By Christopher Harper
I never really understood why my father turned first to the obituary page in his later years.
Now I get it.
I have seen many friends die in the past few months, including four remarkable women who played significant roles in my youth. It’s worth noting that none died from COVID-19. Although I don’t have any proof, it’s conceivable that they couldn’t get the proper treatments because so much of the medical community focused on the pandemic and not other illnesses.
Lynn Langway served as my teacher at Northwestern University and helped me get a job at Newsweek. She worked Newsweek for more than a decade, rising to the level of senior editor. Later, she became executive editor of Ladies’ Home Journal. Although we kept in touch over the years, we parted company over the 2016 election. I’m sorry that politics stood between us upon her death. https://www.linkedin.com/in/lynnlangway/
Ann Bartsch, the wife of the best man at my wedding, was among the most intelligent people I’ve ever met. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University—an honor I also held from a far less competitive university. Ann attended law school at the University of Chicago, where he met Doug Blomgren, my roommate in Chicago.
Ann worked mainly with low-income and elderly clients in Oregon, her home and where Doug also practiced law. She served as the chair of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Legal Services for the Poor. See her obituary here.
I wrote about two others who died recently in my 2011 book, Flyover Country, which chronicled the lives of my high school class, which graduated in 1969 from Lincoln High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Barbara Sidlo Hughes was my first girlfriend. We dated in our sophomore year, but she tired of my endless weekends on the road with my rock ‘n’ roll band.
Upon graduation from Drake University, Barbara became a flight attendant for TWA, where she met her husband, Don. Eventually, the couple and their children moved to California, where she cared for her daughter, whose health issues kept her in a wheelchair much of the time. When her daughter was able to attend college, Barbara started teaching elementary school, where she helped students—many the sons and daughters of immigrants–for more than 20 years. See her obituary here.
Mary Hrdy Kaczmarek was my second girlfriend. We dated in our senior year and later at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. We broke up after two years—a parting that angered Mary for many years. Alas, that divide never narrowed, and I blame myself that we never reconciled.
She met her husband Norman, a physician, in Danville, Pennsylvania, which ironically is about a 30-minute drive from where I now live.
Mary first worked as a medical social worker, then helped establish and manage her husband’s medical practice in Santa Fe, New Mexico. See her obituary here.
All of these talented women are gone far too soon!