Esty Collet

October 30, 2014

Helen Esther Collet, known as “Esty” to all her family and friends, passed away peacefully on Thursday October 30 at home with her family by her side. Born in Philadelphia, PA on July 11, 1948, she was the daughter of Richard and Mary Helen Moore Neuendorffer. She grew up in New England and attended The Kent School for Girls in Connecticut. She also studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and at Baldwin Wallace College in Ohio.

In 1969 she married Pierre-Yves Collet in Oyster Bay, New York. They lived in Montreal, New York and Philadelphia before moving to London, England, where Pierre had been transferred by the Rohm and Haas Company. They spent three years in England then six years in Paris. All of their three children were born abroad, Christophe in Wimbledon, England, Edouard in Paris, France and Caroline in Cambrils, Spain.

The family returned to Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania in 1982 and spent the next thirty years on the Main Line. Esty worked in Executive Search primarily in Health Care and Higher Education. She was also an active volunteer at the Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr where she sat on the Vestry and directed the Church School program. She is a member of the Merion Cricket Club in Haverford, PA.

In 2003, she and Pierre retired to Royal Oak but she quickly started her own Executive Search business which she ran successfully for ten years. She was on the Board of the Academy of Lifelong Leaning of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. She loved being on the water, either sailing or on their motor boat, She is a member of the Miles River Yacht Club..

Esty is survived by her husband Pierre, her children Christophe (Emelie) of Phoenixville, PA, Edouard (Molly) of Philadelphia, PA and Caroline Collet Bellum (Craig) of Wallingford, PA: seven grandchildren, her mother Mary Helen Moore Neuendorffer of Gladwyne, PA, two sisters Carol Ziegenhagen and husband Robert of Longmont, CO and Jean Bubriski and husband Mark of Orlando, FL, four nieces and five grand-nephews.

A service will be held at Christ Church in St Michaels, MD on Saturday November 8 at 11:00 AM. Burial will be private. In lieu of flowers, contributions to celebrate Esty’s life may be made to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, 213 N. Talbot Street St Michaels, MD 21663. Alternatively, to the Miles River Yacht Club Foundation Junior Sailing Program Fund, 606-A N. Talbot Street S115, St Michaels, MD 21663.

Tribute by Chris Collet

My mother was an angel of a woman.

She was beautiful and kind, loving and thoughtful, and curious. When I was little I believed my mother’s love was magic – she could heat my body on a cold snow day with her warm breath on my fingers. She could heal my brusises with a kiss and she could mend my hurt feelings with a hug. She was by far the smartest lady on the block. My B-day parties all involved party games that no other kid had. I was convinced that my mother had made up these games on her own. Games like egg races, fishing fro treats behind a screen, musical chairs. It was a long time before I learned my mom wasn’t their creator.

It perhaps took me equally as long to realize that the indelible mark she left on her family, reached beyond the family dinner table. The people present here can attest to that fact.

She was a cheerful friend – as quick with an ear as she was with a smile. It was important to her that people left happy. Her winning strategy in almost any game from Monopoly to tennis was to distract you with humor. Although she said that Letting your opponent win always made the iced-tea taste sweeter, this didn’t stop her from being a fun and fierce competitor. She was loyal and true and always ready for conversation late into the night. Her desire to connect was so strong that we would often stay up talking with until we could barely keep your eyes open. Those friendships made my mother truly happy. There was always room for more people in her heart and her eyes would light with genuine joy whenever a friend came over. Those friendships were part of her spirit and gave her energy like nothing else and this was never more evident than in the last year of her life when she would perk up for each visit ad for each new visitor.

She was a tireless learner with a curious mind. As I mentioned, I knew she was the smartest mom on the block, what I didn’t realize as a kid is what a constant learner she was. She was always interested in people and spirituality participating in EFM at the Redeemer and the ALL – at Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, even serving on the board. And she would engage with people with an insatiable curiosity and an open mind. As she was fond of say with her tongue firmly planted in her cheek, “every body is entitle to my opinion” What she really wanted to was not just to connect emotionally with people but to understand what their minds contained.

And in the past year it seems that she showed the best of herself. She was strong and cheerful. Intensely commited to family to friends. Deeply loving to her husband in ways I had not seen before.

But now she’s gone.

I don’t’ want to believe that she’s gone.

I don’t want to believe that she’s gone, but I feel the loss of her in my heart like a heavy weight and it makes me realize just how much space she filled for so long and how present she was even when she wasn’t near.

