A personal note to my friend, Alyce Cresap
A dear friend—one I’ve never met face to face but have grown to love and trust—will be leaving us soon, as she is in the final stages of an incurable disease. I do not want to wait and do an obituary for Alyce—I want to tell her how I feel about her now, while she is still able to read my words.
I first met Alyce when we were both involved in starting IOBA. But I really started to get to know her when we both were new board members at Book CoOp. Our friendship has grown through emails and the occasional phone call over all the years since to the point where she is one of the few completely trusted and most loved best-friends that I have.
Alyce is my hero. She has fought overwhelming odds health-wise to remain a good and active bookseller, and she has given unselfishly and very generously of her time— to her family where she has served as historian and put out a newsletter , to IOBA where she is on her second term as a hard-working board member, to Book CoOp in its formative period, to the IOBA newsletter where she has contributed many articles and much good advice to its editor, and to the bookseller community at large, where she’s never too busy to answer newbies or book buyer questions on email lists, and where she also brings us back down to earth occasionally with her droll wit and clear thinking. She also always makes time to listen to and help with personal problems.
Alyce has truly given her all for books; she has been on oxygen for several years thanks to a water leak near her book storage area and the mold that got into her lungs from it. It never stopped her, though. She has found ways to continue selling and cataloging books, promoting ethics and education for booksellers, and leading an active and full life as a mother to twin sons, a friend to many, and a caretaker for various dogs in her life.
All I can finally say is that our world will be much poorer when Alyce is not with us.
I will miss you, Alyce.
P.S. Alyce died on May 8th, in the company of her son, Jeff. The above note to her and that from Julie Fauble were sent to her son to read to her, earlier. We have a great hole in our midst.
To Alyce, from Julie
I’ve procrastinated writing this. Alyce won’t be surprised by this confession.
Alyce knows well this particular foible of mine. In fact, she’s on a first-name basis with several of my foibles, and the great thing about Alyce is that she has never made me feel bad about them. She just patiently and persistently – VERY persistently – pushed me to keep going, finish what I needed to finish, and address what needed to be addressed.
I’m supposed to be writing about all the things Alyce has done for IOBA, but it’s not working. Not that there isn’t plenty of material there. Alyce has been involved since the earliest days, contributing her ideas and energy and time. She’s served on the board and as chair of the Internet Operations committee, and I don’t know how anything could have gotten accomplished without her.
No, the problem is that when I think of Alyce, I don’t first think of IOBA. I think of the dozens and dozens of times when she’s made me fall out of my chair laughing. Alyce has a wonderful, wicked sense of humo(u)r. I’ve been searching through hundreds of e-mails, trying to find an example that would serve, but everything either requires too much context to understand or is a shade too blue. All the best ones are short and subtle, wry observations or the written equivalent of a raised eyebrow.
Another thing about Alyce, she can use that sense of humor to cut through crap better than anybody I’ve ever seen. Specious arguments, weasel words, and lame excuses don’t carry any weight with her. And believe me, I’ve tried my share of lame excuses.
And here’s the main thing about Alyce. Despite all the lame excuses and whining e-mails and complaints, she’s always been gentle with me, whether I deserved it or not. If she ever lost her temper or got irritated with me, she never showed it. She never passed judgment. She just kept gently pushing me to do whatever I needed to do.
For that, I will always be grateful, and for that, I will always call Alyce friend.
H.O. Ethel, you’re the greatest.
Thinking of Alyce
It’s taken me a few days to finally decide to send this post. Like many of you, I have been thinking of Alyce and catching myself getting ready to send an email or give a phone call.
My first meeting in the flesh occurred several years back when she and I were volunteering toward getting the “first printing” of Tomfolio tee shirts distributed. As David, I, too, met a tall thin woman in coveralls, with a long braid. She was already tethered to supplementary oxygen at the time. I met her Dalmatians and was given their approval. Over ensuing years, we discovered mutual interests in chocolate and cheese, in gardening (she was a master gardener) and in sharing observations of the antics of our indoor and outdoor animal friends. I did not realize, until recent weeks, how much I had grown to look forward to her emails and rely on her ever-presence.
As I live about 1.5 hours to the southeast of Germantown, I was lucky to be able to visit Alyce several times in the past few months. Although she was getting very weak, and growing frustrated with the increasing limitations of her body, she was taking it in stride, still retaining her “Alyce-ness”. I admired her strength and bravery. On one visit, she brought me to her kitchen door to look out over her garden and watch the newcomers at the bird feeder. She grumbled about not being able to reach something in the kitchen any more. “I’m short now.” Looking up at her (I am 5’1″), I said “If you are short, than what am I?” She snorted.
A few days before her 70th birthday, at the end of April, we had a nice long telephone chat. At this point, sitting at the computer was too difficult for her. She gave me some input on a beaded lampshade I was completing. We discussed her sons and she reminisced about their birth (they were surprise twins). I updated her on the progress of my tomato seedlings. It was the last real conversation we were to have, and I think we both sensed it.
I saw her again briefly a few days before she died. “I’m dying,” she said. “I know,” I said, as I rubbed her arms a little. She still had that darn twinkle in her eyes. And her long braid.
I like to think that she is still keeping an eye on my garden.
Susan Pav Ravenrooost Books firstname.lastname@example.org
Alyce Cresap – Comments Invited
I’d like to invite each of you who loved Alyce to add comments to this issue of the newsletter. Even though the newsletter will have already gone live, it will be a continuing project that will honor her and allow us to express our feelings for her and our sense of loss.
Just send whatever you’d like to say to me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, and Deanna and I will get it into the newsletter.
I didn’t know Alyce as well as some of you did, but that did not matter as far as she was concerned.
I can’t remember how many times she e-mailed me directly when I had a small problem or felt put-upon for some reason or other.
She was always there to help. When I needed volunteers for Education Committee, and no one came forward, Alyce did. I did not know then how sick she was, but I will always remember her kindness to me, and her willingness to help.
Jean S. McKenna Jean S. McKenna – Books