Category Archives: In Tribute…

In Loving Memory & Tribute To Kathryn C. Treat

 

IN LOVING MEMORY OF KATHRYN CHASTAIN TREAT

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Kathryn C. Treat passed away on Sunday, December 21, 2014 @ 2:20 am (California time).  On Friday, Dec. 19, after having a wonderful time at the Rave Reviews Book Club’s virtual Christmas party, in a virtual chat room with her fellow RRBC VIP Lounge members, Kathryn informed that she was not feeling well and that she was going to leave.  Shortly thereafter, she suffered a hemorrhagic stroke and then lapsed into a coma.

Kathryn was an honorary board member of the Rave Reviews Book Club, where she served as Membership Director from Dec. 2013, until October, 2014.  Kathryn is the author of “ALLERGIC TO LIFE:  MY BATTLE FOR SURVIVAL, COURAGE AND HOPE.”   She inspired and encouraged many with this book so if you have not had the pleasure of reading it, please head to Amazon and get your copy.

Allergic To Life by Kathryn C. Treat

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Kathryn was a dedicated member of RRBC until her passing and she was one of the most supportive members the club had…not just to one, but to all.  Kathryn leaves to mourn her husband, her mother, a sister, her two daughters, a son-in-law and three grand-kids (who she adored more than life), as well as her entire RRBC family.

Let us remember Kathryn and honor her memory by always being kind to one another and by always offering our support to another.  It’s what she did.  It’s how she lived.  It’s who she was.  In honor, many blogs across the world are memorializing Kathryn today with the same post that you see here.   If Kathryn touched your life in anyway, please share your memories and comments below.  As everyone who knew Kathryn may not yet know of her home-going, we ask that you also share this page on all your social media forums.

We have erected a memorial page on the Rave Reviews Book Club site that will remain.  Please stop by to leave your comments and memories of Kathryn as well, so that her family will get a sense of just how loved she was by so many.  There you will also find more information on Kathryn and how RRBC has planned to continually honor her in other ways.

THANK YOU!

 

Everybody Has A Story To Tell

Merrien Josephine Cushman-Vail. It’s not a name most people would easily recognize. She lived not too far from my hometown of Lansing, Michigan, USA. Merrien passed away on July 18, 2013 at the age of 100. That, in itself, ought to be somewhat newsworthy. To reach the century mark is quite an accomplishment. But Merrien’s story went way beyond triple-digit birthdays.

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In any good story there is that jumping-off point, that one big moment that sets the stage for what’s to come. For Merrien Josephine Cushman, that big moment came a few weeks before her 14th birthday way back in 1927. The young girl had achieved such good grades, she didn’t need to attend class on a fateful May day. She offered to walk her 7-year-old brother, Ralph, to school that morning, the way she normally did. But the boy declined his big sister’s gesture, not wanting the other kids to tease him.

Merrien had busied herself picking flowers when she heard the explosion that ended her little brother’s life.

On May 18, 1927, a disgruntled 55-year-old school board treasurer, angry over his defeat in the spring 1926 election for township clerk, rained mayhem upon the tiny community of Bath, Michigan. Andrew Kehoe had spent the better part of a year quietly hiding dynamite and incendiary pyrotol in the basement of the Bath Consolidated School. A timing device ignited the horror that quiet May morning, killing 45 people, 38 of which were children, and injuring 58.
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Merrien wondered afterward what would have happened had she gone to school that day with her little brother.
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In today’s world, such acts of inhumanity seem almost commonplace. Grief counselors are often on call to help children deal with the unimaginable. But way back in 1927, there existed no such occupation as grief counselor. Survivors like Merrien were left to deal with the wounds and scars on their own. But deal with it, Merrien did. She went on to enjoy a full and happy life, marrying Clare Vail and raising a family of five daughters and two sons.

“You just have to make up your mind to get through it, if you want to go on,” she told her children whenever they’d experienced tough times. “There’s no other choice.”
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Her obituary came first, mentioning the fact that she had survived this devastating horror that is well-known in my home state–even after 86 years. The newspaper article appeared a couple of weeks later, when somebody decided it merited mention.

Merrien truly was a survivor, having overcome tragedy and loss, to see her 100th birthday.

