Charlotte Smarty Pants Legacy: Jennifer Lisman Bunich
It is with an unbelievably broken heart that I type this post. My best friend, partner in crime, confidant, and everything else in the world to me passed away this morning due to a sudden illness. I still can’t believe she is gone and I’m just fumbling through the day trying to put one foot in front of the other.
Jen and I met back in 1998 when we worked together at an advertising agency in town. We quickly became friends and have enjoyed so many incredibly fun times together. We were swingin’ single at the time and celebrated many a nights at Have A Nice Day Cafe (when they played true 70’s disco music only!) and Bar Charlotte. Then I got married and my party-hearty nights slowed down a little. Jen continued on the social scene until she met Boris, the love of her life. I remember the first time I met him, I knew that he was the one. Not too long after they got married, they became pregnant with Claire. And what an incredible gift she was! The true sparkle in Jen’s eyes. Claire looks just like her daddy but her personality has so much of Jen. She is already showing signs of true brilliance – ok, maybe I’m a little biased here! But this little girl is one smart cookie! She is the perfect combination of her mommy and daddy.
Jen had a mesmerizing affect on everyone she met. She gave 300% to every person she knew and focused very little on herself. It was all of the little thoughtful things that she did that would make you in awe. Like, if you ever called and said you were having a bad day, she would make a photo collage and drop it in the mail. She was such a historian – documented every single detail of her life with photos and scrapbooks. Any time we went on a trip together, I never even bothered to bring my camera because she would capture everything in such a beautiful, photojournalistic style. She was so talented in her work in advertising. She is one of the very few people I know who loved her job. That says so much about the integrity of the management team and staff at Wray Ward. Advertising is such a tough field and all-consuming. But the folks at Wray Ward really know how to balance personal life and work and it truly shows through their employees. And I know Jen was grateful for that.
Jen was perfect in all aspects of her life. She was a loving wife. Do you remember when she asked for our help with recipes to cook for her hubby? We joked this weekend that this was her way of getting Boris some decent home-cooked meals! She was a doting mother – Claire could do no wrong in Jen’s eyes and she was the most incredible mother I have ever known. She was a perfect daughter – for every milestone in her parent’s lives, she would come up with a beautiful DVD to chronicle the event, no matter how busy Jen’s personal life was. She was an amazing big sister/sister-in-law. I know her baby brothers are just devastated and so looked up to her. And she was the best friend you could ever have. I’m so sad that I never officially told her that. She was and forever will be my true inspiration in life.
Jen is the true reason behind Charlotte Smarty Pants. It was my idea to an extent but I never would have done anything with it. Jen pushed me to create it and launch it during a busy time before the holidays. It’s almost as if she knew we had to get this thing done. I kept asking her, why do we HAVE to launch right before Thanksgiving. Her answer: we just do. And she was so right in so many ways. Her vision was Charlotte Smarty Pants and this will be her legacy. It was her gift to me and to all of you. And I will not let her down. I’m going to take a few days off to mourn the loss of my best friend. I hope you will understand. But I will be back – maybe not as funny, but I’ll do my best.
Thank you for all of your support over the past few months. It meant so much to Jen. She tracked every bit of this website and it made her smile every day. Jen will be missed in so many ways.
Fondly, Jen P.
Below are the eulogies read at Jennifer’s service:
By Boris Bunich
Jennifer was the most amazing person that I have ever met in my life. From the first moment I saw her, her energy, creativity and passion infected me to the core. I was completely smitten by her within 5 minutes and every time she smiled at me I was drawn further and further in.
As all of us here are aware, no matter what her impact on our lives was, she made it impossible to not be astounded by her sense of commitment to everything she did.
In the six wonderful years that I spent with her, there are 100 million ways that she brought light into my life. Every day, without looking like she was even trying, she did something that would leave me breathless. Her commitment to me and to Claire was beyond any words, but it made both of us feel as if we were the most special people in the universe. Her commitment to her family and friends was just as strong.
