Writing a newspaper column is about discovering lives.
From 2007 to 2011, I had that opportunity as the author of “Morris People,” a weekly column for the Daily Record of Parsippany, NJ.
I write fiction now, mysteries mostly. Check me out on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The lives that these columns represent are reflected in my fiction. It is a reminder of the close world we inhabit.
Here are a few more people who made a difference.
Arlene Dempsey had a full life, so full it was nearly impossible to find a starting point for the column.
So I listened to the tape again, and found this:
“Arlene Dempsey pronounces Boonton with an “n.”
In a world in which language is shrinking to mere letters in text messages on cell phones, Dempsey pronounces the name of her hometown with all its full, rich sound.
She was a descendant of one of the founding families of Boonton, the Peers, and spend her life recording the people and events of her town.
“They say they were poor farmers, but they owned half of Boonton.”
Xiomara Guevara took over The Organization of Hispanic Affairs after a time of chaos that nearly shut the agency that began in the 1970s in Dover. The agency provides education, transportation and social services.
“The buying power of Hispanics is $400 billion nationally, and we represent 32 percent of the purchasing power in New Jersey.
We tell people to get educated to show you are, to show the reasons you are here and to say there’s nothing anyone can take away from you.”
Ed Daniels was gentle man.
He was a teacher and theater actor, director and producer for 40 years in Dover.
“We had many kids with needs, from one-parent homes, divorced families. The teacher ends up playing different roles. When students came to school you were their hope for the future.”
Former students reminded him why he was a teacher, he said.
“Students come up to me and say, ‘Remember me, Mr. Daniels? They say I was a wild kid but now I’ve got a baby and a job.’”
Deborah Sweet of Jefferson knew about darkness.
For 22 years she lived with bipolar disorder.
Then her niece, also weighed down by the disorder, killed herself. “Beautiful, talented, troubled Katie.”
So Deborah Sweet joined “Out of Darkness Overnight” an overnight walk to raise funds for suicide prevention.
“There are tears in the absence, a sob in a moment of doubt that maybe trying one more thing might have changed the outcome, a rip in the voice that Sweet says that the 20-mile walk is how the family builds Katie’s legacy, a way to say she will never be forgotten.”
Sue Berns told her story in 2009.
It could be told today.
A single mother of two small children., a breast-cancer survivor, Bern in 2009 found herself unemployed and living in her parents’ home.
A corporate merger of two law firms cost Bern her job of five years, and in the middle of the 2009-08 U.S. financial crash, she also lost two part-time jobs.
“The door opened, I fell though. I don’t even remember walking out of that room.”
I wrote: “Meet Morris County’s newest wave of jobless workers. Professional skills, pleasant, suburban homes, long, solid working careers, smart kids doing smart kid things, dreams of happy futures.”
As if she is looking in a mirror, Sue Berns sees a picture of the life she dreamed of and hopes to pass to her children, and the picture of the life she is living. The pictures are not the same.”
Stephanie Vose was 17 and the valedictorian of her 2007 Dover High School class.
“I worked hard for our years and studied,” she said.
She said high school helped her mature, prepare for her future.
“I learned that I want to live comfortably, to make an impact in some way. I learned to set goals for myself and work hard to reach those goals.”
“When she walks from her seat to the podium, the tassel on her graduation cap swaying slightly to one side, Vose will be more than a top student preparing to summarize, cajole and praise. She will be the smile on her father’s face, the tear in her mother’s eye, the grin on an older sister’s face, the wrinkle on a younger brother’s nose.”