SayWhatClub Online Voices September 2015

Our Stories

Kate Johnston
Copyright 2015

You can't be as big a figure in the SayWhatClub without being remembered as Jazzy is! Here are some stories some of our members like to recount ...

When I was still wearing hearing aids, and considering cochlear implants; Jazzy told me of the thrill of riding in her convertible with the top down, wearing her implant and being able to hear the radio. I thought that was magnificent, and that pushed me onward, hoping for the same success for myself, which I did get. She was awesome, as my son said about her, PURE CLASS!

The SWC had their convention in Las Vegas, in 2009; my son lives in Vegas, and he joined us for several events, and in the course of the time, met Jazzy. He thought Jazzy was the classiest lady he'd ever met and advised me that was who I should aspire to be like when I got to be her age. (I'm not that far behind her!) Jazzy loved that story and loved meeting my son, never forgot to ask me about him, forever after, whenever we'd chat. A great friend and as my son said, a classy and great lady. She'll be missed.

Jazzy and Linda
[Photo credit: Lorne Smith]

Linda Binns

I had the chance to attend several of the summer pool parties that Jazzy held at her NJ home in the late 1990s for those who were HOH. What a joy it was to meet people face to face who I had been posting back and forth with, both on the list and privately (it wasn't until several years later that I had a chance to go to a SWC Con). Unlike many of those who attended the parties, I lived 4 hours away, so Jazzy invited me to spend the night and I would head for home in Baltimore after breakfast the next morning. She was a gracious hostess and, as someone going through a difficult time in my personal life, it meant a lot to me to be able to spend time with some of those on SWC who had been providing encouragement. I wouldn't have been able to go to those parties if Jazzy hadn't allowed me to spend the night, and I will always be grateful for that experience.

Diane Bauman

This was the one time I really got to know Jazzy and that was when we had a layover over in one of the airports (can't remember which one) before heading to the Baltimore con in 2011. We got to talking while waiting for our flight to Baltimore. I was kind of jealous she got the first class seat on the plane as that is on my bucket list of doing that once (even it is pretty expensive!). It was on the flight back home she had a problem with getting her first class seat and she couldn't hear or understand the person helping her out. I ended up staying by her to help her out; guessing by lip-reading and hearing the person. Afterwards Jazzy was so sweet and checking on me to see if I was doing okay by myself on the flight and I did the same to see where she was sitting.

One other thing is that I would tease her about her still smoking cigarettes and then for the last several years the e-cigarettes.

She will definitely be missed.

Shari Steele

Jazzy was a classy lady.. a true and hard act to follow. She was first to respond when I hesitated rejoining SWC following [my husband] Walt's death. I questioned my place since I have no hearing loss. She assured me I was not only welcome, I was embraced by those who knew me. After I volunteered to be the San Antonio Con interpreter, she told me I was approved for financial help: con fees, flight and room in exchange for my work. So unexpected and appreciated as this made it possible to bring my late deafened aunt along to the Con.

I will miss her smile and hugs... and even more her presence. I'm so proud our club awarded her the SayWhatClub Spirit award and that I was on duty signing all remarks. RIP, dear friend.

Brenda Dawe

I first met Jazzy on line on the SWC CI list. I met her first up in 2002 after my first CI implant in Alexandria VA, one of many of SWC's conventions. I don't think Jazzy ever missed one convention.

She was just a wonderful person, a people person. I will never forget her, she left a hole in my heart, and left our world way too soon. We lost an amazing person.

Remember, those we love are forever in our hearts... she'll always be in mine. I want to add to her obit things like:

She regained hearing with bilateral CIs. and ... She was awarded the "Spirit of SWC" award at the San Antonio Con.

I know maybe one day we'll meet again Jazzy... You always did JAZZ up a room. I'll never forget you and will keep the music going...

Andrea Grohman

Although I never got to know Jazzy it seems that all who did have deep respect and affection for her.

Gladys Russell

Feeling devastated. I have corresponded with Jazzy since she joined the SWC just after me in 1996. She came out to visit me in New Zealand. I also got to stay with her twice - once when I was visiting my daughter in Montreal, and we stayed with her for a few days, and again after the Philadelphia Convention. I just recently saw her at the San Antonio Convention where she was as large as life per usual. There's going to be a huge hole here.

Robyn Carter

Jazzy's passing will have a huge impact on all of us. She was a "one-of-a-kind" woman. I am honored to have known her, and to have had the privilege of visiting her home. Keep on Jazzin'!

Larry Littleton

I can't wrap my brain around SWC without her. She opened her heart and home to many SWC folks. She will be missed.

Jazzy made me believe *I* was not defined nor defective because of my hearing loss. I remember her encouragment to "go for the golden ring" in life, regardless of the lack of hearing. She held my hand quite literally through the fear of losing custody of my children as I divorced my ex-husband. Believing, always, that my lack of hearing did NOT take away my ability to parent my children. She was always just a phone call away, sometimes in the middle of the night when some child calamity happened while my children were visiting or vacationing with their dad. If she couldn't help, she found someone that could. Two lessons I will NEVER forget that Jazzy taught me, "Barb, every person on earth are doing the best THEY can at this point in their journey in life. Maybe not the best you think they should, but you've not walked in their shoes." And, "Always find and keep at least one close, trusting girl friend in your life. Even if you remarry one day-- One person can not fill all of one person's needs." I was quite young when Jazzy entered my life and these 2 snippets of wisdom have proved not only true-but helped me grow up and gain perspective.