I know that I didn’t deserve Jennifer, and although I never told her that, I am sure that she knew it too, because Himanshu, who was my best man, recently admitted to me that the only thing that he told her at my wedding was exactly those words… ”that I didn’t deserve her”.
One of Jennifer’s most passionate endeavors was co-creating Charlotte Smarty Pants, a website to provide an online community for moms. On that website, when she wrote about her New Year’s resolution, she said it was to do a better job feeding her husband. I cannot even begin to describe the amount of food that I have received from friends and neighbors over the past two weeks. So even in her passing, Jennifer is still fulfilling her promises
I am so saddened that she is gone. But I am so lucky that she left me with Claire who is such an unbelievable reflection of her mommy.
Jennifer spent her time as an angel on Earth bringing special moments and love to each one of us.
She is now and angel in Heaven and we are all lucky that she’ll still be around to watch over us and love us from above.
I will miss her and love her always.
By Scott Lisman, Brother
I am Scott Lisman, Jennifer’s Brother. I want to express my appreciation for all that everyone has done. This is a hard time for my family and your thoughts and prayers have helped ease this emotional burden.
I want to speak about my sister’s faith. Faith is defined as “confidence or trust in a person or thing.”
My sister had faith in God, that I know. First Corinthians, Chapter 2, paragraph 5 states that “Faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of god.” I believe that Jennifer knew that and that her faith in herself, others and the lord came from her faith in God.
Jennifer expressed her faith in so many ways and it was what made her such an amazing person. She had in others, counseling, aiding and pushing them to greatness. I was among the lucky individuals whom she poured her faith into and I would like to share three memories of her faith:
1. Jennifer flew down to see my son when he was only 4 months old. While she was there, she wanted photos of my wife, me and Jack together as well as photos of herself and Jack. I did not really think we needed more pictures as we already had 100s of photos, but Jen insisted. These photos adorn my office, our house and are probably the best photos of our family during the six months of my son’s life. Jennifer had faith that she was right and that these photos would be a gift to us.
2. When I was around 9-10 years old, I had a bad day. I do not remember why but I came to dinner very grouchy and depressed. Jennifer told that she could make me smile and I informed that she was mistaken. Thirty minutes later the entire family was laughing, myself included, while Jen told stories. Jennifer had faith in herself when she was only in her teens that she could make my day a little bit better.
3. I attended the College of William and Mary (Go Tribe) and during move-in day, Jennifer helped me to move in. I was sitting outside waiting for something and she sat down next to me and told that “This is the place for you. You will do great.” Of course, being a punk kid, I dismissed her at the time, but looking back, that reassurance got me through some tough times. Jennifer had faith in me and made sure that I know it.
Jennifer was good at spreading her faith. She helped me as I was growing up and still helps me today.
To honor Jennifer, I want to read you a short passage from a play about Abraham Lincoln’s life that Jennifer saw several times and really liked. I think that if Jennifer were her, she would read this same passage.
Abraham Lincoln lost his sister when she was in her twenties and Lincoln was in his teens and this passage comes immediately he learns of her passing and is talking to a pastor:
Abe: She was all I had left in this world, preacher.
Preacher: You’ve got a fine family.
Abe: I mean to talk to. She was the only one I could, you know, talk to. Say things to I couldn’t say to anybody else. She was a mother, sister, a wife, a friend. And now she is gone.
Preacher: Tragedy and Sorrow can bring a man down, but, God Willing, it can also make him strong. And Understanding. You’ve walked that lonesome valley of sorrow before and you’ll have to walk it again. Nobody else can walk it for you. But the sun will shine again. And, if you let it, it will shine on you.
If you imagine Jennifer as the preacher, her faith really shines through. And also remember that no matter what happens, Jennifer Lisman Bunich has always had in you.
I want to end with a request and a hope.
