Happy Retirement, Nimi!
Sweet. Dictionaries define ‘sweet’ in different ways. Pleasant. Likeable. Kind.
Thoughtful. Generous. Remarkable. Gentle. Outstanding. A dear or beloved person. One thing that can be agreed upon is that each of these definitions captures part of the essence of our beloved Nimi Wani, who will be retiring on June 30th after over 20 years serving as OLA’s Pastor’s Secretary.
Nimi Wanigatunga was born in Sri Lanka. She moved to the United States in 1984 to join her husband, Jehan, in California. Jehan had been working in the US for a year while they waited for Nimi’s paperwork to come through, enabling them to be reunited. Over the years their life’s adventure took them from California to Utah and Colorado before settling here in Georgia. Their family grew to include two beautiful children, Melanie and Jason, who practically grew up in in our parish community – including attending our afterschool program and summer camps!
Melanie and Jason are Nimi’s pride and joy and have grown into extraordinary adults. Melanie has a BS in Psychology from Georgia Tech and a Doctorate in Medicine from Mercer University. She is currently in her residency in Internal Medicine at the Tulane University Medical Center. Jason earned a BBA in Computer Information Systems from Georgia State University and is having the time of his life as Technology Project Manager for Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products in Orlando. It took a long journey for Nimi to find us at OLA, but once she did our parish became her home away from home. In September of 1999 Father Jim McGoldrick, SM, OLA’s former pastor, hired Nimi for a temporary position coordinating a parish financial campaign. The following spring, right before her six month temp position was ready to expire, she moved right into the position of Pastor’s Secretary. She worked for Father McGoldrick until his transfer in 2006 and since then has worked directly for our current pastor, Father Jim Duffy, SM. Among her many responsibilities Nimi coordinated the parish calendar – scheduling 70+ ministries with minimal available meeting space is no easy task! Other duties that she performed – aside from her general administrative assistant duties - included posting donations to our database and updating family records, scheduling visiting priests for Masses and reconciliation services, ordering liturgical supplies (hosts, candles, incense, palms, and more), wedding scheduling and documentation, fielding sick/emergency calls for the Marists, and so much more. In the words of Deacon Terry Biglow, “She kept us all straight including the Pastor which is no small feat.” Those were her official duties, but what she really gave this parish was her love, her compassion, and her kindness. During the pandemic she made a list of seniors and others in our parish and called them on a regular basis to check in. She spearheaded the “Letters of Joy” effort that had families from all over the parish sending letters to parishioners who are 75+ so they remained connected while the world shut down. She
regularly checks in on parishioners who are ill or going through personal struggles – or they call her or come to her office. As her co-worker, Gretchen Heath, points out, “she always has something nice to say about everyone – and to everyone. She always sees the good in everyone.” For those who were lucky enough to work with her, she not only supported us in our work duties, but more i
mportantly she has been a dear friend who is a constant support and source of comfort, joy, and laughter. (Some may be surprised to learn that she also has a wicked sense of humor!)
Nimi always makes time for anyone who walks through her door, calls her on the phone, or runs into her on campus – no matter how busy she is. With Nimi one feels as if there is no one else in the world she would rather be with at that moment. As Father Kevin Duggan, SM, says, “
Nimi will be greatly missed. Her gentle spirit and her welcoming smile have shined on this parish for many years. We wish her the best as she retires.” Father John Ulrich, SM, recently commented on his years of knowing Nimi. “I remember first meeting Nimi when I was stationed at Marist School where she worked many years ago. My first and lasting impression is of her gentleness and her gracious manner. On my return to Atlanta and to OLA I was delighted to learn that she was still working with the Marists. I feel blessed to have the past few months to get reacquainted and I can attest to the fact that she will be sorely missed by the entire OLA community. Blessing in abundance Nimi, enjoy your well deserved retirement.” Perhaps the greatest impact of Nimi’s departure will be felt by Father Jim. She has served as his assistant for 15 years and over those years a strong, deep friendship has grown. He recently told a staff member, “I depend on Nimi for many things. She’s been my right hand. I’m not sure what I am going to do without my ‘Girl Friday’.” Nimi recently told a co-worker, “ I joined OLA on September 22, 1999, and have had the best job in my entire career!” We are happy to know that, Nimi, because you have certainly given the best of you to us. In 2017 Jehan retired from the Hospitality Industry and has been waiting patiently for Nimi to join him in retirement. Now is her time and, although her departure will be a great loss for our OLA family, we wish her the very best in her newest adventure! Nimi, may God continue to bless you and your family and may your retirement be filled with joy. In the words of parishioner Kristen Hall, “OLA won’t be the same without you.” We love you. - Anne Stephens, Communications Director