SONYA Anne Adams didn't let a diagnosis of breast cancer stop her from living life to the fullest.
She was a founding member of Hope Afloat, a dragon-boat team made up of breast-cancer survivors and rowed with it all over the world, winning medals and glory.
"She has a collection of medals that would weigh down a professional athlete," teammate Nancy Glasgow wrote about her.
Even when her disease made it difficult for her to compete, she would always find a way to support the team, even if it meant cheering from the shore.
Sonya Adams, longtime employee of a Broomall data-processing firm and a woman devoted to the love and care of her extended family, died of the disease Sunday. She was 62 and lived in Havertown.
When she was diagnosed nine years ago, Sonya was not very athletically inclined, although she had studied yoga and tai chi. But she threw herself into the new discipline with the passion and determination she gave to all aspects of her life.
It took a lot of practice and using muscles she probably didn't know she had, but she helped make the Hope Afloat team from Philly a prize-winner.
In fact, Philadelphia Magazine declared it the best sports team in the city in 2005, beating out the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers and everybody else.
Sonya was born in Bryn Mawr to Justin DiGuglielmo and the former Josephine Polvino, natives of the Abruzzi section of Italy. Her father changed his name to Williams when he arrived in this country, and that was the name she always used.
She graduated from Haverford High School and took a job with ICC Service, the data-processing firm. She was there 15 years before she was unable to continue.
One of the highlights of her rowing career was when the team competed in Rome in September 2002. Many cousins still living in the old country came to see the competition.
Hope Afloat won a silver medal in the 250-meter race, and a gold in the 500 meters.
"There was much kissing, dancing and celebrating in Rome and back on the home dock in Philadelphia," Nancy Glasgow wrote.
That was the first year the team had been in the water. A month earlier, Sonya brought home a gold medal from the Liberty Race in New York City.
In the following years, there were more medals. The team competed in races in Mercer Lake, N.J., and lost a heart-breaker at the Philadelphia Dragon Boat Festival in '03, missing first place by a 10th of a second.
In 2004, there was Washington, D.C., again, where the team joined forces with Bustin' Out of Canada to win a silver.
Sonya and her team competed in the first-ever dragon-boat race in Vancouver, British Columbia, that year.
In Welland, Canada, her triplet grandchildren wowed the crowd and saw grandmom's team win a silver medal. In Pittsburgh in 2005, her team raced to promote a breast-cancer-survivors team and helped to establish "Pink City," a breast-cancer-awareness program that is still going strong.
An excellent cook, Sonya took delicious homemade goodies to all team events. She was also in charge of the raffles. "No one can resist buying 50/50 tickets from her adorable grandkids," Nancy wrote.
Dressed in pink, Sonya and other "Hopies" walked the length of the Thanksgiving Day parade in Philadelphia.
Her asset to the team was not confined to paddling. "She always has a kind word for everyone," Nancy wrote. "She is never judgmental or negative. Most of all she is a wonderful, caring, nurturing friend, loved by all.
"So many times when she is with the team she has raised her hands, grinned from ear to ear and declared, 'This is the best!' "
She was married for more than 25 years to Joseph Kenneth Adams, who died in 1990. She is survived by three sons, Joseph Kenneth Jr., Glen Lawrence and Dean Thomas Adams; and nine grandchildren.
Services: Memorial service 1 p.m. Saturday at Robert L. D'Anjolell Memorial Home, 2811 West Chester Pike, Broomall. Friends may call at noon.