Barbara Bavido

She was a lovely lady and host. I had the chance to visit NYC in 2010 when a long time opera friend and I decided to go to one at the Met. Jazzy insisted we stay at her place at least for a couple days and she showed us around New York. She also went to the opera with us and showed us her club which was owned by someone else by that time. She knew so many restaurant owners and small business owners around town. I will always be grateful for her kindness in showing us around the city and all she did for SWC. LOVED her!!

Kim Ward

I joined the Say What Club in 1999 as a way to connect with others who are late deafened adults. I learned of those famous Jazzy parties and, living in New Jersey, decided to attend one. Not knowing any other late deafened adults, I was rather nervous. But Jazzy immediately put me at ease, welcoming me into her circle of deafened and late deafened adults. Her summer parties by her pool were fun, relaxing and a way to meet others like me. I quickly felt at home and felt that I was among friends.

It seemed that Jazzy and some of her friends took a special interest in me, a single man in his early 40s. In addition to all of her talents, Jazzy was also skilled in the art of matchmaking. So, in the summer of 2000, Jazzy let me know that one of her friends would be attending an upcoming party and that I should introduce myself to her. That is how I met my wife, Lisa Chovnick.

In addition to introducing me to my wife Lisa, Jazzy also helped me when I was first thinking about getting a cochlear implant. Jazzy had already received one, and she helped me overcome my fears about the surgery. As we all know, Jazzy did spectacularly well with her CI, and seeing as how my hearing was rapidly diminishing, her success greatly encouraged me. I was so impressed with Jazzy’s success, that I used her surgeon and her audiologist at Beth Israel (now known as New York Eye and Ear). During my first CI surgery, Jazzy kept Lisa company in the hospital while I had the procedure. That was going “above and beyond”, but that was the kind of person that Jazzy was.

Lisa and I dated for several years before marrying in 2006, in a civil ceremony in Manhattan’s City Hall. When we applied for the marriage license, we were told that we would need a witness for the ceremony. We both knew that there was only one choice for a witness and that was Jazzy. To our delight she agreed and having her there as our witness was the perfect start of our marriage. After the ceremony we all went out to lunch at Union Square Café. After the lunch we thought “lets surprise the CI staff at Beth Israel” so we did just that.

Jazzy with Herb and Lisa after the wedding

After the wedding ceremony

Over the years, Lisa and I kept in touch with Jazzy, either inviting her to our parties or visiting her at her house. We considered her a true and dear friend. Jazzy, for all you did for me and Lisa, we are eternally grateful. We love you and miss you.

Herb Bibbero and Lisa Chovnick

I'm beyond sad. I know we cannot expect life to be forever, but Jazzy personified LIFE and I am crying at this news. Such an understatement to say we will miss her. But she'll want us to keep walking and so we shall. Jazzy, I loved you so. Peace, my friend.

Gayl Hardeman

My Weekend with Jazzy

I had only met Jazzy two years ago when I joined SWC, and had only briefly talked with her in person during two conventions, so I was quite surprised when she nominated me to take over her position of chair of her beloved Convention Steering Committee. I quickly declined only to learn that Jazzy did not take no as an answer...even repeatedly. Two months later, just this past July, I found myself in Boise, Idaho having flown there alone from my home in Virginia, sharing a king room with basically a stranger for three nights while we scouted the area for a venue to hold the 2016 convention. It was honestly a bit surreal!

Jazzy was not feeling great while we were there. It had been a grueling trip that included missed flights, her CI not working properly, and walking any distance being an issue. None of that stopped her from being fully committed to our task. We secured a wheelchair for her which made all the difference. With her e-cigarette constantly in hand we, along with local SWC member Linda Settle and our Convention Visitors Bureau (CVB) rep, were off scouting and touring for two very full days. She asked questions of hotel operators I would never have considered but proved very important. She knew almost immediately that the Riverside Hotel would be our choice even as I was trying to keep an open mind to other options. Her instincts proved to be right on.

As much as I enjoyed the days together it was our evenings I will remember most. She challenged me to gin rummy for hours each night until I had to cut it off from exhaustion. I teased her as the rules seemed to change with each hand....never in my favor! I also had to do the shuffling for both of us as her very impressive nails got in the way. Over cards I heard fascinating stories of her life and the SWC along with advice for leading the convention, an event that was clearly so special to her.

We also enjoyed some wonderful meals together, at least I thought they were. We were taken out by the CVB rep sampling restaurants that mostly specialized in locally grown and sustainable food options. It is the way I love to eat, and I thought everything was delicious. On our last night, Jazzy looked at me and said in her distinctive raspy voice, "I HAVE to have one GOOD meal! Come on, I am taking you out." Next thing I knew we were in a cab going two blocks to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. Neither of us could hear worth a darn...the place was noisy, we were tired, the waiter had an accent...but what a meal we had! Jazzy ordered everything from appetizers, steaks, sides, wine, dessert, and cappuccinos. I realized this was a woman who lived well and by her own rules. I was just happy to be along for the ride.