Although I know that she’s gone, I close my eyes and I feel that she’s here.

I see her beautiful face in those of her grandchildren.

I feel her loving heart in the people here today

I am lifted by her cheerful spirit in all the memories I have of her

Her Angelic spirit will always be with me.

Tribute by Edouard Collet

One of my earliest memories of mom is her reading to me the book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. It’s a story about a tree that loves a boy. The tree gives all it has to meet the boy’s wants through the various stages of his life — its shade for resting, its branches for swinging, and so on. In what often seems like acts of selfish discontent, the boy continues to take until only a stump remains. In the end, an old man, he returns to the stump to sit and rest. The tree is so happy the be with him and be of use again.

The story is beautiful and at times sad and difficult. Reflecting upon it now, it speaks to a parent’s love. Mom always put her family first. She learned from the example set before her and instilled the same. I find myself remembering her mostly small moments, doing the everyday work of raising children — standing in the checkout line of the grocery store, driving to appointments after school, in the stands during swim practice. She did it with style, grace, and without complaint.

Like the tree, she gave freely, whatever was asked of her — firmly grounded and with great satisfaction. Also like the tree, the simple moments she provided were the best times — a game of cards or a puzzle, watching the sun set, admiring something beautifully made.

Unfortunately, the analogy seems to be cut short, as I am still a young man. I know however that the memory of mom is a place where I can always stop to rest. I can sit upon the values that she championed and follow her example of quiet reflection.

She lived the values of her faith — keeping gratitude and humility in her heart, never speaking ill of anyone, and always looking to be of service. She lived them every day with commitment, and I have peace knowing that she has earned a great reward for her faith. She is beyond suffering now, yet present as ever. I am proud to honor her today.

Tribute by Caroline Collet Bellum

Adapted from “She is Gone” by David Harkins

You can shed tears that I have passed on / Or you can smile because I lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that I will come back / Or you can open your eyes and see all that I have left.

Your heart can be empty / Or it can be full of the love that we shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday / Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember me and only that I have passed on / Or you can do what I would want: Smile, Open your eyes, Love and go on.


“Those we love don’t go away. They walk beside us every day, Always near, Still loved, and very dear.” (Author Unknown”)

Tribute by Trish White

I speak today as Esty’s longest friend. We were born, a year apart, to be friends. Our grandparents were friends and summer neighbors. My mother and Esty’s aunt Barbie were best childhood friends and Esty and I were lifelong dearest friends. Our families’ lives have been closely intertwined now for 5 generations. Esty and Carol and Jeannie adopted me as the fourth sister – I, not being lucky enough to have a sister of my own.

I also speak today on behalf of all of you who knew Esty in different capacities and for varying periods of time. This is a great privilege and I will try in these very brief remarks to capture something essential about the Esty we all knew and loved.

Simply put-Esty brought out the best in us. She made each of us who knew her better. She did this naturally. Her calm manner, unfailing kindness, and generous, other-regarding spirit served as an antidote to the competitive, judgmental world many of us live in. Hers’ was an especially great gift, because she lived in that same world. She brought out the best in others in part because she looked for it and in part by her example but never because she preached, intimidated or criticized.

Esty was wonderfully lucky in love. As we all know, she and her dear Pierre raised 3 exceptional children and now have 7 beautiful grandchildren. Her family was central to her life and a constant source of great joy and pride.

Esty was not a life-long careerist in the sense that many of us are, but she had a successful mid-life career in executive search. It proved to be an excellent match for her gifts.

  • First – that magnificent voice! Whose voice could be better for preliminary telephone conversations?
  • Second – her genuine curiosity, natural warmth, and open-mindedness made her a remarkably effective interviewer.
  • And finally – her wonderfully intuitive sense of character made her very effective at vetting and recruiting appropriate candidates for high end jobs.

I had the great good fortune of chairing 3 different decanal search committees at Arizona State University, for which Diversified Search and Esty did the work. So I had the chance to see her in professional action. She was really good!

Esty approached her illness with the same consummate grace with which she lived her life. She remained other-regarding throughout her long ordeal. I visited her the weekend before she passed away. She texted me the day after I left. Her last words to me 3 days before her death, express beautifully what so many of us who loved Esty would say about her:

“It is impossible to know someone and to love someone for so long without holding a piece of their soul in your own. “