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Sharing the gift of storytelling

Local authors reminisce at reception in their honor

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May 3rd, 2017
Ashby Ponds community member and author/editor Glen Heidbreder addresses the crowd at the recent authors reception sponsored by the library committee.

Ashby Ponds community member and author/editor Glen Heidbreder addresses the crowd at the recent authors reception sponsored by the library committee.

Novelist J.D. Salinger once remarked, “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.” 

While that may have been true for Salinger, it is not the case for community members at Ashby Ponds, an Erickson Living community in Ashburn, Va. The more than 38 published authors living on campus, each of whom donated their works to the community’s library, enjoy numerous friendships with their many loyal readers. They really are able to pick up the phone and call whenever they feel like it.

Recently, the Ashby Ponds library committee hosted a reception to honor the many authors living at Ashby Ponds. 

“We are so thankful to our community’s authors for filling our library with their works,” says library committee member and former Fairfax County Public School librarian Lyn Knapp. “This reception is a wonderful opportunity for the authors to talk about their books and why they were written.”

Time to celebrate

As guests enjoyed light refreshments, the Ashby Ponds authors were given the gift of a purple boutonniere to identify them as honorees. They were then called on, one at a time, to speak about their writings.

Helen Goldie, author of Nell of Whitemoss and LIFE, God’s Plan—the Wonder of It All, spoke to the crowd about what compelled her to write her two very different books.

“I wrote Nell of Whitemoss two years ago in honor of my mother,” she says. “It is the story of how she left Scotland at a young age, moved to Canada, and eventually came to the U.S. My second book is my story. God has blessed my husband and me so much, I just had to write it.”

John Hedley, author of Harry S. Truman: The “Little” Man From Missouri, admits that his age has provided him new perspective on the former president.

“I believe an advantage of our age group is our historical perspective,” he says. “I began researching for this book in graduate school, and at the time understood Truman to be quite the controversial figure. As time goes on, this is less the case as nostalgia has elevated his stature.”

Motivating factors

Many of the Ashby Ponds authors spoke to the fact that their desire to write is directly linked to their wish to pen memoires for their children and grandchildren.

“I wrote As I Remember It for my children and their children,” says Rudolph Kimiecik. “It was a real nostalgia trip to write, and I’m happy to give them a look at the person I was before they knew me.”

Ron Kutscher also wrote his memoirs, A Life Lived Well: Review and Introspection, for his family. 

“My early life was so different from the life I live now,” he says. “I incorporated the letters I wrote and sent to my mom as I traveled around the world. I think they provide great insight into that part of my life.”

Historical insight

Letters were also the contributing factor to Barbara Petree’s book, David & Rebecca: Their Lives and Letters.

“After my mom died, I was cleaning out her house and found a shopping bag full of letters,” she says. “Fifty-five of those letters were written by my ancestors during the Civil War. I never knew they existed.”

Barbara’s book tells the story of her relative David, who, at the age of 30, fell at the Battle of Chickamauga, where he lay for four days before he was discovered. He lost both his legs but went on to live a wonderful life raising nine children. 

“The discovery of the letters and the writing of this book is a gift that keeps on giving. I continue to learn about my family’s history and their stories,” she says, explaining that people, often relatives with their own stories, contact her after reading the book.

Ashby Ponds authors Richard Graff and Yoska LeMair wrote books about their experiences during World War II. 

Drafted into the Army in 1944, Richard shares the story of his time in the 104th Infantry Division, also known as the Timberwolves. 

“I spent 195 days in continuous combat as the Timberwolves fought their way through Belgium and western Germany,” he says. 

In addition to writing his book, Richard shares his stories and the lessons of World War II with local middle school students.

In her book A Time Remembered, Yoska, born of Dutch parents in Indonesia, writes about her childhood and the three and a half years she spent interned in a Japanese camp.

“It’s about my lovely childhood until it became not so lovely,” she says. 

Funny bones

Other Ashby Ponds authors chose to entertain their readers with their gift for comedic writing.

“I thank my Ashby Ponds neighbors for the encouragement to write my first book,” says Joan Maurer, author of The Broken Down Mind of Joan Maurer.  

Joan, a member of the Ashby Ponds Songbirds, performs a humorous monologue or poem at each musical performance. 

“They were all so well received, I decided to write them down,” she says of how she ended up writing Broken Down Mind

New beginnings

All of the authors’ books are included in the Ashby Ponds library, run exclusively by the library committee. Each book is clearly marked as a resident author’s publication with a blue sticker on the spine. 

The library is also home to a large collection of current fiction titles in hardback, paperback, and large print. It contains more than 100 magazine titles, as well as a collection of popular DVDs and CDs.

“I am certain there are more authors living at Ashby Ponds,” says Lyn. “We encourage them to visit the library and introduce themselves.”

And it is highly likely that, thanks to the inspiration provided by the authors reception, more Ashby Ponds writers will emerge in the future.

The day following the reception, Ashby Ponds hosted its first meeting of the writers group in more than a year.

“Wouldn’t it be great if, by hearing from all these authors, more of our neighbors would be inspired to write,” says Lyn. “Our authors show us that we all have something unique to share.”

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