PENNY KIELPINSKI On February 8, 2015, Penny Kielpinski departed the world she passionately loved. With an exuberant smile and her shiny, bright hair -- "Redheads are smarter," she would whisper mischievously to the shy, skinny carrot tops in the supermarket checkout line -- Penny brought the world to life around her. She engaged total strangers in conversation, did handstands on the edges of cliffs, and penetrated the angsty hearts of teenagers in her classrooms for over thirty years. Penny left everything better than she found it, whether it was an abandoned farmstead, a bedraggled stray animal, or one of the schools where she taught. If there wasn't already something to improve, she created it from scratch - award winning choirs and gymnastics teams, popular Honors English and drama programs, and a renowned real estate business. Born August 17, 1944 in Chelsea, Massachusetts, and raised on the east coast, Penny felt lucky to spend her life in two beautiful parts of the west: The farm where she raised her family in the magnificent Columbia River Gorge, and her beloved home in the starry high desert of Santa Fe, where she spent her last fifteen years. Optimistic, playful, and proactive, Penny was driven to improve the lives of others, whether they were her students, her family, or the elderly whose bedsides she visited as a young woman with her children in tow. She loved and cared for every imaginable creature, from snakes and birds to llamas and sheep, including those at a sanctuary where she volunteered for five years. Penny was an avid reader and traveler and took special interest in stories of human and animal resiliency. She embodied resiliency herself and encouraged others toward their full potential. Especially tender toward those who were suffering, she uplifted spirits with a ready ear, a hardworking hand, a lovingly articulated card, or a clever poem or song. She took up marimba in her sixties, and reveled in playing its rich African rhythms with Polyphony, a Santa Fe band. While undergoing chemotherapy, Penny became a Certified Nursing Assistant so that she could ease the suffering of others. She was a lover of surprises and the generous giver of many gifts. She was also fully aware of being the recipient of the best gift of all, life on Planet Earth. She kept her birdfeeders full and her garden colorful, and found wonder in the world every day. Penny leaves a loving family behind, including her wife, Maria Santa Maria; her three daughters and two sons-in-law, Krysta and Barbu Panaitescu, Jenya Kielpinski, and Marina and Larry LeGree; her sister, Jane Brown; her brother and sister-in-law, Bob and Cherie Brown; her stepmother, Linda Brown; many beloved aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, and cousins; and her cherished pets. She is preceded in death by her parents, Edith and Robert Brown. Her mother instilled in her a fierce love of the natural world and its wild creatures, along with a deep appreciation for and facility with the written word. Her father passed on his sense of humor, a love of music and drama, and the lifelong discipline that helped her accomplish her goals. She is grateful to Maria, to her three daughters, and to their father, Jan Kielpinski. Her loving, supportive, and cherished friends deserve to be named individually, but the list would be too long. She is grateful to each and every one. A service of celebration of Penny's life will be held at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 11, at St. Bede's Episcopal Church in Santa Fe, New Mexico; reception to follow in the fellowship hall. In lieu of flowers, please honor Penny's passions by making a donation to the Espanola Animal Shelter (www.evalleyshelter.org
) and/or to Ascend: Leadership Through Athletics (www.ascendathletics.org
). While the writers of this obituary know that she would have preferred something shorter and more modest, we also know that we speak for many when we say that Penny will be deeply missed.
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Published by Santa Fe New Mexican from Mar. 5 to Mar. 6, 2015.