By Lisa Hughes

CONCORD (CBS) – To learn that a pedestrian had been hit and killed in Concord last week was devastating enough. But within hours of the crash, which is still under investigation, the staff at Spaulding Rehab Hospital learned that the victim was a former patient and champion of the hospital whose philanthropy funded an institute at Spaulding.

Sixty-seven-year-old Jennifer “Jamie” Bemis was on Spaulding’s President’s Council and a member of its development committee. Her determination to regain her strength after a stroke in 2011 made her a powerful advocate for others seeking greater mobility and good quality of life.

Jennifer “Jamie” Bemis was hit and killed in Concord while out for her morning walk. (Courtesy photo)

WBZ-TV’s Lisa Hughes spoke with Spaulding Hospital President David Storto about Jamie Bemis’ contributions and her friendship. Bemis and Storto met walking their dogs in Concord before she was a patient at Spaulding. He and the rest of the staff marveled at her energy and enthusiasm.

“She was at every event,” Storto explained. “Always willing to help in whatever way she could — large or small — and it’s because she really believed in what we did and was really passionate about the mission of the organization.”

For much of her life, Bemis was an athlete. After the stroke, she was determined to lead an active life. Her participation in Spaulding’s adaptive sports programs made that possible. She told Storto that one of the “ah-ha moments” in her rehabilitation was her first experience back on a bicycle. She experienced what so many patients have learned: regaining mobility leads to a better quality of life. Bemis became so committed to the value of adaptive sports that she funded the Kelley Adaptive Sports Research Institute at Spaulding Rehabilitation Network.

Bemis had a big personality. But she didn’t command attention. Instead, Storto recalled, she was the kind of person who was curious about others — who wanted to learn their story and support their growth.

“She was such, some people would say, a force of nature. It’s hard to imagine what it’s going to be like not having to have her be a part of everything she would have been a part of here. Her memory will live on, and we will always be grateful for all she has meant to Spaulding and to so many of the staff and so many of the patients. But we will miss her.”

Bemis was a married mother of two and a proud grandmother. Storto said she valued her time with her daughter’s son, “Baby John,” and looked forward to meeting her new granddaughter Pepper who was born in Oregon. A tragedy of the pandemic, he said, is that Bemis was planning to travel to Oregon to meet Pepper next month.

“The people closest to her are just devastated. It still feels not real,” he said.

Bemis was on her morning walk in Concord when she was hit and killed by a 91-year-old driver who is not facing any charges. While Storto and the rest of the Spaulding staff struggle with their grief, he said they are already thinking of ways to pay tribute to a true friend who will always be with them in spirit.

“People want to make sure that we are celebrating her life and all that she gave to Spaulding in a very meaningful way,” he said.

Lisa Hughes