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Keuka College Community Mourns Paulette Willemsen

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The comments on Paulette Willemsen’s Facebook page provide a glimpse of the type of person she was.

“Warm-hearted,” “kind,” “loyal and committed,” “gifted,” “a beautiful spirit.”

Paulette, who served Keuka College as the Division of Education administrative assistant and student teacher placement coordinator for 11 years, passed away Friday, April 13, after an 18-month battle with cancer. She was 63.

“I know so many Keukonians rallied around Paulette as part of #TeamRed,” said College President Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera. “She was well known for putting others above herself. Her charisma, sense of humor, and the way she cared for each and every one of us will be deeply missed.” 

A member of the College’s Staff Advisory Council’s Events Committee and the Employee Events Committee, Paulette was a constant source of support, as well as a driving force behind the annual holiday party. And each week throughout the semester, Paulette would staff the popcorn machine and hand out bags of freshly popped popcorn.

“Paulette was the spirit of the Events Committee, and an enthusiastic supporter of anything and everything that would enhance the Keuka College experience for students and employees,” said President Díaz-Herrera. “Her chocolate chip cookies, which she baked almost constantly for students, faculty, and staff, were legendary.”

As another testament to Paulette’s commitment to students, she was nominated for the College’s annual Work Study Supervisor of the Year Award three times in eight years—including back-to-back nominations in 2017 and 2018. Paulette received the honor the first year the award was presented in 2010. The award honors work-study supervisors whom students believe warrant particular recognition for their performance on the job.

In her nomination, senior Emily Stokes says Paulette made her feel important, especially by taking a genuine interest in her, as well as other work-study students.

“This simple act of kindness shows how much she appreciated us,” said Emily.

A candlelight vigil in memory of Paulette was held April 16, and members of the College community were able to light a candle in Paulette’s memory, engage in personal reflection/prayer, and write goodbye messages to Paulette, which will be shared with her family. 

Prayers for Paulette and her family, led by College Chaplain Eric Detar, were said, and Dr. Deborah Dyer, associate professor of education, read a tribute to Paulette.

Friends may call Friday, April 20, from 4-8 p.m. at King’s Catering and Party House, 4031 Routes 5 and 20, Canandaigua, N.Y. 14424. A celebration of life, officiated by Bishops Andrew Binda and Steven Smith, will be held Saturday, April 21, at 9 a.m. at King’s.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Flint Creek Church of God, 3584 Flint Road, Stanley, N.Y. 14561.

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