The room was crowded with guests at the retirement party. In addition to her coworkers from the University, her family and friends showed up as well, some of them flying in from out of town just to come to the celebration. They all came to honor this remarkable woman. They also came because Bellverie really knows how to party.
Someone asked Bellverie Ross, Executive Assistant to the Dean of Students, Office of Student Affairs at the University of Colorado at Denver, what she was going to do now that she's retired. After all, she's worked for 36 years. The diminutive 71-year-old replied with a laugh, “I'm going back to work in a couple of months!” It's true, too. She'll return on a very limited basis to head the Senior Auditing program and a few other things.
I first met Bellverie two years ago when I was contemplating taking a college class or two. We spoke on the phone and in person. When she found out I had Parkinson's, she encouraged... no, she insisted I take classes now while I am still able to get around. One of her daughters has Multiple Sclerosis. She knows well how quickly one's abilities can change with a progressive disorder.
Since then, we've spoken together many times, Bellverie's warmth always filling the room. She told me she felt as though we had known each other all our lives, and she would always greet me with a hug. When she emailed me and asked me to come to her party, I was touched.
If I felt a little awkward entering the room and not knowing anyone except the guest of honor, it didn't last long. Bellverie greeted me with a hug and immediately took my hand and led me over to a seat next to her daughter. I saw this repeated over and over with other guests being led here and there to meet someone. I don't think she sat down to eat at all, she was far too busy.
When her colleagues spoke about her, it became obvious her warmth and love had affected many, many people. So had her indomitable energy. “Bellverie knows everyone and knows everything about everyone,” one of colleagues reported, “and most of us in this room are worried about what she'll write about us in her book.” He leaned down and said sweetly, “But you don't have any dirt on me, do you.” Bellverie sweetly smiled back and said, “Oh yes, I do!”
Another colleague related the story of her first day of work. She said Bellverie took her aside and told her, “Just listen to me and you'll do okay.” The woman said she did listen. “Everyone listens to Bellverie. You can't not listen.”
One of her friends led us all in singing, “Happy Retirement to you”, which Bellverie conducted enthusiastically. Another friend sang her tribute, beautifully, and brought us all to tears.
I sat among her friends at the table, women who had known Bellverie for many years. Some had worked along side her during the civil rights movement. One lovely woman, who had years before
started one of the first drama programs for minorities, described their friendship, “We are agape sisters. Do you know what that is? Unconditional love.”
I believe it. There was so much love and pure joy in that room, I am certain it overflowed into the rest of the building, eventually slipping through windows and doors like a fine mist and making the passersby smile.
Later on, our petite guest of honor took the microphone to thank everyone for coming. “Always follow your dreams,” she told us. “Never give up on your dreams.”
Do you hear that? I hope so. Don't forget. Listen to Bellverie and you'll do okay.
To read more about Bellverie's history with the University of Colorado at Denver, read:
To learn more about the Senior Auditing Program at UCD, go here: