“This is ridiculous. I can’t even tell you that you have a daughter.” That’s how I learned of CeCe’s birth back on October 16, 1969. The evening before, Elaine had told me that it was time to get to the hospital. I brought her there, and then went back to our apartment, about a mile away. The year 1969 was just a little before the time when the fathers were allowed to be present at delivery. The next morning, I made some calls to the hospital, but I couldn’t find out anything. DJ was 18 months old at the time, so late in the morning my parents came to stay with him, while I went to the hospital. When I got there, I went to the receptionist, Claire Taylor. I wouldn’t remember her name all these years later, except that she was the mother of one of my classmates. At the time, the policy or custom or whatever was that the news of a baby’s birth had to be given to the father by the doctor. Claire was evidently frustrated by the fact that hours had gone by and I still hadn’t received the news. Perhaps Dr. Alden had another delivery keeping him busy that morning.
Many reading this will recall that in CeCe’s early days of being a nanny, she’d go to France for six weeks at a time, twice a year, with one of her families, Lex and Alessandra Van Geen and their daughter, Camilla. Here’s an email from them.
Dear Mr Malloy,
We are in Europe and heard on Tuesday that CeCe had left us. Her voice, her presence, her laughter, her books, her love are all still with us. It is impossible to understand that she will not be in NY when we return. Like all her friends, we are heartbroken.
CeCe played a big part in making Camilla who she is. She is in most of our memories from Camilla’s childhood, years when our lives and hers were so woven together we cannot separate them. CeCe was the most generous person we have ever met—and we mean this literally. She gave her friends everything she had, which was so much, keeping too little for herself. So many images and so many memories. CeCe, whose salary came back in full as books and presents for us. CeCe, laughing while telling us how, in her early days in NY, she complained to a friend that all her clothes had been stolen, just to notice that the friend was wearing one of her shirts. CeCe, calling to ask whether she could drop off presents for my brother, for Lex’ siblings, for our nieces, for friends she had met in France more than 10 years ago. CeCe, year after year knitting spectacular orange socks for Lex’ father (orange for Holland) – greatly appreciated. CeCe making gentle fun of me, with good reason, because I had tried to overcome her travel anxiety by telling her to imagine being Napoleon before a great battle (what was I thinking?). CeCe being moved upward and upward in French class because of course she knew all the vocabulary. CeCe and her intelligence, her warmth, her values, her braids, her jokes, her overalls.
We were so pleased when you and your wife came to visit us. We have the book you gave us—of course CeCe’s parents would give us a book—and still look at it. We do not know what words can possibly help in this moment; we do not think words can help much. But CeCe really did change the world she passed through and the people she touched. Maybe, just maybe, knowing how much she was loved, how much we felt loved by her, how solid is the imprint she left, maybe such knowledge can be consoling. I know that it was the real consolation for me when my parents died.
We think of you and of CeCe’s brother. We are grateful and heartbroken,
Alessandra and Lex
The following day Alessandra added this:
Because we focused on the years of Camilla’s childhood, when we really lived together, we did not mention Amdur (as CeCe called Robert – whom I also know from Columbia). Our impression is that he was very important for CeCe and, together with his love and gentleness, provided the anchoring and peace that complemented CeCe’s enthusiasms and endless curiosity. We do think that she was happy.
Memories of CeCe by Camilla van Geen
So much of my childhood was spent with CeCe that I’ve always taken a certain comfort in knowing that given her truly unrivaled memory, the anecdotes of my youth would always be safe. It is not an exaggeration to say that she could bring up, twenty years after the fact, the specifics of a conversation she had had with one of my five-year-old classmates. Or the one time (of hundreds!) we had walked across Central Park and it had been, say, particularly windy. I’ve always been in awe at her ability to recall these tidbits – she was brilliant, of course, but I’d venture to say many brilliant people do not care so deeply about others so as to remember their lives better than they do themselves. CeCe, then, was the keeper of my childhood. She was also, by the same token, one of the most important people in my life.
The stories CeCe told were not only those of the many people she befriended and cared for. She also read to me for hours on end, every single day. One time, we drove from Italy to Holland and the two of us, cramped in the back of the car, poured over Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for what I genuinely believe to be the entire fourteen hours of the trip. Back in New York, CeCe would sit on the edge of the tub and read Little Women to me while I took baths. We went through the book several times, and she always cried at the part where Mr. Laurence gives Beth his granddaughter’s piano – I remember because I found her sensitivity extremely amusing.