Parting early the next morning for the airport, she hugged me goodbye and told me she had complete confidence in me and that I could count on her for her full support and guidance. That was our last conversation other than a couple of brief emails. There is no doubt that her unique presence will be strongly felt at our Boise con and those following for years to come. I am so grateful that I had this opportunity to know her. Thank you, Jazzy!

Pat Kovac

I wish I had a story to tell, but I had little personal interaction with Jazzy. I remember that she lived a full life, never minced words, was always ready to try something new and to stand by people who needed help. She led a fascinating life.

Elizabeth [Bet] Whitcomb

In Loving Memory of a Friend and an Angel

Jazzy was a wonderful friend and mentor to all of us in the SayWhatClub. As a former musician myself, her love of jazz struck a chord with me. Like so many others, I was quickly entranced by her selflessness, generosity and genuineness. She was a beacon of example I'm sure we all aspired to. I know I did.

The many parties she hosted in her home nurtured an incredible sense of community among us. The depth of friendship and connectedness we found there was what we'd wished we'd had all our lives. I'm just sad more of us weren't fortunate enough to attend and experience Jazzy's love and friendship first hand.

On occasion, Jazzy would invite me to spend the night and we'd have long talks over eggs and coffee in her kitchen the next morning. This one time I told her of my ongoing struggle with the pit of depression. I described how the two antidepressants I was taking were successful in finally lifting my suicidal ideation, but I was left feeling no better than I felt before I began treatment. Though I put on a “happy face” for those around me, my emotional life still seemed empty, and the emptiness seemed interminable.

Jazzy shared with me her own battle with darkness and how antidepressant medication affected her. Her wisdom and insight instilled in me a sense of normalcy and hope and served to guide me along my own path to recovery.

How do you thank someone for a beautiful gift like that?

I miss you dear friend. You're irreplaceable. I hope the life I lead today makes me worthy of your friendship. I'll do my best to pay it forward.

With love,

Mark Dessert

I had a slightly different experience in that Jazzy made me feel IMPORTANT, she was accepting of us all who had the misfortune of hearing loss and wisely realized, when it happened to her, that she it forward... is the term that I think describes her.

Suzanne Gossett

I was a toddler during the Depression. At the time, one of the only things available to fight infections was Quinine, and my sister had a bad infection on her foot. My father had taken her to the doctor and had a bottle of Quinine in his pocket. I thought the bottle was candy.

I was rushed to the hospital. I lived, but some months later my mother knew I – the youngest of seven -- was not developing like her other children.

My two friends were a little younger than me, and late deafened. We found each other in the SayWhatClub. We met in Amsterdam at the first Euro Con for the SayWhatClub. Such a wonderful time. We wrote notes to each other as we had problems understanding the different accents from Sweden, England, Finland, Israel, The Netherlands, and the US.

It was a wonderful experience. Seeing the beautiful flowers, Writing notes to each other. Eating delicious food. Helping each other. I'll never forget it.

From this experience, Jazzy, Suzanne and I became friends and traveled together several times.

I want to share the funny times.

When in Rome, you do as the Romans do. So many on the SayWhatClub do not like to ask for Help. If you ask for help, you get help. But you have to take help the way they do it.

One of our first trips together after Amsterdam was from Seattle to Valparaiso, South America. We saw so many wonderful places. Then Jazzy and I went to Egypt. I'll never forget when our alarm clocks did not work, and we had to ask for help. Two Egyptian men came into our room each morning to turn on our light and wake us up. They were always so glad to see me wave to them that I was awake. We went on a cruise of the Nile, and only one Egyptian man came to wake us up. At the end of the cruise, we realized he was the Captain of the ship.

We three went on many trips together. Once in South Africa, Jazzy and I asked for help. Lo and Behold, we were put in wheel chairs and taken close to the tarmac. No worries, but suddenly a forklift truck came to put the wheel chairs on the truck and take them to the back of the plane and lift them up. They wanted to keep us safe. We were embarrassed. My advice to you is to do it the airline way. If they send a wheel chair to you, just get in that chair and let them help you. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

We enjoyed each other so much for some years. This is the SayWhatClub; we meet wonderful friends.

Jazzy always knew of a wonderful place to dine in every place. She did her research carefully, or had been to the place before. She also enjoyed the diners. But the diners always had good food. She loved good food.

I visited Jazzy in her home in Little Falls many times. What a wonderful hostess she was. Her smiling face was always in the baggage area of the Newark Airport as she had waited with a mystery book in her hand until I got there.

I'll miss traveling with Jazzy, but Suzanne and I will be sharing a room in New Jersey for her Jamboree. I think Jazzy will be there with us, smiling down on us, with that beautiful smile.

Jazzy and Maurice
[Photo credit: Kristen Wiley]

I can't believe I'll never have fun with her again.

Maurice Wilson

She was my birthday twin ... same day, different years! It will be so different without her. RIP

Ellen Luse

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