It was fall of 2015 and I was still relatively new to Fort Lauderdale. I’d just started walking dogs at Abandoned Pet Rescue a couple of months before, where I’d met Albie and Anabelle, the two Chihuahuas I’d end up adopting. APR was forming its first marketing committee ever after close to 20 years in existence, and I was honored to be asked by Larry Wallenstein, who would lead it, to be a part. He thought my marketing and PR background would be helpful in pushing us forward.
Our first meeting was in a beautiful, white, spacious studio, Blanco y Blanco Arts. We gathered around the kitchen island with a bottle of wine and some snacks, courtesy of the lady of the house. There were only a small handful of us at that time. The woman sitting across the island was a youthful, lively, smart person and the moment I met her, I knew I‘d like her.
She was the lady of the house, the artist in residence, Jeanne Lalli.
Hard to believe this vibrant, full of life person is gone. Yet, we’re here to celebrate her life, and Jeanne leaves behind so very many people who loved her, cared about her and who her kindness and compassion touched. That is a life well-lived.
Over the next seven years, I’ve participated in the APR marketing committee. I’ve seen a fair share of people come and go. A constant, always there, was Jeanne. Her compassion for animals and her willingness to roll up her sleeves and participate never wavered. Yes, it was cats she had a special place in her heart for, but she reached into her personal coffers and rolodex many times to keep this little engine that could pushing forward, saving cats and dogs (and some bunnies, too). And when there was a cat or multiple cats in need, she opened her home to them, too.
I so looked forward to those meetings in the studio, because after a relatively short time, it started to feel like a family gathering. It was easy-going, we shared stories and laughs, and Jeanne always made sure we were comfortable and fed. We were doing good. APR was growing and we all were seeing the fruits of our labors coming to fruition.
And, those glasses! I love fashion, and Jeanne Lalli had the best eyeglasses! Like her vibrant personality, Jeanne loved color. While she gravitated towards blues and greens in wardrobe, her glasses were a variety of cool colors and shapes. We would compare notes; I like yours; wait, I like yours; where did you get?!
Jeanne was warmth personified. She always had a smile for you; the kind where her whole being got involved. Her eyes would light up and she was radiant. She had a good sense of humor and would make us laugh. She was an artist at heart. She loved to spend hours in her studio creating, painting.
Jeanne was a giver, a teacher and mentor. She helped foster a passion for painting in many people through the classes she held at Blanco y Blanco for years. The bursts of color in her own work were a reflected in who she was: colorful, alive, always moving!
As Jeanne aged, it never seemed to slow her down. Driving up to Maine every summer, hosting dinners at the studio to acknowledge the APR volunteers or helping to organize the fundraising events, she was always there, social and all in, until the end of the night.
During the signature annual APR Art for Life event, you could see how people gravitated toward her. She exuded this inviting, sun-drenched light that drew others in; you wanted to circle in her orbit.
I will miss Jeanne; I know many others will miss her, too. The world she traveled through and the lives she touched, are forever bettered because she was here. Life is short. We never know how long we’ll be here. Jeanne made every moment count. That is a life well-lived. Fly free, Jeanne Lalli, and know of the many still here who miss and love you.