As an adult, I can now see it isn’t a coincidence that out of the thousands of plot-points the two of us encountered as we read, it was this moment of generosity that CeCe was the most moved by. With a kindness that far exceeded Mr. Laurence’s (he just happened to have that piano lying around!), CeCe gifted me more books, hand-knitted socks, and fancy chocolates over the years than I could ever keep track of. If I were to randomly open up one of the many children’s or YA books that are still in my parents’ home, I’m almost certain its first page would have a note from CeCe written on it, dedicating the book to her “DG” (Darling Girl). I tried this the other day and as expected, the first book I found – From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – had CeCe’s familiar imprint: the date, and “Love, BBCC” (Beloved Babysitter CeCe). As tongue-in-cheek as that signature was meant to be, it was, and will always be, the truth.
“Beloved”, though, can only define someone in relation to those that surround them. And while CeCe truly was beloved by everyone who knew her, she also had a strong backbone and unique identity all to herself. She had a moral code from which she never wavered, from her staunch conviction that a child should always always carry her own backpack, to her deep-rooted aversion to even the slightest dishonesty. During the height of the pandemic, we went on semi-regular walks, looping around Morningside Heights again and again. We spent a lot of that time disagreeing with each other about pop-culture, the political climate, events we had heard about in the news. It was such a jovial way to disagree, knowing that at the end of the day both people were going to leave the conversation with nothing but love and mutual respect. CeCe gave so much of herself to others but she was also always so much herself.
I know I am far from the only child or former-child of CeCe’s whose days will be punctuated with memories of her. I’ve realized though that the only consolation in someone so important no longer being around is that, actually, they can never truly leave. I hope we can continue to share anecdotes about CeCe’s life and find solace in hearing about the joy she brought to so many.
People who didn’t know CeCe before she was about 16 might have a hard time believing it, but when she was young, she was very shy. Teachers would complain that she hardly spoke above a whisper. By her last year or two of high school, and certainly by the time she was at UMass, she made quite a change. She’d talk to anybody and everybody.
In high school she worked at a nursing home in Hopedale called Adin Manor, and then at the Milford Geriatric home. She continued there when she was on vacation during her UMass years. They always needed extra help, and I remember one time when she worked 16 summer days in a row, and most of them were double shifts.
CeCe loved her time at UMass, but changed majors two or three times. Her work as a nurse’s aid at Milford Geriatric made her consider nursing, but she also had a couple of other interests. I think she was in her third year there when she started working at the Amherst Nursing Home on weekends. Eventually she stopped taking classes and worked there full time. She decided at some point that she wanted to move to New York City. She went there a couple of times for the weekend, and eventually moved there with the intent of staying, and that’s what happened.
I have no idea of how much money CeCe had when she went to New York, but it couldn’t have been much. I never saw the hotel where she got a room, but from what she said about it, I’d say one star at most. She found some sort of job that just about paid the bills, and then one day she just happened to notice a Help Wanted sign on a little breakfast-lunch restaurant near the main entrance to Columbia University. She went in, got hired and went to work.
Cece never had any interest in money. This past Christmas I had a few little things for her, but wanting to do more, I thought briefly about sending her a check for $500. Then I thought, no, she’d never accept that. Maybe $250, so that’s what I sent. On her next call she told me that she wasn’t going to cash it. “Give the money to some charity in Ma’s name, ” she said.
Since the restaurant was right near Columbia, during her years there CeCe met many of the professors. One in particular that she became friends with was Robert Amdur. Somehow, he had become known to all as just Amdur. Several years after starting at the restaurant, one of the professors asked if she’d be interested in baby sitting. She did and the word got out that she was a great baby sitter. Soon she was getting more and more of those jobs. The first one on a daily basis was for Camilla, daughter of Lex and Alessandra van Geen.
Not only was being a Nanny for Camilla a daily job, but the van Geens went to Europe for six weeks at a time, and took CeCe with them. As I recall, they were in Milan at Christmas, then spent about a week in Holland, followed by a month in Aix-en-Provence in southern France. During the summers, they would go to Aix for six weeks. This continued for at least five or six years, until Camilla became too old to need a nanny.
