Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Goodnight, Irene

I returned from our trip to New York and Buffalo to hear some sad news -- my dear friend Irene Greenleaf passed away on August 11.

I say dear friend, even though Irene and I never met in person. Still, we corresponded for a dozen years, and I cannot express how grateful I am that among the many blessings that have come to me with this career, I can count my connection with Irene Greenleaf.

One of Irene's daughters happened to be visiting Southern California when a notice in the newspaper caught her eye -- a new author would be signing a book called Goodnight, Irene that evening. She couldn't resist getting a copy of the book for her mom. I enjoyed meeting her, and inscribed a copy for her to send along to Irene.

Now, over the years, I've signed a lot of books for a lot of Irenes. But this Irene was unlike any other. She wrote a kind letter almost immediately. There was a liveliness in that letter that I liked from the start. I wrote back.

She sent me a special set of note cards made from flowers, handicrafted by monks -- one of the monks had been a student of hers. Irene was a retired teacher. Her husband, Col. (ret.) John Greenleaf , is a talented artist, and for some years now, a copy of one of his paintings has hung on one of our walls. I would send books or stories, and she would return hand-crafted gifts. Letters and cards -- and for a very brief time, e-mail -- but more than anything, kindness and understanding.

Some of you may find the name Greenleaf familiar -- in Flight, fictional Greenleafs operate a cafe in Las Piernas. I'm told Irene was delighted, and I can only hope it gave her one-tenth the pleasure her letters gave me.

Earlier this year, at an American Academy of Forensic Science meeting, I had the pleasure of meeting one the Academy's esteemed members, Ken Field, who serves as the AAFS's historian. We had no sooner been introduced when he surprised me by saying that he already knew of me and my work, because he was a friend of Irene Greenleaf. Irene was a one-woman promotional force for the Irene Kelly series.

Irene was 86 when she died. She loved reading, music, cooking, and golf. She loved her family. She had a wonderful sense of humor. She asked that her obituary include, "She hated gardening."

I'll miss you, Irene, and see you in my dreams...

10 comments:

Sandra Ruttan said...

One of the things that amazes me is the power of connection we can have, just through correspondence. Through written words. I suppose that shouldn't be all that surprising to me, but stories like this reinforce how special it is to be able to write with people and get to know them, not limited by geographic boundaries.

A moving tribute to a wonderful person.

Premnath Kudva said...

That was a really nice post on your friend. I am currently reading one of books. And today morning wanted to check your bio out on the Wikipedia, but was surprised to note there was no entry on you. So I am currently preparing an entry there, for which I came to collect details at your website.

Which when I spied your blog.

Jan said...

Thanks, Sandra. It is indeed amazing!

Jan said...

Premnath, how very kind of you! Thank you!

Jade Walker said...

What a lovely remembrance of your friend. Please accept my deepest and most sincere sympathies for your loss.

Premnath Kudva said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Burke

That above is the entry I made for you at the Wikipedia. Just check it once for accuracy. Also can I have a colour photo of yours to post on that page? You webpage only has a b&w image.

Jan Burke said...

Thank you, Jade.

Jan Burke said...

Premnath, I really appreciate all the time and effort you put into to this. If you could let me know which address to use to send the photo, I'll e-mail one to you. You can reach me at
jan-at-janburke.com -- just replace the -at- with an @.

Jan Burke said...

Another note for Premnath -- the entry on Wikipedia is great, only a few slight changes are needed in the awards listing. Let me know how best to handle this -- do you want me to e-mail the changes to you?

Premnath Kudva said...

Jan, I have sent you an e-mail. You can reply there.