Academic journal article Flannery O'Connor Review

A Tribute to Patricia Smith Yaeger

Academic journal article Flannery O'Connor Review

A Tribute to Patricia Smith Yaeger

Article excerpt

Patricia Smith Yaeger died Friday, 25 July 2014, at home with her family after losing a year-long battle with ovarian cancer. In our Flannery O'Connor scholarly subset of Patsy's larger scholarly world, she helped us to think and re-think O'Connor's place in the literary landscape. For many of us, months later, her absence is still a real presence.

Although I knew the reputation and the name before I met the person, I could not have been more surprised at how fond I became of the in-the-flesh person. We met in the summer of 2002 at Sandbjerg Manor in Denmark, where she was one of several keynote speakers at the O'Connor Conference on "Faith, Fiction, Fact." Over the following dozen years of our friendship, we visited hundreds of times on e-mail and maybe five times in person, and . . . never at an academic conference.

Instead, we went to visit the actual bus upon which Rosa Parks made her historical "sit" when it was purchased and placed in-the-ready for museum goers of the Henry Ford Museum. We took the Ford Rouge Tour and followed an automobile along the assembly line. On a particularly cold day in December, we walked the grounds of Greenfield Village, exploring the various places that displayed the working life of Thomas Edison and others, whose work changed the way we live in America. We went to Hitsville USA, the Motown Museum on West Grand in Detroit, to see where so many singers got their start. We stood in front of the very set of microphones where long ago the Suprêmes belted out one hit after another. The tour guide played the background music and let us pretend we weren't who we were, but, just for the moment, the Suprêmes. Patsy could instantly get in the groove; I could not. We visited the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, and since there was some leftover time, we took in the Fells Point Maritime Museum, and then we jumped into a taxi to make our way to a home of Edgar Allan Poe, arriving too late in the day to go inside. Later in the evening, we took a ghost tour of the Admiral Fell Inn.

On still another occasion, we took the factory tour of Jiffy in Chelsea, Michigan, home of the company that produces a 91 percent share of the corn muffin mix market. Then we went across the street to visit another kind of museum/factory (Chelsea Teddy Bear Company), one that represents a kind of post-manufacturing place. Here, on the walls, we saw large photographs of Asian women in hairnets and smocks making stuffed animals. On the shelves in front of us, we saw stuffed animals that hadn't made the first cut; these were "seconds" or "irregulars. …

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