One year, after the van Geens returned to New York, CeCe went to Germany and visited there with someone she knew for about a week. Another time she followed her six weeks with the van Geens by going to Morocco for a week. For many years she rented a room on 147th street from a family from the Dominican Republic. She went there with them once or twice. Not tourist area DR. Way out in the country DR, where electricity was available for an hour or two a day, and she’d hear rats scurrying around at night.
In addition to her nanny jobs, CeCe would do dog walking and cat sitting. Yes, sitting. She wouldn’t just run into the apartment and take care of their food and litter. If they were missing their owner, she’d sit with them and keep them company for a while. Late in 2015, one of the cats, Annabelle, was in a difficult situation. I won’t go through all the details here, but when she mentioned the problem to Amdur, he suggested that she take the cat and move in with him. That was fine with Annabelle’s owner, so she did. The plan was that they’d stay with Amdur for three weeks. That would be long enough so that the problem would be resolved. However, the situation worked out for both of them, so she was still there seven years later. She loved living with “Big A and little A.”
CeCe called me almost every Sunday, and spent about an hour filling me in on what she had been doing. She called on Sunday, January 30, and seemed to be fine. I found out later that by the next day she wasn’t feeling well. As the days went by, she developed what seemed to be an increasingly severe “stomach bug.” She figured it would pass, and didn’t want to go to a clinic or hospital about it. By Sunday, February 6, it was pretty bad, and Amdur called CeCe’s friend Alicia and asked her to get there and see what she thought. When she saw CeCe, she knew that the had to call 911. She was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital, which was just a couple of blocks away.
Around noon that day, the phone rang and I saw the name, Alicia Conklin. I recognized it, remembering that CeCe used to take care of her daughter. She told me that CeCe had been taken to the hospital, and the situation was quite serious. I called my brother, Ted, and sister-in-law Paula, and they came to the house. They said I should get to New York the next day, and started making plans. Later that afternoon, I received a call from one of the doctors taking care of CeCe. He told me two things that made me realize the situation was very serious. One was that her heart had stopped for eight minutes. The other was that she’d also had an intestinal rupture. He said that would normally call for immediate surgery, but because of everything else they were dealing with, including very low blood pressure, they couldn’t take care of that situation.
Ted picked DJ and me up at 10:30 Monday morning, and drove to New York. On the way there, Alicia called with a suggestion. She said if he dropped me off at 114th and Amsterdam, she’d meet me there. That’s where the entrance to St. Luke’s emergency department is. Then Ted and DJ could continue to the hotel and get the car to the garage. We did that, and very soon I was in CeCe’s room. She was on a ventilator and sedated.
The doctors came in several times, and answered any questions either Amdur or I had for them. Severe dehydration had been mentioned, so I asked if that could have caused her heart to stop. He said it might have been a factor, but he felt the main cause went back to surgery she had for cancer, once in 2000 and again in 2001. She’d made a full recovery from those surgeries, or so it seemed. The cancer never came back, but the doctor said he thought scar tissue from those operations explained what happened. He felt that could have been the cause of the intestinal rupture. I don’t recall just what he said beyond that, but I think that set up a situation that led to her heart stopping. About an hour after I arrived at the hospital, the doctors came to the room one more time, checked, and said CeCe had passed away.
Alicia continued to be a huge help. She even got me to the hotel, which was about a mile from the hospital. That evening she called and said if we’d be there until the following afternoon, she’d love to have lunch with us, and she’d bring a couple of CeCe’s other friends. We decided to do that, and I’m very glad that we did. We heard stories, one after another, of what a wonderful person they had found CeCe to be in the years that they had known her.
Dear Mr. Malloy,
My name is Deborah Quoma. My family and I were friends of CeCe, and I’m writing to let you know how much she meant to my daughter, Lucy. CeCe was the unofficial house baby sitter of our building in New York, and after she started watching Lucy, and realized how much she loved to read, she began to stop by regularly with books. She always knew what would resonate with Lucy, and she gave her too many books to count. When we moved away from the city, she sent packages with books, and she and Lucy would talk about them on the phone. She also took Lucy out to lunch in Chinatown, walks in the neighborhood, and to the park, introducing her to kids she thought might be friends, knitted her beautiful hats, socks and sweaters, which we will always keep; and made her feel special.
