To retire after 25 years is on the job is certainly something to be celebrated; to have that retirement happen when you’re 95 years-old…that’s a category of accomplishment that is way beyond noteworthy. That’s downright amazing. Last Friday, we had the opportunity to honor my friend and co-worker, Sybil Sullivan, for her 25 years of service to the Petaluma Visitors Program.
We would have loved it if Sybil had continued working at the Visitors Center until she was 100 because the knowledge, graciousness and wisdom that is packed into her small frame is a delight to everyone who comes in contact with her. And her physicality puts many of the rest of us who are decades younger to shame. An ice skater and dancer in her younger years in addition to having been a school teacher, Sybil remains determined not to let her age get in the way of any task that she sees needs to be done. Lifting heavy boxes of brochures, dragging in the Visitors Center sandwich board sign out to Lakeville Street, or crouching down to restock the lowest cabinets – she does it all without hesitation.
Planning last Friday’s party was a joy because Sybil is so beloved – people were eager to be able to show their affection and appreciation for her by contributing to a gift and bringing food for the party. If you’ve ever been to a potluck party where the food looks rather haphazard, like they just picked something up at Safeway on the way over, that wasn’t the case for Sybil’s party. The food that everyone brought was carefully and beautifully presented. I know they did this because Sybil never gives less than her best in anything she does and bringing a gorgeous cheesecake or magazine-worthy tomato tart was a way for Sybil’s friends to reflect the attitude they see in her.
The PVP staff had a lot of fun choosing her retirement gifts. Like many seniors who are faced with the likelihood of moving soon, she doesn’t need more stuff even though it was tempting to give her a book because she is truly the definition of a lifelong learner. What we gave her instead was a small sterling silver bookmark engraved by Palmgren’s with her initials. Because she is such a promoter of Petaluma, we put together a gift basket filled local treats including Sonoma Valley Portworks port, Marin French Cheese wedges, petite fours from Devine Delights, truffles from Viva Chocolat, chocolate covered nuts from Petaluma Market and just for kicks, a bottle of Benedictine, a liqueur that she happened to mention that she liked. It was great to find it in stock at Willibee’s – Sybil will have to live another 95 years to drink the huge bottle of it.
There’s more…we had a clean up party for her yard, we will be giving her a rose bush from the Visitors Center so she always has some of us with her, and so we always have her with us, there is now a small engraved plaque dedicating one of the benches outside of the Visitors Center to Sybil’s 25 years of service.
We thought that if there was a Sybil Sullivan brand, it would be “Small but Mighty.” Mighty intelligence, mighty knowledge and mighty strength in her petite size. Sybil, thank you for sharing it with all of us – and with visitors from throughout the world – for 25 years.