The Firefighter Christopher Santora Educational Scholarship Fund Website

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2012 Guardian Angel Awards

Posted on June 8th, 2012   

Guardian Angels are special beings that watch over you. They ensure that everything is right. Each year we honor people who have supported our organization in a special way and have helped us continue our mission of giving students that hope that they can fulfill their dreams.

This year we are honoring 3 special women who we have wanted to honor for a long time. Each year they have refused. We told them that this was the year. So it is with great pleasure that we honor our special friends and extended family members Illona Ahlgren, Alice Lee and Sheila Morris.

All have been life time friends. They have been in our lives for our entire married life. They have been in Maureen’s life longer than that. Illona is Maureen’s “oldest friend.” She is actually younger by a few weeks but the two have been friends for close to 60 years. Both Sheila and Alice have been friends for 45 years. What a gift to have friends for so long.

When we began this scholarship 11 years ago, they joined our mission. For those who attend the dinner dance each year they are the sellers of our Christopher shirts etc. Alice’s husband is also involved at the entrance. They are family. They were with us to mourn and cry and go to the site to witness the horror. They were in our corner for every injustice that we went through. They have supported us for our entire married lives and have been with us on this journey as we heal from the loss of our dear son. They offered no special words of wisdom but instead gave us hugs when we needed them most. We could not imagine this dinner dance without their involvement. We will never be able to thank them enough for all they have done and continue to do to make sure we succeed.

All three were educators. They are now retired. They see what we see that we must teach the lessons of 9/11 to new generations. We love them all. We are proud to call them our dear friends and extended family members. We are so very happy to bestow this small gesture of gratitude on these 3 remarkable women who have changed our lives in such a significant way. Congratulations dear friends on your well deserved honor. Don’t be angry that we honor you. We could do nothing else but tell all how very special and wonderful you are and how you made our very difficult journey much easier with you love and support.


Illona Ahlgren

Illona Ahlgren

Illona has been our friend for close to 40 years. She is Maureen’s oldest friend. They have been friends since they were 9 years old. She is a retired educator for 25+ years. There are so many things that make her special. She is reliable, dependable, kind, helpful and has a sixth sense when it comes to knowing what friends need. Through out our lives together we have laughed, cried. hugged, talked for hours on end. Because we have been friends for such a long time we have few secrets from each other. Illona is a planner and has a wealth of information to share about so many things. She is humble in this knowledge.

We love her for so many reasons. When September 11th occurred, Illona called. She was with us from the beginning. Each year at our dinner dance she seemed to know what needed to be done. She manned the table of items to be sold. We never asked her. She knew that we needed her so she took care of this for us. No matter what our future might be, Illona will be a part of it. We are so very delighted to honor her this year. She has helped us in so many ways. Our dinner dance would not be the same without her help. Thank you Illona for everything you have done and continue to do to be successful. Congratulations on being one of our 2012 Guardian Angels.


Sheila Morris

Sheila and Maureen began teaching together in 1967. They were both 3rd grade teachers. Sheila has been in Maureen’s life since that time. She officially became part of the Santora family when she held Jennifer who was 3 weeks old and drove with Al to take Maureen to the train station so that she could finish her last class to achieve her 30 credits above the Masters Degree for the Dept. of Education. Sheila was a professional dancer and each year she would announce that this was her last year of teaching. Maureen would laugh and as fate would have it Sheila taught for close to 40 years. Sheila is a perfectionist. Her attention to detail is far superior to everyone in her adopted family. That is what makes her so very special. For the past 11 years Sheila has been our voice when it comes to making sure that things are done correctly. We love her for this skill although sometimes she makes us crazy.

On September 11, 2001, Sheila was the first person to contact us. She came over and stayed with us and helped us in our darkest days. She has attended every anniversary. Our children call her Aunt. We are so very grateful for her love and support.

When we began our scholarship, Sheila was with us. She and Alice and Illona took care of the items to be sold. We never asked. All three just knew we needed the help so they helped. Sheila has helped us through out our lives. We are so blessed to have her in our corner. We love her and are so delighted to finally be able to tell everyone how very special she is. We do not think we could have survived this terrible event without our dear friends. Thank you Sheila for all that you have done and all that you continue to do for us as we honor our dear son Christopher. We are so pleased to award to you our 2012 Guardian Angel Award.

Sheila Morris and Alice Lee


Alice Lee

Alice and her husband Bob have helped us for the past 11 years. Bob was our auditor until last year when he “retired” from the job. Alice and Bob are part of our “family.” Maureen first met Alice in 1967 when she began teaching. Alice and Maureen did many things together: team teaching in French, worked on students behavior, checked lice and became the “experts” in the school. Alice was a 2nd grade teacher when Maureen was a 3rd grade teacher. Alice was a 1st grade teacher when Maureen was a kindergarten teacher. When September 11th happened. Alice and Bob were at our side. They made food and came over and we went to Ground Zero together for the first time after the event. Our children were friends and still are. We did many things together as families. We often were “partners in crime” as they say.

When we began to organize our scholarship both Alice and Bob were involved. Without their help and advise we probably would not have had continued these past 11 years. They were our support team.

Each year at the dinner dance Bob and Al would collect the tickets and count the money and make sure that all was correct. Alice would set up the shirts and hats and books and any other thing we might be selling and mann the table. She and Bob did this with love in their hearts. We really do not think that we could have accomplished this without their help.

Several years ago we honored Bob much to his chagrin. Now it is Alice’s turn to be honored. She has refused for a long time. Thank you Alice for giving us strength. Thank you for helping us with our scholarship. Thank you for always knowing what to do without our asking. We love you and fell so honored to have you in our lives. Congratulations on being one of our 2012 Guardian Angels.

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