I think that CeCe really remembered what it felt like to be a child, and children loved her for it. Lucy saw her as a special confidant, more empathetic than the other adults in her life, and wiser and more patient than her friends; there are many other children on the Upper West Side who felt the same way. We were lucky to be the recipients of her generosity, thoughtfulness and kindness, and we will always be grateful for the live that she gave Lucy. CeCe was beautiful in many ways and we’re very sorry for your loss.
Dear Mr Malloy,
I met Cece through Alessandra, Lex and Camilla van Geen. As Alessandra wrote, I remember her as a most giving person, quite unique, with an extraordinary love for literature. CeCe used to help me correcting my short stories. At the time, I wanted to write a book about the loss of my elder sister, but I could not, I was not sure. I still have not been able to but I can distinctly hear CeCe telling me at the time: It is important. Maybe some special souls can most clearly see, what most of us can’t. CeCe was and is a special soul,
Impossible de parler au passé, tu es présente et immortelle. Puis je oublier tes yeux ronds comme des billes et dignes de la couleur de Provenc Puis je oublier ton insatiable curiosité, celle qui nourrit l’âme et l’esprit Puis je oublier ta volonté de dépasser les contingences linguistiques qui mettent des frontières entre humains Puis je suis oublier ton obstination à faire bien les choses et ta participation aux pyjama party de Camilla Puis je oublier la découverte des auteurs que tu m’as offerts et des musiciens que tu m’as donnés à entendre Tout cela résonne autour de moi et de Jean-Jacques Je souhaite désormais que tu continues d’éblouir ceux qui te côtoient mais n’oublie pas de nous envoyer de tes nouvelles.I love tou for your fantastique person
Marie-Christine et Jean -Jacques
Below is the message above, translated by an online translator, and some help from Alessandra van Geen.
From Dominique in France
Cher Mr Malloy,
Je tenais à écrire ces quelques mots pour Cece que nous avons bien connue en France , notre fille Jeanne, étant la meilleure amie et voisine de Camilla à Aix en Provence, à cette époque . En effet , Cece accompagnait la famille Van Geen dans leur séjour français et s occupait de Camilla. Elle avait une curiosité insatiable sur le Made in France , sur notre cuisine, notre mode vestimentaire, et notre littérature.
Elle m a accompagnée souvent au marché pittoresque d Aix en Provence et nous faisions ensuite un atelier de cuisine. Elle souhaitait le faire en langue française pour améliorer ses connaissances et nous parlions aussi de littérature et de traditions provençales ,
Sa curiosité sur ces sujets étaient sans borne. Elle est revenue nous voir aussi dans le cadre de vacances européennes avec ses amis , et une fois de plus tout se passait autour de la table , de la cuisine et de ses traditions … A l époque nous étions dans l apprentissage des soupes , et que de fous rires sur les légumes qu elle ne connaissait pas et que nous n arrivions pas à traduire dans les deux langues ..!
Il y a 20 ans que tout cela a commencé mais le souvenir de Cece est intact dans nos mémoires, sa fraîcheur, son opiniâtreté, sa curiosité ..Et nous gardons d elle l image d une jeune personne pleine de charme ..
I wanted to write these few words for Cece we knew well in France, our daughter Jeanne, being Camilla’s best friend and neighbor in Aix en Provence, at that time. Indeed, Cece accompanied the Van Geen family in their French stay and took care of Camilla, She had an insatiable curiosity about Made in France, about our cuisine, our clothing style, and our literature.
She often accompanied me to the picturesque market of Aix en Provence and we then did a cooking workshop, She wanted to do it in French to improve her knowledge and we also talked about Literature and Provençal traditions, His curiosity on these subjects was boundless, She came back to see us also as part of a European holiday with her friends, and once again everything was happening around the table, the cuisine and its traditions…
At the time we were in the process of learning soups, and only laughter about the vegetables that she did not know and that we could not translate into both languages!
It’s been 20 years since all this began but the memory of Cece is intact in our memories, her freshness, her stubbornness, her curiosity.. And we keep from her the image of a young person full of charm.
