Virginia Dandridge Stevenson

I loved Dandy Stevenson. And I deeply regret never having told her so while she was alive.

Dandy had been my executive assistant for 15 years, before being forced to retire and eventually succumbing to lung cancer this weekend.

But she was far, far more than my executive assistant.

Dandy was my biggest cheerleader. She was more excited than me when Mcgraw-Hill published my first (and only) book in 2003. And she would whoop it up with her North Carolinian shouts whenever I would win some type of recognition from one of the awards programs (or be named to a prestigious board).

But she wasn’t just there in the good times. Dandy would also bend over backwards to prop me up after an evil client had just fired us or a key employee walked out the door. “They’ll find out they made a mistake and come crawling back,” she’d predict. And she was right on more than one occasion.

Dandy not only felt like a member of the Peppercomm family; she felt like a member of the Cody family as well. She would never, ever hesitate to help my 97-year-old dad (who always referred to her as his “passion flower”). Dandy just adored him. For me, it was a don’t ask/don’t tell. And she would help Angie, Chris and Cat in a New York minute as well.

She grieved with me when I lost my mom as well as Mick, the best dog I ever had. And she rejoiced with me when Crain’s New York Business named Peppercomm the single best workplace in New York.

Dandy, along with Sir Clayton Fletcher, Maggie O’Neill, Deb Brown, Jackie Kolek, Ann Barlow and, perhaps, this blogger were instrumental in creating a workplace that Crain’s judges rated the very best among some 933 other NYC businesses. That remains the most important award my firm has won in its 23-year history.

If you stumble across the Crain’s article, you’ll see Dandy’s face smiling back at you. In fact, I can see her smiling back from the screen of my iPhone as I’m writing this.

Three final memories before I let my fellow Peppercommers share a few thoughts:

1.) Dandy took my Repman blog far more seriously than I did. And I cannot tell you how many heated arguments we had debating whether I had once again stepped over the line. I always respected Dandy’s intellect and sensitivities and, almost always, let her carry the day and spike the offending or self-aggrandizing blog.

2.) Dandy prided herself on being the note-taker for our twice-a-month staff meetings. And I must tell you, her reports were as unique as the woman herself. They were equal parts hysterical, insightful and, at times, baffling. But, boy, did Dandy love it when I would send her an e-mail afterwards telling her how beautifully she’d captured the spirit of the meeting.

3.) Dandy was tough as nails and beat the bejesus out of any incompetent, uncaring or abusive customer service representative. I often had to run over to her desk and ask her to lower her voice when she was in the midst of eviscerating some unsuspecting United Airlines ticket agent (I think Dandy hated United even more than me). Dandy feared no man (or woman). But she loved Mr. Coffee, her cat.

And now my colleagues will weigh-in:

“The world truly lost its sparkle yesterday.  Dandy was a light like no other, and the light that helped Peppercomm shine for so many years. She brought her own brand of NY sassiness coupled with southern charm and motherly care to Peppercomm’s offices each and every day.  She cared immensely, laughed wholeheartedly and embraced life in a way that I only hope I can.  The last time I saw Dandy we had a few too many lunchtime sparkling roses toasting memories, gossiping a bit and focusing on a commitment to life well lived.  Dandy told me to always take chances, don’t put things off until tomorrow and don’t ever settle.  The spirit she gave to Peppercomm and the impact she left with me will certainly live on.  I just hope I can pull it all off half as well as she did.”Maggie O’Neill, partner and managing director 

“It could be easy to forget that under Dandy’s impish demeanor lay a razor-sharp wit, one that we would get an occasional glimpse of when she wrote up the ‘minutes’ of our staff meetings. I think it was fair to say that we looked forward to her write-up more than the meetings themselves, much as we love to gather as a team. This wit, in turn, was only outdone by a remarkable level of thoughtfulness and empathy when you were hurting. When my dad was sick and then passed away at the end of last year, she couldn’t have been kinder, even though she was dealing with her own illness at the time. I’ll miss her more than I can say.”Ann Barlow, partner and managing director

“Dandy was truly one-of-a-kind and will be greatly missed.  No matter what you had going on in your life, how busy you were or how stressed you might be, the sight of Dandy would always bring a smile to your face.  Her pink raincoat, her orange shoes, her fluorescent green blouse, she was truly always the bright spot of the day.  I will miss her ripping her glasses off her face to give you the best expression of shock, glee or joy.  She was a physical comedian who did fantastic impressions (a certain gazelle will always be my favorite).  Dandy embodied the true spirit of Peppercomm by not only working hard, but playing harder.  She was more than a colleague, she was family.  Even when her own health was deteriorating, she never failed to ask after your parents, spouse, children or pets.  She will live on in our hearts and we’ll be telling stories of the Danderoo for generations of Peppercommers to come.” Jacqueline Kolek, partner and managing director 

