Sulzer Librarians Remember Deceased Coworker for ‘A Million Little Kindnesses’

By Jordan Graham | Tuesday, August 16, 2011

When Regina Corfman passed away last Tuesday at the age of 50, Sulzer Regional Library, 4455 N. Lincoln Ave., lost a veteran employee and Lincoln Square lost a fixture in the community.

For the past 24 years, local library goers came to expect to see Corfman’s brilliant red hair and ever-present smile, almost as if she were part of the building.

To some, Corfman was part of the experience of a trip to the library, said Sulzer library director Mary Jo Godziela, and patrons with questions would seek her out, knowing the answer they received would be both cheerful and accurate.

“People knew her,” Godziela said. “She was well regarded by both staff and patrons. Many people have told me that they were always happy to come [to Sulzer] because when she would see people she would always greet them with a smile. She worked really hard to serve the public…People get used to seeing us. There is a deep sense of loss here.”

Corfman was raised in Rogers Park, where she continued to live until her death. She attended and graduated from St. Henry’s of Chicago Elementary School, St. Scholastica Academy and Chicago’s Wilbur Wright College (class of 1984). At age 18, she began employment in the Chicago Public Library system as a page. Over the years, Corfman worked her way up to the circulation desk, a position that Goziela called one of the most challenging in the library.

Karen Mondola, a manager of the children’s department at Sulzer, worked with Corfman for 18 years, saw her day in and day out, and said that she would miss the knowledge that Corfman was only a few steps away, ready with a helping hand or a piece of advice.

It was difficult to put the loss into words, Mondola said. After all, how could she begin to describe the infinite details and quirks that comprise a person she had known for near two decades?

Corfman’s dry wit. Her enthusiasm and attention to detail. Her habit of constantly giving small gifts to those around her, finding just the right present for a certain person, listening to her friends and coworkers to learn what made them tick. It was the collection of these traits that Mondola said she would remember and miss most.

“There were just a million little kindnesses that she shared with everybody every day,” Mondola said, “and sometimes those little things just go unnoticed and it’s hard to articulate them, but when a person passes and you think, ‘Oh my god, I’m never going to see this person again,’ you miss them. It’s just like her smile, and the way she would say hello, and the little, little things. They might seem insignificant but they are part of the rhythm of your everyday life and a vital part of the feeling of family and the feeling of camaraderie working together…So it’s a big hole to fill.”

According to coworkers, Corfman was happiest when spending time with her family. Her brother Thomas, her nephews Samuel and Jack, her cousins and her parents brought meaning to her life. In the past, Corfman took care of her elderly mother, Loretto, living with her until her death in August 2009.

On Saturday, following a funeral mass at St. Henry Roman Catholic Church, Reggie was laid to rest next to her mother in Interment Maryhill Cemetery in Niles.

Corfman was found dead in her car behind Sulzer Regional Library last Tuesday, shortly after she was scheduled to begin work. The Office of the Medical Examiner of Cook County said that the preliminary cause of death was hypertensive vascular disease.

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