Today my oldest friend, Cece, passed away. Stomach thing gone wrong. She was born two days after me at the Milford Hospital. Kindergarten through high school together. I used to call her Holly Hobbie. She looked the part. She called her parents Ma and Pa. Interestingly, she moved to NYC thirty years ago. . She was old school in the big city. How she went from Hopedale to NYC is beyond me. She told me last month that when she first saw the city that she knew it was home. Her long term boyfriend is a Columbia professor which makes sense because Cece was brilliant. Intellectual and book smart for sure. A love bug. A Libra. I am so sad not to be able to hear her voice again. She called me last month and we couldn’t wait to talk again. Another person that I will miss forever. Jean Marie Van Wie
Cecilia E. “CeCe” Malloy, 52 passed away in New York City on February 7, after a brief illness. She was the daughter of Daniel Malloy of Hopedale and the late Elaine Malloy. She is survived by her brother, Daniel Malloy of Everett, her uncle and aunt, Edward and Paula Malloy of Northbridge, her uncle and aunt, Norman and Maureen Scholl of Yucaipa, California, her dear friend, Robert Amdur of New York City, her cat, Anabelle, and several cousins.
Cecilia graduated from Hopedale High School in 1987, and attended the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In New York City, she worked as a nanny for many years, a job she truly loved. She kept in touch with the children she had cared for long after they had aged-out of needing a nanny. CeCe had a wide circle of friends in her neighborhood of Morningside Heights, and was known as a very generous person who frequently gave them articles that she had knit, especially socks, books and items from Trader Joe’s after each of her frequent trips there.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to a charity of your choice. A graveside service will be held in May.
Below, pictures and memories of CeCe from the service for her on May 7 at Hopedale Village Cemetery and the gathering after that at Willow Brook Restaurant.
Memories of CeCe by Laurie Wodin
Cece was a rare person to come out of the Hopedale Schools. Some will call her unique, and indeed, she was. Some will say she’s an Old Soul, and she was that too. She was kind and genuine and an exceedingly loving and generous person. Funny too!
Cece was in my first 6th grade class in the fall of 1980. I got to know her more closely as Class Advisor when she entered 7th grade. Her parents were involved class parents who generously offered their beautiful Draper-era millworker’s home for us to do class activity preparations. Remember the Mothers Day Silk Flower Baskets we used to make at the Malloy’s and deliver on Mother’s Day mornings? Remember the goldfish we used to give as prizes at Day in the Park? We were doing Cornhole decades before anyone else!
When I discovered that Cece had moved to New York, I wasn’t in the least surprised. She talked about living in “the city” while still in High School, and as someone whose family came from New York, I could totally relate and enjoyed hearing her talk about her dreams. Cece seemed in some ways to be young and naive, but in actuality, she was in many ways more worldly than most and more than most people realized. She was filled with books, classic movies, theater. I think she was always a New Yorker deep down.
Cece was a giving person. She went to college and learned to work with seniors providing elder care. Later when she moved to New York, she gave her life to working with children. She was sure to tell me about her charges whenever we spoke and to marvel at their special traits, all the remarkable things they got to do together. You will hear more stories of these families who embraced Cece and made her part of their own, how she got to travel the world with these families and how they loved her.
Cece and I lost touch some years after high school but met back up again when her mother Elaine died a few years ago. I spent the better part of the days after the funeral there; then Cece came up to my home with Dan and DJ, and then the packages started arriving. She sent boxes and boxes and boxes of books for my grandchildren but always with the coolest postcards for me: ones of Maurice Sendak, Judy Blume and Dr. Seuss,; one of Pablo Picasso and his son, other times modern or indigenous art. Then she hand-knitted a beautiful sweater for little Jayden which is just so special. She sent the New York Times Children’s Sections with activities and puzzles for my elementary school students and the Children’s Book Review sections. Ever the New Yorker, she sent Lyanna a jigsaw puzzle of the New York City Subway System complete with train cars. To this day, it is Ly’s favorite and quickly becoming Jay’s. That tiny girl was a big worldly person with an enormous capacity for love.
Now, we all know that Cece loved to talk. She could talk about anything! The thing was that she was always knowledgeable and interesting and humorous! When she would call, I would immediately get out my pen and notebook because I knew she’d be recommending great books and movies that were just the kind of thing I’d like. She definitely had librarian leanings deep down.
