Cynthia Mennie Vrooman died on Monday, Jan. 14 after a two-year battle with colon cancer. She was 70.
Vrooman is survived by her husband of 35 years, Dan, daughters Katie and Piper, and four grandchildren.
Cindy grew up in the Seattle area and graduated from Evergreen High School in 1966. At age 18, she entered the convent as a sister in the teaching order of Notre Dame de Namur in Belmont, and she later received a master’s degree in theology from St. Mary’s University in Moraga. She was a nun until the age of 33 and taught middle school at Catholic schools all over Washington and California.
After her father died, Cindy realized how important family was to her, said her daughter Katie, and how much she wanted her own family.
She met Dan Vrooman in 1981, six months after she left the convent, and they married in 1982.
“The day I met her, I felt like I had known her half my life already,” said Dan. “She was such a sweetheart.”
The Vroomans lived first in Mendocino and moved to the west side in Sonoma in 1988, after Dan was hired to be the first pharmacy manager for the Safeway on West Napa Street. Their daughter Katie (Barr) graduated from Sonoma Valley High School in 2001 and now lives in Santa Rosa; their younger daughter Piper graduated from SVHS in 2004 and currently lives in Sonoma.
While raising their girls, Cindy stayed involved in teaching, commuting to Dominican University in San Rafael to teach speech and rhetoric, and coaching students for oral language fairs at Sonoma schools.
“Teaching was a rich experience for her and she loved students,” said Katie. “She would advise them to talk about something close to their heart.”
But Cindy was best known in town for her dedication to feeding the hungry and housing Sonoma’s homeless.
She was recruited to assist the local homeless-services nonprofit, Sonoma Overnight Support (SOS), in 2003 by the late Elizabeth Kemp, cofounder of the Brown Baggers homeless-meals program and SOS.
“You just couldn’t say no to Elizabeth,” laughed Dan. “And with Cindy’s background of being a nun, she was a social activist and always lived the gospel message.”
Cindy worked at SOS’s shelter, the Haven, as well as its winter shelter and helped with its day services.
She was named president of the SOS board in 2013, and guided the nonprofit through two strategic plans, an expansion of the free meals program and stabilized SOS’s funding.
“Cindy worked tirelessly on so many SOS projects and programs,” said Sonoma Overnight Support Executive Director Kathy King.
“Cindy was a fearless leader with a heart. I admired her faith in the human spirit and her unwavering dedication to the homeless.”
In the Vroomans’ early years in Sonoma, Cindy worked part time for St. Leo’s Church where she served as the director of religious education. In 2007, she and Dan founded the Emmaus Community, which meets twice monthly in St. Patrick’s Church in Kenwood.
“We founded Emmaus after a road trip to the East Coast to meet the Catholic Church’s first female priest, Mary Ramerman,” said Dan. “We felt there were so many gifted female liturgists whose voices weren’t being heard. It has been a wonderful community for us.”