On Sunday, 10/13/19, my Grandma passed away. She was 94 (turning 95 next month) and had fallen into an extreme state of dementia. While her leaving us wasn’t exactly a shock, I was shocked that it wasn’t a longer, drawn out process with Hospice care. My family is extremely close, at the insistence of my grandparents who hosted supper for all of us every week of my life. She was very successful in business (see this post) and devoted to all of us, positive, above all, that life is too short for strife among family. She had a profound impact on me. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one, as over 300 people turned up to pay their respects at her funeral. There, after the Rabbi said a few words, my cousin, Greg, spoke in representation of all the grandchildren. It felt sacred having the eulogy come from our generation. I know my Grandma would have wanted it that way. We each sent him some sentiments and he wove them together into something beautiful. Copied below is what I wrote after learning of her passing – exactly as I wrote it, in one go – and sent to Greg. We all saw something different in my Grandma. this is just my perspective of a phenomenal woman who I was blessed to have had in my corner for 34 years.
There are two things that define my grandma. The first is family. Every inch of her home is covered by photos…well, photos and creepy Hummel figurines. But it wasn’t enough to see family; she always wanted to be surrounded by family. That’s why 90% of Konters live within about a quarter mile of each other; it’s why the Hilton Head house came to be, and it’s why we had Friday Night Supper together every. single. week. You want to go to a Country Day football game, Tess? You can go after supper, thankyouverymuch. Or better yet, why don’t you bring your friends from school to supper with you? Because if there’s one thing you can say about the Konter household, it’s that there was always enough food and space at the table. You didn’t have to have the Konter last name to be treated like family.
In fact, after learning of her passing, I started receiving texts. Texts from friends, from fellow UGA grads, and from cousins. Do you know what every single cousin wrote? And I’m talking about my second cousins, cousins once removed, and cousins from the other side of the family. Seth, Amy, Rachel, Neil…they all wrote “she always treated me like one of her own grandkids.” Then they all wrote something along the lines of “she left quite a legacy” or “she was a legend.”
This brings me to the second defining characteristic of the legendary HKK: her legacy. My Grandma was quite the businesswoman so I’m going to put this in business terms. And my business happens to be marketing so I’ll start by saying that my cousins and I belong to the highly desirable target demographic segment that is the Millennial generation. (Technically, Natalie, you’re Gen Y, but you’re on Instagram more than Matt so I’ll let it slide.) One key indicator of the Millennial generation, other than our penchants for sharing food pics on social media and the Tiny Home movement, is the fact that – unlike the generations that preceded us – we were told we were all individual little snowflakes who could do anything we wanted, be anything we wanted to be. For some of my peers, those were only words, but for me it wasn’t just lip service. I saw that I could be anything I wanted because I had my Grandma who showed me that was possible. It didn’t matter that I was a girl. Women can do anything. Just ask Harriet Kanter Konter, the first woman to serve as President for the board of Realtors, who took the real estate world by storm and had a career at a time when women “just don’t do that.” She was tenacious and did whatever it took, including standing on a roof for all company commercials. She didn’t just work; she was a BOSS. She demanded respect, and she most certainly earned it. Thanks to my stubborn and independent streak, she nicknamed me “Miss I-Can-Do-It-Myself”…where did she think I got it from?
My Grandma – the last person on Earth still drinking fuzzy navels – taught me how to be boss worthy of respect, to always make room for family (blood or otherwise) at the table, and that if you want your grandchildren to have friends, you simply need to install a fully functioning soda fountain and ice cream bar in your home.