Meaningful Lives In two months, two extraordinary women have died from my Tuesday night writing group. First was Tina Zubek, a children’s librarian, who was only 60 years old. Tina had just reduced her work hours at the Carnegie library so that she could have more writing time, and the decision paid off. She received recognition twice at our local SCBWI conference for manuscripts with promise. Sadly, she didn’t have time to revise and market these two books. She developed a very rare neurological condition and died five weeks later. Tina had also attended my church, an interracial congregation formed in 1968 and held the co-chair of our council. She pushed tirelessly for issues of hunger and more equal educational opportunity. She did the work of her faith, not just espousing it. She left a husband and 25-year-old son and a reputation in our writing group for being the Roger Ebert (sp) of books. Francesca Compozzi Alvin, 68, a retired Pittsburgh public school teacher, had breast cancer in 1994. After a mastectomy she seemed cancer-free. Francesca joined my Tuesday group at its inception in 2002. She wrote picture books and early middle grade novels. Regrettably, her cancer returned soon after joining, and Francesca and her doctor found one chemo drug after another to keep the cancer from spreading. Her daughter, Sara-Anne, and son-in-law, Justin, had a baby boy, Cash, whom Francesca called her “motivator.” Francesca and her husband, Lou, served every Christmas Day at the Ronald McDonald house. I met her in late 2001 at a Hunger Action Coalition fund-raiser, where she and her first graders were receiving an award. Every week these public school kids brought in canned food to donate. In our group Francesca was seen as our bright light, our sunbeam, bringing pastries or lovely soft scarves for every member. This writing group and my Wednesday night writing group have built a beautiful bond over the years. They offer compliments and suggestions to each member as she reads with a gentleness, but candor. Despite the age range from about 87 down to 35, the group members connect with such respect, admiration, and lack of competition. Clearly, our Tuesday group is in mourning. But I think of these two women, whom I loved. I feel that their lives and contributions were cut short. But I ask myself about the value of a life, any life, and its meaning. Both these women made those around them better people. They exuded the qualities I think represent the best ethics, humility, other-directedness, hard work, acceptance, forgiveness, love, and the common good. R.I.P., dear friends.

In two months, two extraordinary women have died from my Tuesday night writing group.  First was Tina Zubek, a children’s librarian, who was only 60 years old.  Tina had just reduced her work hours at the Carnegie library so that she could have more writing time, and the decision paid off.  She received recognition twice at our local SCBWI conference for manuscripts with promise.  Sadly, she didn’t have time to revise and market these two books.  She developed a very rare neurological condition and died five weeks later.  Tina had also attended my church, an interracial congregation formed in 1968 and held the co-chair of our council.  She pushed tirelessly for issues of hunger and more equal educational opportunity.  She did the work of her faith, not just espousing it.  She left a husband and 25-year-old son and a reputation in our writing group for being the Roger Ebert (sp) of books.

Francesca Compozzi Alvin, 68, a retired Pittsburgh public school teacher, had breast cancer in 1994.  After a mastectomy she seemed cancer-free.  Francesca joined my Tuesday group at its inception in 2002.  She wrote picture books and early middle grade novels.  Regrettably, her cancer returned soon after joining, and Francesca and her doctor found one chemo drug after another to keep the cancer from spreading.  Her daughter, Sara-Anne, and son-in-law, Justin, had a baby boy, Cash, whom Francesca called her “motivator.”   Francesca and her husband, Lou, served every Christmas Day at the Ronald McDonald house.  I met her in late 2001 at a Hunger Action Coalition fund-raiser, where she and her first graders were receiving an award.  Every week these public school kids brought in canned food to donate.  In our group Francesca was seen as our bright light, our sunbeam, bringing pastries or lovely soft scarves for every member.

This writing group and my Wednesday night writing group have built a beautiful bond over the years.  They offer compliments and suggestions to each member as she reads with a gentleness, but candor.  Despite the age range from about 87 down to 35, the group members connect with such respect, admiration, and lack of competition.  Clearly, our Tuesday group is in mourning.

But I think of these two women, whom I loved.  I feel that their lives and contributions were cut short.  But I ask myself about the value of a life, any life, and its meaning.  Both these women made those around them better people.  They exuded the qualities I think represent the best ethics, humility, other-directedness, hard work, acceptance, forgiveness, love, and the common good.  R.I.P., dear friends.

 

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About Sally Hobart Alexander

Blinded at the age of twenty-six, I left California and elementary school teaching for life in Pittsburgh, Pa. There, I met my husband, got a Masters' degree in social work, had two kids, now 35 and 32, and became a writer. Surprisingly, the writing career led me full-circle to teaching, and I teach in Chatham University's M.F.A. program and lead two writing critique groups. Always, since the age of 26, I have traveled, not in the stereotypic darkness attributed to blindness, but a mist. My blog then, "traveling through the mist" will deal with issues in my culturally different life as a blind writer, teacher, speaker, and human being.
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2 Responses to Meaningful Lives In two months, two extraordinary women have died from my Tuesday night writing group. First was Tina Zubek, a children’s librarian, who was only 60 years old. Tina had just reduced her work hours at the Carnegie library so that she could have more writing time, and the decision paid off. She received recognition twice at our local SCBWI conference for manuscripts with promise. Sadly, she didn’t have time to revise and market these two books. She developed a very rare neurological condition and died five weeks later. Tina had also attended my church, an interracial congregation formed in 1968 and held the co-chair of our council. She pushed tirelessly for issues of hunger and more equal educational opportunity. She did the work of her faith, not just espousing it. She left a husband and 25-year-old son and a reputation in our writing group for being the Roger Ebert (sp) of books. Francesca Compozzi Alvin, 68, a retired Pittsburgh public school teacher, had breast cancer in 1994. After a mastectomy she seemed cancer-free. Francesca joined my Tuesday group at its inception in 2002. She wrote picture books and early middle grade novels. Regrettably, her cancer returned soon after joining, and Francesca and her doctor found one chemo drug after another to keep the cancer from spreading. Her daughter, Sara-Anne, and son-in-law, Justin, had a baby boy, Cash, whom Francesca called her “motivator.” Francesca and her husband, Lou, served every Christmas Day at the Ronald McDonald house. I met her in late 2001 at a Hunger Action Coalition fund-raiser, where she and her first graders were receiving an award. Every week these public school kids brought in canned food to donate. In our group Francesca was seen as our bright light, our sunbeam, bringing pastries or lovely soft scarves for every member. This writing group and my Wednesday night writing group have built a beautiful bond over the years. They offer compliments and suggestions to each member as she reads with a gentleness, but candor. Despite the age range from about 87 down to 35, the group members connect with such respect, admiration, and lack of competition. Clearly, our Tuesday group is in mourning. But I think of these two women, whom I loved. I feel that their lives and contributions were cut short. But I ask myself about the value of a life, any life, and its meaning. Both these women made those around them better people. They exuded the qualities I think represent the best ethics, humility, other-directedness, hard work, acceptance, forgiveness, love, and the common good. R.I.P., dear friends.

  1. This is such a beautiful testiment to two great women. From both Tina and Francesca I learned so much and grew greatly as a writer and as a person. All who knew them were truly blessed.

  2. Sally, thank you for sharing your memories and kind words about two of our treasured fellow writers. It was an honor and a blessing to have been in your Tuesday night group with both Tina and Francesca.

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