to work here at Teachers College," she said. "Truthfully, I am just waiting for her to finish college, before I move on, maybe work in a hospital with elderly people."
Elaine came to Teachers College in 1979 when her former Union (1199) relocated her after the hospital she worked in, as a dietician's aid, closed. "This job is all about meeting people. You know, one thing I have noticed over the years is that people really just want someone to talk to," she said. "It touches my heart to listen and witness someone speak to me about their joys, fears and experiences. I have seen fear in someone's face because they have just discovered they have cancer, but to see them progress and their fears change into healing and acceptance. Well, it is a blessing to be the person that gets to listen and observe as they overcome."
Elaine was the sunshine of the school. Someone who we all could count on to lift us up and brighten our day. Her warm smile and endless gratitude of "Thanks Hon!" will be deeply missed.
Published Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2004