Sunday, December 17, 2006

Fran Mancuso and John Burrows

Fran and Steve
I've known Steve Jonas since 1969 when we both taught at Roosevelt Junior High School in Syracuse. He continued on as a teacher and school administrator in Syracuse and Fulton until he retired several years ago. He and Fran Mancuso lived briefly in Saranac Lake, and upon her retirement, they moved to Sciacca, Sicily. Janne and I last saw them in 2004 during our usual summer stay in the Adirondack Mountains near Tupper Lake (where Fran taught high school Spanish for many years). Early today, Steve sent email to tell us that Fran died on Tuesday following hospitalization for acute leukemia. It all happened very fast. We'll miss her and will do our best to stay in close touch with Steve. Fran kept a wonderful blog about their life in Sicily (Sicilianmama). Her incredible photos posted on Flickr are accessible at Sicilianmama.

John Burrows Sailing Into the Sunset

I've just heard about the loss of another old friend, John Burrows, who was my colleague at Tougaloo College from when I joined the faculty there until John and Suzie (and son Joey) moved to Miami in 1981, where they lived for a time on a wooden houseboat. John took a job running the Writing Center at Florida International University. We had been out of touch with them in recent years, though we've always exchanged Christmas cards. It was in this year's card that Suzie told us John had died of cancer in October. Earlier this year, his brother Jim had also died of cancer. John was a great friend and fellow poet. He, along with our colleague John Monro, introduced me to the discipline of composition--still in its infancy in the late 70's. We attended CCCC conventions together and talked for hours about the teaching of writing. He had worked with Mina Shaughnessy when he was doing his grad work at the City University of New York. John was a New Yorker, grew up on Long Island. He loved sailing, Ireland, and W.B. Yeats (on whom he wrote his master's thesis--the "Crazy Jane" poems). He could play piano by ear. For a couple years, John, I and our families met for breakfast each Saturday, alternating houses. Joey was Nell's age. John was a smoker, and perhaps that did him in.

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