Victor Hugo once wrote that “To love another person is to see the face of God.” Jennifer loved all of you and if you help and love Boris, my family and each other, then you will see Jennifer again. Above all, though, Jennifer’s love and faith lives on in her daughter.
I hope that during the months ahead, I hope you will remember my sister’s love and her faith. Jennifer had Faith in you.
By Jennifer Plym
Best Friend & CSP Business Partner
My name is Jennifer Plym, or “Jen P” as everyone has recently gotten to know me.
Jen and I met 10 years ago while working at an ad agency in Charlotte. Everyone came to know and love her as “Lisman”, such an incredibly beautiful person who will be missed greatly. When I first heard of Jen’s passing, I thought this couldn’t be. This wasn’t in the Plan. You know, she had a plan for everything and I certainly had not been in the loop on this one!
Jennifer had a mesmerizing affect on everyone she met. She gave 300% to every person she knew and thought of herself last. She made you feel like you were the most important person to her at that particular time. While reading all of the wonderful words written about her by the Charlotte mommy community, half of who were people who didn’t even know Jen, it occurred to me that we were all a small piece of her puzzle, her big plan. Although, she made you feel like you were the entire thing. She could be simultaneously planning a new business presentation, hosting a baby shower, hosting supper club and meet you for a play date all in the same day. And she showed no signs of stress. How a person could squeeze 40 hours out of a 24-hour period is beyond me. But Jen did this daily.
Jen is one of the very few people I know who loved her job. Something we should all strive to achieve. She was extremely talented in her work in advertising. She had this incredible messy, creative side to her beautifully combined with an organized strategic side. Two sides that I never knew could coexist in one person until I met Jen. She was a planner. She made everything so easy for everyone in her life. She was always focused on the plan, even in her final days. I have a feeling that she is feverishly working up there in heaven trying to get everyone organized.
Jen was a talented artist and she did not talk about it often. The next time you go to her house, walk upstairs and look at the beautiful bear mural she painted for Claire-bear’s playroom. Unbelievable. Again, where did she find the time?
Jen could have been a professional photographer. She documented every single detail of her life with photos from beginning to end. If I were the photographer, I would capture the typical girls group hug. Jen would photograph the restaurant sign, street sign, menu, birthday cake and then think about the group hug. Her photos told a beautiful story every time. I so looked forward to her Kodak Gallery emails. She should have owned stock in that company! She also had the amazing ability to look good in every photo, all 100 million of them!, throughout every stage of her life. I certainly can’t say the same for myself!
Jen was perfect in all aspects of her life. She was a loving wife and always thought of Boris needs first and foremost, especially his appreciation of a good home-cooked meal. This might be the only area that she was lacking – gourmet to her was a Diet Coke and pretzels at 10am! But she tried! And we loved her for that. She was a doting mother, the most incredible mother I have ever known. She didn’t know it, but she was the “Smartiest” Mom of all – a title she invented for Charlotte Smarty Pants. She was a perfect daughter – for every milestone in her parent’s lives, she would come up with a beautiful DVD to chronicle the event, no matter how busy Jen’s personal life was. And she was the best friend you could ever have. I’m so sad that I never officially told her that. She was and forever will be my true inspiration in life. She lived life to the fullest every single day.
Over the past 6 months, Jen gave me one lasting gift, Charlotte Smarty Pants. Jen pushed me to create it and launch it during a time when I just didn’t feel like doing it. It’s almost as if she knew we had to get this thing done. It too was in her big plan. There is so much of Jen in Charlotte Smarty Pants. Pressure is on here! We always jokingly competed for who could get the most comments on her post. When we first launched, we were so excited to get one or two comments. Well for her last entry, she wins, hands down. Today, she is close to 100 and still going up. Kind of ironic because her goal for the initial weekly newsletter registration was to capture just 100 email addresses.
Jennifer Lisman Bunich – the Charlotte Smarty Mom of the Year!
