Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Grand Dame

The Greatest Generation as Tom Brokaw called it produced some very remarkable women. They were born to the seclusion of home and family. However, during World War II they were pushed into the factories, foundries, railroads and orchards to do the jobs the G.I.’s left behind. When the war was over and the men came home there was an expectation that their cultural icon Rosie the Riveter would be retired, and they would be banished to their kitchen leaving the work-a-day world to the men once again.

I knew a woman who said, "Bite me!" or the equivalent of the day. She stayed out in the world and became a newspaper woman, a real estate woman, a political activist and a delegate to the 1960 Democratic Convention that nominated John F. Kennedy.

I used to enjoy talking politics with her - her stunning red hair flashing in the light, green gold eyes focused on a point somewhere over my right shoulder. Suddenly she would shout, "Good! We have it now, let’s go write to that idiot in the White House." Off we would go to write to the idiot in the White House, whatever idiot that might be.

She wrote thousands of letters, hundreds of editorials always speaking truth to power - local, national or international. She once wrote to Tony Blair telling him if he didn’t want to go the way of Colin Powell with his reputation in tatters he had better keep clear of George W. Bush and the turds in his administration. She got a charming letter back thanking her for her concern. She was right about that association you know. She was always right.

Her name was Fern Beryl Cook, and she died on July 14, 2010. There was no funeral or service. Fern hated empty rituals almost as much as she hated religion, particularly organized religion. She believed in the Almighty whom she perceived through her own eyes with her own special vision. No damned cheerleader reading from an old morality play was going to tell her differently. That’s a quote.

Fern was my aunt. I didn’t know her as well as I would have liked, but I am proud of her, proud that she was my aunt, proud of what she taught me and proud of what she and women like her did in this world.

I don’t know how many Grand Dames like my Aunt Fern are left, certainly none of my acquaintance. I suspect most of them have slipped into the heaven of their understanding past a society they neither recognized nor respected. The world is not liable to see their like again and is not a better place for it.

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