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Like many shy people, she had the most radiant smile. It not only curved her lips but it also shone from her hazel eyes. Even her abundant blond curls seemed to dance, especially as she waggled her shoulders in a joyful little gesture when she was really tickled about something.

I want to keep the memory of her smile alive for the rest of my life, to remind me how precious and uncertain life and friendship can be. She was found alone in her large in-ground swimming pool and there are no good answers as to how this 51-year-old mother could be gone from us.

She was an entrepreneur, building her little real-estate empire on rental properties. She was interested in helping lower income families find safe and affordable housing. To hold costs down, she worked on her properties herself, getting contract help only as a last resort. She scraped and painted, roofed and plumbed, mowed and weed-whacked her handful of multi-family units as well as her own large rural home. She allowed late rents a little too easily for her accountant’s comfort, but felt that the people she selected to be her tenants were worth the risk. She looked for working singles who really tried; for struggling families; for those who had faced financial blows but were still credit-worthy.

Although she came from a family of great wealth and prestige, she lived far enough away and so simply that most who knew her never made the connection. Nor did she encourage any kind of recognition.

In addition to the tragedy of her death, there will be added the suffering of uncertainty by these families who sheltered under her wing. She had made a handwritten will. But it lacked the two necessary witness signatures that would have made her wishes binding. Now, those whom she wanted to share her personal collections from around the world, souvenirs of her compassion and zest, will not receive them. Because she died “intestate,” without legally recognized directions for the distribution or care of her assets, the distribution of her estate will be guided by the actions of state-appointed attorneys and processes.

She had begun to trust my friend and financial advisor, and was gradually expanding her sensibilities about asset protection. Partly because she was so shy, partly because he does not ever “rush” his clients, partly because good planning takes some time, she did not have the appropriate protections for her small business. She never got the time, though she had the clear and expressed interest.

In addition to her real estate concerns, for pleasure and relaxation she had developed a creative business. She sculpted carpet in a workshop on her own property. It was physically demanding additional hard labor, rolling out the heavy materials, cutting the tough fibers, seaming them into place with heat and sheer strength, but her custom clients thought her efforts were well worth while. Some pieces had even been used in feature films. An area business expressed interest in carrying her work, and in having her represent their interests to her customers.

She belonged to a small-business network and was planning a summer party around her pool to celebrate their mutual successes. No one yet knows the details of her drowning.

We do know we are not the same without her; without her tremendous love of life, passion for travel, jazz and world-music; without her curiosity about all the great religions of the world, especially Eastern traditions. Without that gorgeous smile.

In her great gentleness, she overlooked herself, and in doing that, exposed those under her wings, including her own dearly-loved son.

May her abrupt loss be a life lesson to other small business owners who make excuses for lack of financial planning. Please take the time you have; it is literally, the only time you get.

Simone NathanAuthor of “Going for Gold after 50: An Illustrated Guide to High Probability Investing for The Plus Years”. Discover how to put the investing odds greatly in your favor at

Personal, spiritual, financial, healthful life planning at