I know if this service was for me, Jennifer would have written a play by play on who would speak, how much time they had and provided suggested topics – to make sure everything was covered. She would also have personally contributed by writing a heart-felt, one of a kind poem that would be accompanied by a creatively displayed collage. They say friends balance each other out – so if that is what JB would do then I am on the opposite end. Scrambling to put together just the right words that represent my dearest, treasured friend – JB. In my own organized way I decided to put together a list of the things I will miss most about her…
I will miss her binders. As most of you know, Jennifer was very organized, in fact she was the most organized person at Wray Ward. And this was proven through the numerous binders that surrounded her in her cube. There was barely room for her to sit. And we teased her often about them.
I will miss her thoughtfulness, always being the first to offer up a baby shower or going away gig. She always thought of others first.
I will miss her sending me pictures of Claire after every major event. These major events included parties, holidays, beach trips, Claire’s new blue dress, her new pink dress, her Christmas dress, you get it. Every moment was an event for Jen to capture.
I will miss rushing into work at 8:35 (or 8:40) and seeing Jen in her cube, already putting in a ½ hours work. Typical to our personalities, she was consistently early and I have been known to be a little bit late on occasion.
I will miss her coming up to my cube and saying “Got any gossip” or on the good days saying “I’ve got gossip.”
I will miss going to her cube every time our boss Greg’s door was closed worrying that I was going to get into trouble for something. She would always tell me how paranoid I am and that I could do no wrong.
I will miss her asking me about baby milestones and not having the answer. Jennifer was always thirsty for information and wanted to be prepared. I have a daughter who is 3 1/2 and Jen would ask me, “When did Zoe started eating solids, sippy cups…” And my answer was always, “I don’t remember”, but I know the pediatrician told me it was time. I am sure Claire’s baby book details these events perfectly, where as my daughters has many blank pages still to be filled out.
I will miss her creativeness. She loved markers, paint pens and posterboard. I have so many hand made gifts from her that I will cherish forever. A Christmas ornament, burp clothe, and many others. She always found time to add that special touch to everything she did.
Most of all, I will miss the type of friend that made going to work so great. The type of friend that I only wish I could be.
I’ll miss you Jen!
By Jennifer Appleby
President of Wray Ward
Marilyn and Don, you know better than anyone that you raised a wonderful daughter. I can further affirm that you raised a strong, smart, confident, creative woman. As a mother of two girls, allow me to say that no one could ever make a parent more proud than your Jennifer.
Her work ethic was exceptional, her attention to detail was extraordinary and her commitment to doing whatever it took, inspirational. But her personal touch, genuine caring and light-hearted spirit were what made her so special.
Those of us at Wray Ward are so lucky and blessed to have worked side by side with our darling Jen B. for the past 5 years. We knew her to be unbelievably dedicated, often sending out emails at 11 p.m. long after she had put Claire to bed. Then, with absolute consistency, she would arrive each day at the office on time often balancing 4 to 5 shoulder bags with everything she needed to tackle that’s day’s to do list. She was an organizational marvel and master of the excel spreadsheet. She was always planning. She was the first to arrive at every meeting. With the ability to handle any client’s need or any coworker’s questions with complete calm and confidence, Jennifer was always on top of every project and way ahead of everyone else in her thoughtful preparation.
Have I mentioned that she was universally loved and admired? In our business, temperament has a way of showing itself when the work undergoes one change after another. Somehow, and I truly do not exaggerate, Jennifer simply never showed impatience or moodiness. I don’t know what she may have vented to Boris after she got home, but we never saw it at the agency. For this reason, she was truly a leader and an example to others of unfailing professionalism. Her clients knew it and her coworkers knew it, which is why they have made some of the following comments I’d like to share with you now.
