Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Christina Potters

Christina Potters, age 55, died peacefully at her home in Ketchum, surrounded by her husband, Paul, her sons, Douglas and Tristan, her sister, Victoria, and her mother, Lucia, after an eight-year battle against early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

Born Feb. 21, 1952, in Brooklyn, N.Y., the first daughter of Felix and Lucia Miastowski, Christina spent her childhood in Brooklyn's Sheep's Head Bay area. She attended local Catholic schools for her elementary education and graduated from Sheep's Head Bay High School in 1970, then went on to college at Brooklyn College where she earned her B.A. in comparative literature and classics, graduating cum laude in June 1974. In 1972, while on a summer tour of Europe with three girlfriends, she arrived in Leysin, Switzerland, staying at the infamous, and sadly now defunct, Club Vagabond. A mecca for young travelers, adventurers and climbers, the "Vag" offered dorm-room accommodations, cheap but delicious and plentiful food and, most important, a place to meet like-minded pilgrims, in search of the best information on good deals at other pensions around Europe, the best trains headed to Italy or any and all sundry news about home and the world, all exchanged either over meals or later in the club downstairs over multitudinous drinks. It was in the dining room of the Vagabond where she met Paul Potters. After a two-year courtship, Christina and Paul were married Aug. 3, 1974.

In the early years of their marriage, Christina enjoyed the outdoor life. Travel, adventures and numerous like-minded, energetic people were the center of Christina's and Paul's lives. Together, they climbed on the fine quartzite of New York's Shawangunks, and the salt-and-pepper granite of the Squamish Chief. They sampled the fine powder skiing of Colorado, and the intimate cross-country trails of southern Vermont. And during that time, Christina went back to school at Keene State College, to work on a master's degree in special education, later working for the Chester, Vt., School District. In 1976, Christina and Paul found employment with the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, where they taught rock climbing skills and, most importantly, self-confidence to the young students who passed through that program. That experience led them to Littleton, N.H., and the White Mountain School. Both Christina and Paul were hired to teach English to high-school-age students, to head a dormitory of outrageously energetic students and to manage the school's well-regarded outdoor program. Here, Christina's gift in teaching and counseling young people blossomed.

After four years in New Hampshire, the Rocky Mountains called again. After much debate, in 1981, Christina and Paul chose Ketchum to be their home, finding a modest duplex on a small dirt road in West Ketchum. Victorian in architecture, the home reminded Christina of her Eastern roots and was to be Christina's and Paul's home for 27 years and ultimately to be the place where she left this world. Her first year here was spent teaching at the then Sam's School, later to be The Community School. In 1982, she left teaching to have her first child, a son, Douglas. Christina found her true self in motherhood and devoted herself to it. After Douglas, in 1984, her second child, Tristan, was born. Bringing up two sons became the focus of her life, yet over time, because of her own experience with children, Christina chose to share her time and help other children in the community. She was president of the Pioneer Montessori School board and spearheaded the drive to purchase the school's facility, where the school still sits today. Christina volunteered at Hemingway Elementary, bringing vibrancy to the school's program for gifted and talented students. Later, seeing the opportunity to make a difference on a community level, Christina accepted an appointment to the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission, and thus began a 14-year career of public service.

In the fall of 1993, Christina ran for a seat on Ketchum's City Council and won. She would run two more times, in 1998 and in 2002. Her style of politics today seems a bit old-fashioned. In each campaign, her approach to elections was to divide Ketchum into neighborhoods she could cover in a day or so and then proceeded to knock on each door, ring each doorbell and introduce herself in person to each voter and ask for his or her vote. This often took a lot longer than she had planned because Christina also knew how to listen, and believed deeply that she was asking for the voter's trust and that she was his or her representative at the council table.

While on council, Christina championed recreational opportunities for everyone. She was instrumental in establishing the skate park with former Mayor Guy Coles, as well as the new, enlarged recreation center and ice rink at Atkinson Park, and gave her political support early on to what is now the Wood River YMCA. Christina also served on the board of the Wood River Land Trust.

In the fall of 2003, Christina was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease—no cure, inadequate treatment, always terminal. She struggled on in public life, trying to disguise her disease, but was unable to finish her last term on council and resigned at the end of May in 2005. She continued on at her last job, managing the Ketchum Cemetery, walking up to the modest shed that was her office because she could no longer drive and giving solace to those who had just recently lost a loved one or pointing out Ernest Hemingway's grave to assorted pilgrims, always talking and listening to all who stopped by. That simple pleasure, too, was lost to Alzheimer's and she had to resign that job in January 2007.

The last almost three years were spent mostly with her husband, Paul, who cared for her and helped her in her brave fight against an intractable disease. During those last years, she found great joy in hikes and walks down the bike path with Paul and their dog, Hildy, until November 2007 when her disease took those pleasures as well. Christina's battle ended last Thursday, when in her own home, in the loving arms of her devoted husband, Christina took her last breath and passed on into eternity.

Shee in whom virtue was so much refin'd

That for allay unto so pure a minde

Shee took the weaker Sex: shee that could drive;

The poisonous tincture, and the staine of Eve,

Out of her thoughts, and deeds; and purifie


John Donne

A memorial service will be announced. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Hospice of the Wood River Valley, The Idaho chapter of the American Alzheimer's Association or the Christina Potters benefit fund at Mountain West Bank, established to ameliorate the significant cost of her medical care. Arrangements and cremation are under the care of Wood River Chapel in Hailey.

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