Fulfilling an 83-year dream Sunrise Assisted Living resident writes first book

Publish Date:

Sunday, December 2, 2007

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News Organization:

The Daily Record

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WOOSTER -- Not just anyone can say she published her first book after age 80.

But Barbara Gordon can.

The 83-year-old resident of Sunrise Assisted Living plans to hold a book-signing Dec. 11 to celebrate the release of "Jesus and Me."

The book is something she's wanted to do her entire life, she said. It took a local associate professor, Shirley A. Huston-Findley, to bring that dream to fruition. Huston-Findley vowed to spend one day a week with Gordon to get the book typed, edited and published.

"I've done most everything a little bit late," Gordon said, noting the book was no different.

For example, she didn't sing her first choir solo until she was 35, and she'd had no vocal lessons prior to that, she said.

She wanted to be a writer, so she took a writing course by mail. She went on to become a newspaper correspondent for about 10 years, writing mostly human interest features.

In the book, she tells about her journey through life and what it means to her to have a life in Christ.

"The reason I wanted to write so much is my home life was unstable," Gordon said. "I felt I had something to say to youth and adults about a victorious life with Christ."

She credits her faith in God with being what held her up during those years. Currently, she attends Grace Brethren Church.

"I've had struggles. I've had victory and I want other people to (share) it," Gordon said.

To her neighbors at Sunrise and to others, she says age should be an attitude, not a number.

"We can all say we're young at heart," she said.

She appears to take her own advice -- she takes a smile with her wherever she goes and shares it with whomever she meets.

"I've always been the life of the party," Gordon said.

When she was in her 40s, she wasn't sure she wanted to grow old. But now that she's a grandmother -- actually, a great-grandmother -- "I think it's the most wonderful thing in the world," she said.

She has 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

"I'm very happy to be alive. Everybody could be if they only thought right and knew their Savior," she said.

She talks extensively about her husband, Jack, and the experiences they shared together. They started dating as teenagers, married at ages 19 and 20, and survived World War II shortages. They relocated to Wooster in 1948 so he could work at Rubbermaid while attending classes.

"Jack loved people. (When he left to serve overseas), he said, 'Barb, I don't believe I'll be able to kill anybody,'" Gordon recalled.

In the book she also tells of the "many nice people" she has met while living at Sunrise and how they persevered against all odds.

"I always felt like I was meant to be here, like I was filling a ministry for God," she said of Sunrise.

Telling that story was "a pleasure," Gordon said.

"It seemed to come to me. I really didn't write it. He (God) wrote it," she said.

Writing the book was easier than getting the book published, she noted.

However, "I felt it was meant to be," she said.

Huston-Findley said she connected with Gordon through a "reminiscences" group at Sunrise, where Huston-Findley had been working with residents on story-telling strategies. The two became almost-instant friends. They still share lunch once a week, Huston-Findley noted.

"She was very excited about story-telling," Huston-Findley said of Gordon.

To honor Gordon's 80th birthday, Huston-Findley gave her a framed certificate promising to spend one day a week helping Gordon to organize her stories into a book. It took at least a year. But Huston-Findley said that was the extent of her assistance -- Gordon found her own publisher.

"She had this drive to tell her story, and by golly she did," Huston-Findley said.

The result is a very sincere, personal tale, she said.

"(Huston-Findley) said, 'If you want to write, write,'" Gordon recalled.

Everyone should have a goal, Gordon said.

"Too many people don't have a goal. I don't think I would have been as happy if I hadn't had that purpose," she said. "It's an answer to a dream. It is a dream. Everybody should have a dream."

In addition to Huston-Findley, Gordon expresses gratitude to her children, who also helped her with the book. One son designed the cover, which features photos of Gordon from throughout her life. The other son helped with grammar. And her daughter helped manage Gordon's financial matters during a recent hospital stay.

The book-signing will be Dec. 11 from 3-4 p.m. at Sunrise Assisted Living, Cleveland Road, Wooster. Refreshments will be available.

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