By prelude, let me say that each year our agency chooses someone to receive the Outstanding Employee of the Year award. From now on, it will be known as the Jennifer Bunich Award. Here are a few comments from some of her many coworkers who nominated Jennifer in 2007:
“Jennifer is dedicated to Wray Ward and embodies the spirit of this agency through her hard work, attention to detail, service and passion. She serves as a strong role model for others coming up the ranks and everyone seems to enjoy working with her no matter what department they are in.”
And from another: “J.B. digs, brainstorms and works hard until she comes up with a great solution for her client. She’s highly driven and stands proudly by her work. One of my favorite things to observe is how passionate she is and how proud she is of the work she delivers – a true motivation to those of us who surround her.”
And still another: “She’s a total embodiment of our core values. These values come naturally to her. She doesn’t do her job this way because she’s ‘supposed to’ do it that way, she does her job this way because she truly believes this is the best way to work. She looks for creative solutions wherever and whenever possible. She always shows enthusiasm for her teammates and the work they bring to the table. She is thorough, honest, dedicated and most of all a true collaborator.”
I could go on and on with many other nominating comments, but instead I want to turn to what some of our agency’s clients have expressed about Jennifer. This week, in the midst of our devastation, I have had the honor and immense consolation of taking call after call from those whose accounts Jennifer served and who, understandably, regarded her as a part of their own organizations and, more, as their good friend. The tears have poured on both ends of the phone and I know that many who called are here with us today. Some managed to put their thoughts in writing, and here is just one example. Tellingly, it is from our newest client who had only recently begun working with Jennifer. It shows the immediate effect she had on others:
“Although our time with Jennifer was brief, she had already become a member of the Tucci family. We are deeply saddened by this news and send her family our most heartfelt sympathies. A piece of our own family is missing.” He then adds, “From our entire family, we miss Jennifer’s kind, gentle and knowing presence.”
All of us here share this feeling, so beautifully put. A piece of our family is missing. We loved her. We adored her. We take comfort only in pulling together in the very way Jennifer taught us to do.
By Mary Beth Lupinski
Supper Club Friend
For the past five years, I have had the most sincere pleasure of knowing Jen. We were introduced by a mutual friend, Himanshu Desai. Jen and Boris immediately became part of our supper club we call “the neighbors.” We meet once a month for dinner, an outing, or family activity and as you would imagine jen was almost always involved in the planning, putting together, and documenting of our get-togethers. She touched and enriched each of our lives.
I asked Mrs. Lisman if I could honor jen and her friendship with a prayer that I felt was so appropriate.
When I was a teenager, my mother shared with me something called “The Hopi Indian Prayer.” I have read it many times since then, particularly when I’ve lost a friend, family member, or loved one. It reminds me that although a person’s physical being may be gone, their spirit lives on within us….around us….all the time. It is up to us to recognize it, believe it, and embrace it.
The Hopi Indian Prayer
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow;
I am the diamond glints on snow;
I am sunlight on the ripened grain;
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning hush, I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight,
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry
I am not there, I did not die.
My hope is that you will remember these words…
So that when you see something special or unique, even during the most mundane of routine circumstances, you might consider maybe that Jen had a part in making it happen.
So that when you experience one of life’s most simple pleasures, you might think that jen’s spirit is helping you appreciate, celebrate and revel in it.
My hope is that each of us recognizes and embraces just one small part of jen’s glorious being. In doing so, if we all take just one part…we can keep the whole of jen’s spirit and her memory alive…for boris….for Claire…and for the entire Lisman family.
There’s an old saying and I’m not sure how the whole thing goes, but I know it starts something like…”it takes a village.” Well, my dear friend boris, as I stand here, I look out and see your village. I challenge each of us to be part of that village Boris and Claire need…today, tomorrow, and during the days to come.
Thank you and God Bless
So many CSP readers have asked if they can contribute to Jennifer’s 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Claire. Any contributions can be made to the Claire Bunich College Fund c/o Charlotte Smarty Pants, PO Box 473862, Charlotte, NC 28247