1943 – 2015
Aileen Sherman was the Social Services Director for Irvine Cottages for 19 years. Through her compassion, dedication and intelligence, she helped thousands of families over the years. She will be missed dearly by everyone at Irvine Cottages and the professional eldercare community.
Irvine Cottage #5 has been re-named “Aileen’s Cottage” in her memory.
We asked coworkers and colleagues to express what Aileen meant to them.
Here is the eulogy Jacqueline Dupont gave at her funeral:
Thank you all for coming today to honor our wonderful Aileen. I want to start out by thanking Neil, Dina, Eric and Michael for sharing Aileen with us for 19 years at Irvine Cottages. Aileen truly was the best friend a person could ever hope for, but she was so much more to so many less fortunate people.
I am going to tell you about this amazing woman I worked so closely with every day for 19 years. She literally was there for me and our wonderful residents, families, and staff every step of the way. I never felt alone with Aileen and, of course, Neil. She called Neil our employee who was “on the clock.” He was always willing to put out a fire, and he literally did at one cottage with the Fire Department!
We also went through crazy times: divorce, births, concerned families, fires, deaths, employee disagreements, and more divorce, law suits, more new cottages and more new families to take care of. Aileen could not turn them down. Aileen is an advocate and by far the most compassionate person to ever take care of older adults and their families!
In the early days, Aileen really wanted to help out, but she was not sure she wanted a stressful job assisting distraught families and dealing with employees. So for a while I had to pay her with gifts . . . trash compactors, purses, more purses, furniture, nail salon gift cards, etc. It was tough — have you ever gone shopping with her? I would pick something out in five minutes and it would takes her many contemplated hours. Finally, we agreed that she was more than kind to volunteer and assist our families and residents, but it was not fair. I may have had to beg her a little to come to work. It was heaven after she took over, I finally had a life . . . .
On her many tours at the cottages, she compassionately listened to thousands of families who often cried for hours and asked for so much help. Sometimes she was on the phone for three or more hours patiently listening and never judging or rushing anyone. She wanted us to make a difference in their lives…she would not turn down a family who needed help.
Aileen had many critical phrases also known as “Aileenism’s” ~
“We will take care of just about everyone, except lawyers.”
“It is not all about us, it is all about them.”
“Don’t tell a resident they can’t do something. Find a way to help them do it. Fix it.”
“I think I know you,” even the CNN camera man remembered her from high school. She knew at least 20 percent of people who toured, or asked for help. Maybe it was from her children’s school, her family, friends and neighbors, temples; she had an impact on everyone she met, so they all remembered her. Who could forget her beautiful blue eyes! She loved to say, “I think I know you.” She also was thrilled when people thought we were sisters . . . good for her . . . not so sure it was a compliment to me, I would tell her.
She was adamant that everything we told each family about our care was real, transparent and ethical. “We need to always keep promises. Never lie.”
“If you have a problem we need to know, so we can fix it” Aileen was the master at problem solving and could think from her heart and head so quickly and honestly you never ever could be upset with her. She spoke so compassionately! She never forgot to follow through and fix the issue, never. Even with our staff and employees — she always had time for them, especially when it was difficult.
She was the founder and creator of her amazing “memory place mat.” Early on to help Lil at home, she laminated a place mat with pictures. She had one place mat with extended family and one with her nuclear family. Many of you here today were on the place mats. It was heartwarming to see her talking with Lil about each person on the place mats. She loved the idea, so for 19 years we have been making memory mats for every resident with their favorite people on them. Our residents now get so excited to speak about their families, and it reminds them of where to sit at the dinner table.
She had some issues with me. She did feel I spent too much money on charity, marketing and décor. Her saying came from her mom, Lil, “Orf Geforfen the Gelt” I think it meant I wasted a lot of money.
She was always right.
There is no way to describe our friendship or bond. As you all know, she is the best listener, the best advice giver and she never has been judgmental — even when you screw up. She constantly told me to stop working so much, spend time with my kids, and to say I love you more often than not. She was the perfect role model as a mother. She was there for me in sickness and health, always willing to help me with my kids and family. And yes, Neil, has always been there, too.
She always wanted me a to find a “Neil.” He was the top standard as a husband, Mr. Wonderful. After getting close to Marc one day, she whispered to me, “You finally found a Neil- what took you so long?”
She loved raising money for Alzheimer’s disease and many other charities. We served on over 16 gala and fundraising committees together. Yes, after Neil retired, we even asked him to serve. Thankfully, Mr. Wonderful joined in.
Aileen received the Visionary Woman of the year award from the Alzheimer’s Association in 2013 and I literally had to stop people from writing nomination letters because so many volunteered to write about how she helped their parents and changed their lives. Jim McAleer said it was a “no-brainer” but they still had to vote. It was so wonderful that she received the honor — she truly deserves it.
Aileen adored her family and friends . . . All of you. I loved hearing about how perfect you are and so are your children. Her children, grandchildren and nieces and nephews meant the world to her. As a friend, you always knew she would be there for you, and I know she still will be there for all of us…she would have it no other way.
Aileen cared for her mom, mother-in-law, father-in-law and so many other patients and even friends with such dignity and love. She always had time for all of us. I truly thank God for Aileen, but I also thank her amazing and wonderful family for sharing her with me. I will be around forever to pay them all back!
From Linda Abbit, Director of Resident and Family Services
Aileen was first my eldercare guide while I was caring for my mom. We met when my father and I were looking for a safe home to place my mom in and Aileen gave us a tour! She was compassionate yet frank in speaking with us about how to make the decision about placement. Later, she became a wonderful mentor and friend. She saw something in me that prompted her to ask if I’d consider coming to work for Irvine Cottages? If it wasn’t for Aileen’s instincts, I might not be working in this very rewarding and important field and I will be eternally grateful to her for that! As I go through the days now without Aileen, her warmth, intelligence and compassion are traits I try to emulate and she is never far from my mind and heart.
From Elinor Lagman, Caregiver:
I knew Aileen for a long time. She’s a very hardworking lady. We she visited our house, Cottage #3, she always smiled at all the residents and to us. My sympathies to those she left behind. She will be missed.
From Regina Valleau, Weekend Manager, Activities, and Massage Therapist:
My Dear Friend Aileen!
I loved many beautiful qualities about Aileen. She was gentle, soft spoken and had a motherly character about her. She had very special communication skills and everything was done with the utmost professional competence.
I was the fortunate recipient of her beautiful grace . . . so sad that you left us too soon.
I will never forget you Aileen.
From Robert and Monina de la Cruz, Caregivers:
We have cherished and good fond memories with Ma’am Aileen! Every time she visited our cottage, she praised our food and gave credits for our care of the residents. Ma’am Aileen was a fighter! Despite the odds, she exercised her duties with profound professionalism, enthusiasm and loyalty. Her star will continue to shine in heaven. She’ll never be forgotten . . .
From Sset, Caregiver:
I thought I never saw you smile at me and it’s okay . . . . But the last time you came here to give a tour, I was startled to see you not only turned around, but winked your eyes at me along the hallway.
From then on, I believed you had something good in your heart that we do not always see. And things like these, are those that we only realize when someone like you has gone away. Good bye, Aileen. There was not enough time for me to know you more, but I will always remember you with your winking eyes . . . . And imagine you dancing happily in a place everyone wants to be.