I read the obituaries every day, often looking to see if somebody I know has passed. And I read them all, too. Why? Because everybody has a story. You’ll find some extraordinary lives lived in those few final words some family member or friend thought important enough to share with those who still read their local newspaper.
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A hundred years is an awful long time to be present on planet Earth. The advances Merrien Josephine Cushman witnessed would make for amazing stories. But even 7-year-old Ralph had a story to tell. What was he doing just before his life ended? Who were his pals? Did he have a favorite teacher? It seems so unfair to read of one soul making it to a hundred while another soul, a baby, had yet to take those first steps parents are always so eager to record with home video. But nobody can say life is fair. We do the best with what we’re given. Just as Merrien Josephine Cushman-Vail has done.
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If you’d like to learn more about the Bath School bombing, visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bath_School_disaster

A Lost Treasure

I am a garage sale junkie. I spend many summer mornings going through the stuff other people no longer want cluttering up their homes. I search primarily for music CDs. With the advent of digital downloads, MP3 players, and the like, CDs can be had for a dollar each–or less!

I also find books I’ve been meaning to read. Best sellers in near-perfect condition often go for a couple of dollars–compared to fifteen or twenty dollars the booksellers demand.

Every so often I’ll find a gem that maybe didn’t quite make anybody’s best seller list. You know the ones: interesting cover, intriguing blurb on the back, a young author showing promise. This is how I came across a collection of short stories by a writer of whom I’d never heard. I found this book lying in a box with other books designated for sale to benefit a high school girl’s senior trip to a place I no longer recall.

I picked the book from the box, thumbed through its pages, got a feel for style and content. But it was the author’s short bio on the back cover that sealed the deal for me.

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The book is called Downriver, and it’s written by Jeanne M. Leiby. Not a household name, sure, but Miss Leiby grew up in my home state of Michigan. I have a soft spot for Michiganders, be they writers, actors, or musicians. I feel the need to at least give them a chance to show me they’re worth supporting.

After purchasing the short story collection mid-summer 2013, I added it to the growing pile of books sitting in my closet. There it sat for several months, just waiting its turn to dazzle me. That turn finally arrived in early November.

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To say Jeanne M. Leiby’s work pulled me in is an understatement. She writes the way people talk. She adds little quirks to her characters that you would swear you’ve seen in people you’ve personally met. There is a realism in Leiby’s work that makes readers appreciate her efforts.

I instantly became a fan. That she’s a Michigander only made this discovery that much sweeter. I had to know more about this amazing author. Does she have other published works? Has she written any novels? Info in her bio on the reverse of Downriver indicates she graduated from the University of Michigan (a hated school in my part of Michigan). She also received degrees from The Bread Loaf School of English/Middlebury College and the University of Alabama. Her short stories have appeared in publications such as Fiction, New Orleans Review, The Greensboro Review, and Indiana Review, among others.

I went online and dug deeper, learning Jeanne Leiby became a teacher, sharing her talents with students at the University of Central Florida. She won the 2000 Poets and Writers Writer Exchange. She served as fiction editor of Black Warrior Review and Editor-in-Chief of the Florida Review. In 2008, Jeanne took over as editor of The Southern Review at LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Oh, and if that’s not impressive enough, while working as an intern at a publishing house, Jeanne Leiby became responsible for finding and publishing White Oleander by Janet Fitch–which just so happens to be one of my all-time favorite novels.

But then I saw it, there at the tail end of her Wikipedia page. On April 19, 2011, Jeanne M. Leiby was killed in an auto accident in Louisiana. According to police, Miss Leiby was driving a 2007 Saturn convertible with the top down. She was not wearing a seatbelt when she lost control of the vehicle, hitting a guardrail, before being ejected from the car. Doctors at a nearby hospital pronounced her dead on arrival.

That news kicked me in the stomach. I felt cheated. Here is this amazing talent from right down the road, and she’s gone before I get the chance to discover her work. But I also feel cheated by Jeanne M. Leiby herself. Had she exercised a little common sense and worn her seatbelt, she just might still be here today, writing some brilliant prose that would make the rest of us writers jealous.

An amazing talent is gone from our midst, but her work remains with us. Do yourself a favor and invest in a copy of Downriver and see how good a short story can be.