In Memory of Oosh

by Emily Poole

Andrea Suzanne Davies Skillman passed away on March 25, 2017, almost exactly one year after she was diagnosed with cancer. As she did every problem she ever faced, Andrea took on the disease with grace and determination, but not every battle can be won with organization, kindness, a fabulous celebration, and the right pair of shoes, and she eventually succumbed to the ravages of that most merciless disease. She will be missed by countless friends and family members who will remember her for the immeasurable positive impact she had on their lives.

Maya Skillman, age 4, Andrea’s niece, said, “Auntie Oosh was very nice to me and made me feel special.” And this is how Andrea made everyone feel. She had a way of seeing people and situations with a clarity and perspective that informed every interaction, from thoughtful gift giving to relationship advice to planning events to taking care of the people she loved. She was nice to everyone, and she made everyone feel special, without pretense or qualification, just a lot of love.

Andrea gave great advice. She was strong and not afraid to speak up and share her opinions—and she did have an opinion on everything, in the best possible way. Her opinions were borne of the great substance of her character, and held weight when she shared them. She was intelligent and perceptive and informed and loved to share her thoughts on everything, including current politics and social issues, and the every day challenges faced by her friends and family. Her point of view was always a welcome addition to any discussion, because Andrea had a way of communicating with both kindness and candor, without any of her own ego getting in the way.

Andrea had an incredible gift of hospitality. She always knew what to do or say to make any person feel welcome in her presence. She loved to throw parties and have get-togethers with friends and family. She organized all of the details behind the scenes with ease and grace, and reveled in the preparation and anticipation that led up to an event. She was a fantastic cook—the best on both sides of her family—and loved to share food and recipes with her loved ones. After Andrea’s diagnosis, she had to stop traveling with The Cliffs family for corporate events around the country. One of her coworkers said how much they missed her on those trips, because without her, they were either “lost or hungry.”

Andrea loved her large family. Her brother Jeff recalls sitting around the table for dinner one night when Andrea was six years old. As the family shared their experiences of the day, Andrea piped up about what she had learned at school that day. She said, “Hey! Do you know when you celebrate your birthday it is actually the day you were BORN?!?”

When Ben and Darla Brovet married, Andrea gained two older siblings, Jeff and Monica, in addition to her older brother Sean. Jeff, Monica and Sean loved that smiling little girl and the gracious and lovely woman she became. Sara, six years younger than Andrea, adored her sister from day one, and Andrea cared for her like a little mother. She also earned the love and respect of her step-siblings when her father Dave Davies married his wife, Muriel. Andrea’s mother, Darla, remembers the joy of watching Andrea grow up, develop her many talents, and forge meaningful friendships. She was a gift to her family, and Darla is certain that Andrea is the newest event planner in heaven.

Andrea’s older sister Monica remembers her as “the most beautiful woman I knew, inside and out.” She showed others how to live with passion and kindness, and was filled with God’s grace every day.

Every time Andrea’s family expanded through marriage or birth, her capacity to love just got bigger. Andrea was the caretaker, the rock, that both sides of her family needed. Her sister Sara remembers that even when there were empty bedrooms in their house growing up, they chose to share a room, and would watch Dirty Dancing or Shag every night to fall asleep. They bonded over being the “normal” ones, convinced that the rest of their family was crazy.

Andrea loved every last member of her family and especially went out of her way to express that love to her nieces and nephews. These little ones adopted Andrea’s childhood nickname, and to them, “Auntie Oosh” was a beloved friend, playmate, confidant, and benefactor.

Andrea married her high school sweetheart, Jon Skillman, on November 6, 1999. Jon and Andrea were perfectly matched and had an enviably easy dynamic in their relationship. They loved to spend time together and their banter made everyone laugh. Jon and Andrea’s union brought together two families who both benefitted from their love for one another and the stability of their relationship. Jon notes, however, that in Andrea’s absence, the thoughtful gift giving standards will most definitely slip!

Andrea was also fiercely loyal to her friends, and approached friendship with a whole-hearted generosity that has engraved her on the hearts of those privileged to be in her circle. Though she was not technically a mother, she mothered those she loved, and helped her friends to bring out the best in their own mothering instincts—or at least laugh about their failures.

Andrea loved beauty, and found it everywhere. If she couldn’t find it, she would make it. Andrea finished projects she started, and everything she tried, she did well. She effortlessly arranged flowers, and created lovely things to share out of paper and fabric and the ingredients in her kitchen. Andrea’s handmade gifts were given with “sunshine, smiles, a warm caring heart, creativity and kindness” and will be treasured for years to come by those blessed to receive them. Her smile and laugh were constant and infectious, and her cheerfulness, even in the face of extreme adversity, brought beauty and love wherever she was.

Andrea loved her mountains, but also enjoyed yearly trips to the beach. She adored her dog, Captain. She loved good books, music of all kinds, the theater, song and dance. She loved celebrity gossip and old Beverly Hills: 90210 reruns, her UNC Tarheels, lively rounds of playing board and card games, and a good glass of wine. She loved working with her hands and keeping memories. And she left an indelible mark in the world around her. Andrea will be missed, keenly and painfully, but her legacy will live on as those of us she left behind try to be the kind of friend that she was, and that she deserved to have herself while she was alive.