Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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August 27, 2012

Decades of life captured in very small memoirs

ANDERSON, Ind. — Ernest Hemingway, the story goes, needed just six words to tell a story: "For sale: Baby shoes, never worn." True or not, Papa Hemingway's legend has inspired seniors to distill the wisdom and experience of decades into extremely brief memoirs.

"Faith brings great joy to life," wrote Nilah Youngman, who taught at Anderson University and now lives at Bethany Pointe Health Campus in Anderson. She penned another chestnut reflective of growing up with missionary parents: "Father heard call, moved to Brazil."

Helen Jackson, 95, wrote of her childhood: “Played Red Rover, over and over."

Lorelei Lacy, who still wears a watch engraved with a childhood honor, recalled it in her memoir: “State Fair Winner 4-H Canning 1933.”

It's questionable if Hemingway could have foreseen the popularity of six-word prose. Super-short stories are now the rage, maybe fueled by the terseness of text messages and social media, to the point they've become a literary form of their own.

Penny Stevens, activities director at Bethany Pointe, nudged residents there to use the six-word model, then started collecting their memories with her daughter, Leigh Bivens, an English teacher. Anderson University senior Anna Zylstra is helping gather the stories for a book.

Included will be the autobiography of Maxine Hawkins, 94, who grew up with five siblings in a rural Indiana home that was a spot for community gatherings. Her memoir: “Moved the rugs to have dances.”

Hilda Johnson had plenty of material from years she spent as a piano teacher, as well as the 56 years she was married to her husband, who died seven years ago.

Johnson put it thus: "Before I knew it, I'm 102."

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Details for this story were reported by The Herald Bulletin of Anderson, Ind.

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