Today, as we talk about Cece, we are remembering someone who was uniquely her own person. She didn’t follow any of the usual paths. She was always accepting, never judgmental, and open and kind to everyone she met. The world needs more people like her.
The service for CeCe was conducted by Mike Matondi. Here are his words from that.
The following comments are from the Hopedale High Class of 1987 Facebook page.
Laurie Wodin Author
If you are healthy and close by, it’d be great to come together and remind ourselves what a caring and loving community the Class of 1987 can be.
Scott Johnson – You always taught us that ms wodin
Laurie Wodin – Tried. Thank you!
Jo Ann O’Brien Forester, Admin – I’m so sorry I can’t be there. Cece has a special place in my heart. Cherish every day, class of ‘87
Andrea Evers-Gilligan Dixon – Will be there with my Sister and my Niece and her friend
Donna Holmes Neve – I will be there in spirit with you all. I wish I lived close enough to attend.
Thomas Volz – Wish I could go as well but unfortunately I am in Texas.
David A Maranda – I will be there in spirit as well since I am working today.
Debbie Creamer-Erickson- Wish I could’ve gone.
Dana Manczurowsky Cunningham – Wish I could’ve gone
Matthew Lasorsa – I’m sorry for the loss of CeCe, she had such a big heart. We will not be able to make it but our thoughts and prayers will be there with her and her family
Donna Pace – CeCe was truly one of a kind. She was so sweet to everyone. Once you spoke to her that you had met someone special who had touch your life forever.
Andrea Evers-Gilligan Dixon – CeCe was a special person in her own way she had lots of friends that she touched deeply she will never be forgotten I am hoping to be able to go with my Sister
Jo Ann O’Brien Forester – Admin · I was so sad to hear this news. I played Holly Hobbie dolls with Cece when we were young. She was a special person. My heart goes out to her Dad and brother.
Wendy King – Thats amazing to read….so sad..what happened?
Thomas Volz – Awesome tribute, thank you for sharing. Sounds like she was such a positive influence on so many people and will surely be missed. Gone way to soon. Difficult to hear of classmates passing. Thoughts and prayers to family and friends and to all the lives she touched.
Elena Hogan – What a beautiful tribute! Thank you for sharing this. Very sad to read of her passing. I remember her beautiful smile and funny personality. RIP Cece.
Donna Holmes Neve – I loved looking at all the photos. That letter was beautiful. My sincere condolences and thoughts to her family and friends. So young
Francyne Alice Head-Gaudet – So sorry to hear about the loss of CeCe. She was a sweet classmate with a full heart. Gone too soon!
Joanne Elizabeth Head – So sorry for your loss. This is beautiful! She was such a joy and the sweetest person in our class. I remember one time we had all been hanging out at Debbie’s house in HS and telling jokes. Cece was quiet and looked up at us, without laughing, and said “well, that was a real side splitter!” Then we all started laughing even harder. She was fun! ❤️
Ruth Mendala-Thompson – What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman who left this world too soon.
Beth Schimmerman – How beautiful this is. Thank you for sharing.
Andrea Evers-Gilligan Dixon – May she RIP she was such an amazing beautiful woman
Donna Holmes Neve – Laurie Wodin I am absolutely happy to share it. So very sad, so young.
Caroline Wilson – Beautiful write up. She was always so kind and sweet. Love and prayers to her family.
Donna Pace – She was a wonderful person and a kind soul to all that knew her and she had a smile and a laugh that could brighten anyone’s day. We truly lost our angel on earth and she is truly being a guardian angel above. Rest Well CeCe and be at peace.
Laurie Wodin –Author – If you look at the link now, towards the end, you can read about what took Cece’s life. It had originally appeared like a flu, but there were underlying factors which are explained there. It also appears that her ashes will be buried with her mother’s…
Wendy Glatky Bui – Laurie Wodin – thanks for letting us know about the additional info. Her life was taken too soon. I liked reading about how much she touched others’ lives. I’ll go back to the link later to read more.
First let me say how much I regret not having reached out to you already months ago. I would like to apologize dearly, since I was a very close friend of CeCe. In fact she was my very first and best friend here in New York, to me she was family. My parents and sisters and brothers live in Germany so she was all of those people in one person to me.