“There are so many beautiful and warm and wonderful things to say about Dandy. But one that I’ll always cherish is how she always genuinely cared so much about others and put others first. I will miss her dearly.”Deborah Brown, partner and managing director 

“I am not sure words will ever be able to capture the woman that Dandy Stevenson was to all of us. A pillar of the Peppercomm family. She cared about us fiercely and loved us individually. A woman who embraced and welcomed me from day one and kept me laughing each subsequent day. She kept us in line when needed but also egged us on and joined in on our fun. I will always remember her helping a few of us prank Steve by filling his closet with plastic ball-pit balls while he was in London so he would return to an unexpected shower when reaching in for a rain jacket. She was the absolute life of the party who lived her best life and it was a honor not only working beside her, but getting to know her. She will be greatly missed, but a piece of her lives on with each of us Peppercommers. We are better for having known her.” – Samantha Bruno, former manager of client relationships 

“She was always the most thoughtful person! No matter what was going on with her, she took the time to ask what’s new in your world. Every time I ever spoke to her, I knew she was really listening. She loved to laugh and I loved to make her laugh, too. R.I.P.”Clayton Fletcher, Comedian 

24 thoughts on “Virginia Dandridge Stevenson

  1. What a terrible loss. Dandy was always so full of life it is hard to imagine a world without her in it. I have so many Dandy memories but the main one will always be her mocking my accent whenever I called.

    I can’t think of many people whose passing would cause such an outpouring of love and affection. I hope that brings some small comfort to her family and friends.

  2. As a childhood neighbor and lifelong friend of Dandy and her family, I was moved by the outpouring of love in this blog. I sent the link to her sister Evie and brother Bill who I’m sure will also be touched by the high esteem in which their sister was held.

  3. Jack and family so sorry for a very Important person in your life.Who I know you loved.I heard about Dandy but never had the privilege to know her.You have my deepest sympathy.on such as a sad time.Love Kaye

  4. Sad, sad news and a very nice tribute to The Danderoo, writer, gatekeeper and Queen Bee at Peppercomm.

    As a remote employee, she was “The Voice of Peppercomm,” a warm and rich mezzo-soprano with a lovely regional intonation. And she was someone who gave you just enough grief to let you know she gave a damn (and sometimes put you in your place when you deserved it).

    I looked forward to Dandy’s recap of the weekly meeting. It was massively more interesting than the real thing–a concise missive delivered rapid fire with wit, wisdom and a dollop of delicious humor. My recall of the salient and irrelevant doubled after each entertaining jab, sideswipe and inside joke. What a writer!

  5. As you said, Steve, a true American original, that Dandy. After I heard the news, I dug up the “Dandaroo Challenge,” in which she worked to publicly demonstrate her ability to turn around a trite inspirational quote in no time to anyone who emailed here the start. Here was mine. “Life is like a tire iron. It’s heavy and intimidating, but if you work with it, instead of against it, you can take care of yourself.”

    She was an inspiration amidst the sometimes crazy pace of agency life not to forget to live, to have fun, and to find friendship (and laughs; lots of laughs) among those you work with.

    Thanks for writing this.

  6. I read the headline to this morning’s RepMan post – – Virginia Dandridge Stevenson – – with anticipation, expecting to learn of a milestone birthday, a work anniversary or well deserved promotion. For so many of us outside the Peppercomm family, Dandy was our trusted point of contact. She was the personification of the firm’s character. Confident. Responsive. Friendly. Great sense of humor. Not many people could live up to the name Dandy. She did. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and her colleagues.

  7. Steve, Ed and all Peppercommers have been blessed to to know, love and be loved by this wonderful person. And while I did not know her, having spoken to her only a few times sharing Tar Heel stories, it was clear that she was special. I have had the privilege of working people who passed too early and created love wherever they went. They are one of a kind people who will live in our hearts and our memories forever. Dandy obviously made Peppercomm a better place and it’s also obvious that her legacy will be live on. What a tribute!

