Everyone Should Meet a Wini!

Wandering around Rome- 1999

“You have the lifestyle of a playboy- you just don’t have the body of one!”, she said. I quipped back “That’s not true! I have one in my trunk!” This was an actual exchange, one of many over the years, that I would have with Wini Atkinson. This one happened at a restaurant somewhere uptown in NYC, and had the tables on either side of us roaring. By the time desert came, the tables around us were brought into her world with laughter and meaningful conversation. This is how it worked with Wini.

In anyone’s lifetime, there are a handful of people we’re lucky enough to know that in some way shape who we are or how we see the world. For me it’s a few key teachers- and Wini. She passed away recently at the far-too-young age of 80, and I’m typing this hours after her funeral, which sadly, I was unable to attend. The loss of anyone is painful, and the only thing making this one a little less-so is just how well she lived her life. I owe a great deal of who I am, and how I interact with the world around me, to her. Her generosity to me in my 20s and the life lessons I keep with me are debts I can never repay. If you read no further than this, I would humbly ask that you consider a donation to The Gamm Theater via a link setup by her son Mark: Facebook “In Wini Atkinson’s memory, my family and I are asking that donations be made to The Gamm Theatre in lieu of flowers. I have spoken with the theatre about making their venue -and possibly even occasional performances - dementia friendly. Mom loved all kinds of fine and performing arts. It would be a wonderful legacy to make even a small difference in these art forms becoming more accessible for all to enjoy.”

A year and a half after my daughter was born, I had invited Wini to our new house, about 40 minutes away from her in NJ. I never got a response. I knew she was a busy person, and was gearing up for retirement. I wasn’t sure if she just wasn’t into it, or had some other reason for not getting back to me. What was more confusing is when I checked her Facebook page, she listed her employer as Nutmeg, the recording studio I was working for- which by coincidence was across the street from where she was a practicing psychotherapist. It wasn’t until her husband Dave suffered a stroke, which would later lead to his own death before her, that I learned she had been suffering with Alzheimer’s and dementia for some time. I was crushed. I had been so tied up with work, homeownership, and my own new family that I was out of loop.