Ellen, my mother-in-law, died on Monday. She was 85 years old, in her comfortable home, and surrounded by her children when God took her away. She was a wonderful woman, always kind and loving to me and a grandmother extraordinaire to my son.
As I thought about her last night, I decided to google her name to see if other newspapers had posted her death notice. I was surprised to come upon an article in Google News from the Berkeley Gazette, dated September 11, 1944, that tells of Ellen’s betrothal announcement to her sorority sisters.
After reading this article, I feel compelled to write a story about her — possibly a “true-life novel” like Half Broke Horses. Ellen, the young heroine with the bright red hair who experiences life as an orphan; who becomes the daughter of a chaplain, the wife of a military man, and the mother of four; and who finishes well her earthly journey. It will be a true-life story with my imagination working to fill in the gaps and rework incidents that should remain private.
Most of the details mentioned in the news article were already known to me, but reading them in their original setting got me thinking about her story: Sorority girl. Berkeley in the 1940’s. A singer. Engaged to an older, Navy man. And then there’s that detail — the candy box — which threw itself at me for a working title.
Ellen was just about to embark on her new life with Dave in 1944. That was 36 years before I came into her life, a meeting that would help me become the person I am today.
Dear Ellen is now living in Heaven, reunited with Dave. I hope I can write a story one day that will honor her. I’m definitely going to try.