The Den, Le Moyne Say Goodbye to Fee
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When students returned to Le Moyne after winter break they gathered in their usual spots: Playing pickup basketball in the rec center, sighing over the familiar lunch choices in The Cafe, and pouring their hazelnut coffees in The Den. Not much had changed around campus over break––except the staircase walls were now forest green and most noticeably, there was no Fee to welcome students into The Den.
On Monday Jan. 16 Nafeeza “Fee” Bachus, 39, passed away. She had been working with Sodexo for seven years and with her vibrant personality she naturally became a known presence in the Le Moyne community. Fee had been experiencing bouts of pain and was taken into emergency surgery in November. The doctors found an infection caused by undiagnosed cancer; she later died from complications.
Mornings and afternoons in The Den were often marked by heavy laughter, as Fee and Theresa Williams bantered, more than likely over something Theresa had said, while pouring cups of iced coffee and toasting bagels.
“She would harass me to help keep me in line, and if I got in any trouble as far as being busy, she would come over to help me out. She just had a great sense of humor. When students walk over to the Dolphin Den, they’re looking to see Fee,” said Theresa. She’s still looking to see Fee herself. Every morning she stares up at the clock around 10 a.m. expecting Fee to walk through the doors, and the reality of her not coming in is a hard truth to grapple with.
When talking about Fee to Sodexo workers in The Den, it was easy to see the joy she brought them by their tender laughter and wistful smiles. When one person had a story to tell about her, another jumped in. They were family and their friendships with Fee went well beyond The Den’s walls.
Gina Ware had a friendship with Fee that spanned 18 years. She described her as the kind of person who tells you how it is, but had so much life inside her and so much love for the people around her. Her coworker and buddy Mike Tumolo said her love was a special kind of love, something that’s not that easy to find. “We’re going to miss her of course, but life goes on. That’s what she would want, I’m sure of it,” said Mike.
Over break some students were posting on Facebook about Fee’s passing, but many didn’t find out until returning to Le Moyne. Theresa said she’s not sure what to say when students come in and ask her where Fee is because it instantly changes the feeling in the room.
It has been hard for some students to go into the Den knowing Fee won’t be there. Senior Sarah Harmatuk said she has only gone in one time since coming back. “She knew I was struggling with student teaching and she was always there to encourage me. She also made sure I ate every day, even when I was stressed,” said Sarah. “It’s like losing a parent. She took care of me on campus, along with Gina and Theresa.”
Fee took on that motherly role for a lot of students, two in particular: 2016 graduates Ashley Colón and Keara Sammon. The three first met in 2013 when Ashley and Keara went to The Den for some wings and fries in honor of Super Bowl Sunday, only to find Fee screaming at the TV from behind the register. They talked and laughed the entire game, and after that day, they didn’t stop in the Den without saying hi to Fee. Eventually they grew so close to the point where everyone, including Fee, referred to Ashley and Keara as her daughters.
“There wasn’t a day we were on campus that we didn’t stop and talk to her about anything and everything,” said Keara. “She was our closest friend and always listened when we needed to talk about anything.”
They celebrated birthdays together, knew each other’s problems, Fee even drove down to New York City with Gina and Bernadette Williams to celebrate Ashley’s graduation. Ashley said her graduation party was the last time she saw her healthy and carefree, her favorite memory of Fee.
When Ashley and Keara found out Fee was sick, they figured their schedules out so they could visit her in the hospital. They joked around with each other and questioned Fee about what they were going to do for her upcoming birthday; they were the same as they had always been. The next night, while Ashley was driving home to the city she got the call that Fee had died.
“Fee was just so full of life, so loving, so caring, and so young. During her 39 years, the lives she’s touched and the amount of love Fee had … Many people will wait a lifetime just for a taste of that and not receive it,” said Ashley. “So I’m proud of her 39 years; and I’m proud that for four out of those 39 years keara and I were her Le Moyne daughters. I hope other students had a chance to witness and experience what I was fortunate enough to.”