  8. Dandy was magic. Magic in the way she could make a dull day bright, a sad moment less so, a happy occasion totally over-the-top thrilling. Magic in the way she lit up every room she ever entered with her humor, kindness, and signature smile (if you were very lucky, she’d flash that smile, whip her glasses off and make you feel like you were the only person in the world). Magic in way she loved all of us, fiercely. Everything was just a little bit more, a little bit better when Dandy was around. How I wish I could have one more “hi honey” and warm hug. I hope her family sees this beautiful tribute and knows how deeply she was loved. She truly was one in a million and we are all better for having had the privilege of knowing her. I will miss her tremendously.

  9. I have no doubt Dandy knew you loved her. I’m so sorry she is gone from this earth but know she lives on in the special community you built together at Peppercom.

  10. I am so terribly saddened by this news. Dandy was one-of-a-kind and that is what I loved most about her. May she rest peacefully. I know her beautiful spirit will live on in the unforgettable memories she created with us. And, Steve, I know how important she was to you and Ed so I want to say I am so sorry for your loss.

  11. I am so terribly saddened by this news. Dandy was one-of-a-kind and that is what I loved most about her. May she rest peacefully. I know her beautiful spirit will live on in the unforgettable memories she created with us. And, Steve, I know how important she was to you and Ed so I want to say I am so sorry for your loss.

  12. So sorry to hear about Dandy’s passing. She was always so helpful to me as one of your clients. Always made me smile when we spoke on the phone.

  13. I am so sorry to hear this. Dandy was lovely, and so fun. She knew how to make anyone feel welcome and valued. I was always grateful for her help, her support and her spirit. She seemed like she was eternal. Maybe she is. My heart goes out to everyone who will miss her humor, love and strength. I will always remember her fondly.

  14. The world definitely lost a bit of its light. Thanks for sharing his lovely tribute. I’m so sorry to hear this news and am thinking of the Peppercom family.


  15. I remember Dandy being so kind and helpful whenever I tried to steal a moment of your time during my internship. Sending love and virtual hugs.

  16. I’ve had the good fortune to work closely with Peppercomm over the years, which often meant going through Dandy in order to connect with Peppercomm top brass. Early on, it became quite clear how much she _loved_ the entire Peppercomm family and relished her “mother hen” role protecting and nurturing you. So sorry for your loss. Hearing Dandy’s voice when I call in — “You have reached Peppercomm’s conference center” — will have a new resonance.

  17. Sorry for your loss Steve and team. What a very sweet tribute. We should all be so lucky to have such wonderful colleagues/friends/family.

  18. I’m so sad to learn about Dandy’s passing. She was the coolest. Whenever I called in search of Steve Cody, Dandy always took the time to help me. She called me back. What a special soul. I’m grateful to have known her.

    Steve, I’m so sorry for your loss.

    Dandy, RIP.

  19. I’m deeply saddened to read this news. Dandy was a lovely, sassy person, who always treated me like a client. These comments make clear that she leaves behind a rich legacy of kindness, smarts and humor.

  20. What a tribute, Steve! I missed my daily Dandy time from the minute I left Peppercomm and still do. She loved, protected and scolded us like her own and I can only hope that her family reads this tribute – we thank them for sharing her with us. I know about her grandchildren’s antics as she knows those of my children and my pets. She battled heartbreak and illness with grace, courage and her signature humor and wit. There was nothing a Dandy, “Aww, sugar, come here!” and a hug couldn’t ease for me. How I wish she here to give me one. She will be sorely missed. XO

  21. I will always remember Dandy bounding up to me when I arrived for my first interview at Peppercomm in October 2004. During my time there, and in the years afterward, she remained as friendly and as high-spirited as ever whenever I called or emailed. I will always remember her wit, her professionalism, her kindness and, of course, that accent (oh, that accent). This is a tremendous loss.

  22. What a tremendous loss. My sincere condolences to the team. I was lucky enough to work with Dandy for a few years, and yes, they were fun. She gave as much as anybody when it came to crass and sass. I will miss you, Dandy. RIP.

  23. Dandy was just the best. She was one of the kindest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. From attending my surprise 25th birthday party to helping me navigate the streets of NYC at my very first internship at Dateline, Dandy helped me be a better person inside and out. I will miss her very much.

  24. I’m so sad to read this news. I have fond memories of Dandy’s early years at Peppercomm, when I was there. Coincidentally, I recently found a funny little note she had written me when I got married and so I was just thinking of her! She was always entertaining and a kind soul, too. I’m sure heaven just got a whole lot more interesting. My sympathies.