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the story of the mystery gifter

Written by Kate Middlemiss (and her husband Scott)


I've been trying to wrap my head around the unexpected passing of this extraordinary woman and make sense of it. It’s one of those things that just doesn’t make least not now. I had the privilege of meeting and working with Patti Joyce Trombly during my years as a teacher in North Andover Public Schools, yet it wasn’t until several years later that we formed a very special bond.


I called her my “mystery gifter” for a long time as she anonymously showered my family and I with the MOST THOUGHTFUL surprises. My favorite flowers secretly left on the doorstep, special treats for the kids, gift cards to MY hair salon and other favorite places to nudge me to GET OUT of the house on those days when I didn’t even want to get out of bed. She did her research to find out just what I needed, just what I loved, and always seemed to reach out right when I needed it most. She never signed the cards or took credit for the acts of kindness. She didn’t want or need the recognition. That’s not why she did it. That’s not who she was. I think it took me a full year to finally figure out who my “mystery gifter” was.


I started to suspect it but couldn’t get confirmation until I caught her red handed dropping something off at the curb. I remember running out of my house and giving her a great big hug because 1) I had finally solved the year-long mystery and 2) I needed to embrace the person who had put so much time and care into lifting me up on some pretty dark days. I cried as I thanked her but also expressed a sense of guilt for accepting her generous and heartfelt gifts. She looked at me and told me to STOP. She explained how giving to others was a gift to herself as it brought HER endless joy. She explained she was at a place in her life where she COULD give and wanted to share her abundant blessings with others. She also reminded me not to shortchange myself for the blessings I was giving out to the world and always made me feel important, appreciated, and SEEN. This was probably her greatest gift to me.


Our bond continued to grow stronger over the last year or so and moved beyond the “gift giver - gift recipient” relationship. We discovered so many connections between our families and our LOVE for children. A beautiful interconnected web began to form between her daughter, my mom, my children, and her grandchildren. Her daughter, Stephanie Cahill, and I share some pretty shocking similarities on our journeys as mothers. There’s a “meant to be” connection there and I’m so grateful to Patti for introducing us.


I KNOW I am not alone in being touched by Patti’s love and generosity. She gave so much to so many and positively impacted countless lives. What a blessing to us all. The world lost a beautiful woman yesterday but her legacy will continue indefinitely through the countless lives she touched. My most sincere thoughts and prayers are with her husband, daughters, grandchildren, family, friends, and coworkers.

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