I grew up in suburban St. Louis, the second of six kids, six really lucky kids.
I attended St. Joseph’s Academy high school, comporting myself in a fairly undistinguished manner, and continued on in that vein at Creighton University in Omaha, where my main achievement was convincing Dennis John Fitzpatrick to take me out on a date, which he did.
The rest is history (which I would have failed, were it not for his assistance).
Eventually, I decided to be a writer. With great reluctance, I left Creighton, and Dennis, and transferred to the renowned School of Journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
After graduating, I went straight to the Hannibal Courier Post, enticed by the experience I would gain, not the salary I would receive, which was somewhat south of $100/week. I bought my first car, drove upriver to Hannibal, rented an apartment that had been the front rooms of a Queen Anne house built by a lumber baron a century prior to my occupancy. In the mornings, I covered all manner of the city’s municipal government inner workings for loyal and true consumers of such things. In the afternoons, I wrote florid feature stories which were promptly edited to align more closely with the reading preferences of Marion County residents in general and Courier Post subscribers in particular. On weekends, I drove home to St. Louis.
Seven months later, with little reluctance about leaving Hannibal but a good measure of gratitude toward the Courier Post, I went to work as a copyeditor at the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. From the first minute of the first day, I yearned to write newspaper stories, not headlines. In time, I began freelancing articles for St. Louisan Magazine, and eventually the Globe editors transferred me to cityside reporting.
In the fall of 1974, I proposed to my college sweetheart, Dennis Fitzpatrick, and he accepted.
We honeymooned in Jamaica and then moved to his hometown, Milwaukee, where autumn brings snow, winter brings thunder-blizzards, and spring brings—wait, there is no spring in Wisconsin. And sometimes summer is a mere suggestion of a season, pitifully brief, cruelly insincere, wholly un-St.-Louis-like. On the fourth of July, crowds huddled on blankets at Klode Park, a scenic greensward overlooking Lake Michigan, awaiting dusk and the start of the annual Whitefish Bay fireworks show. Mothers bundled their toddlers in snowsuits. Grandmothers draped themselves in full-length fur coats. I kid you not.
When our children, Claire and Meg, were in grade school, I returned to newspaper work part-time at the Milwaukee Sentinel. I wrote a shopping column. It wasn’t Shakespeare.
At the merger of the Sentinel and the Milwaukee Journal, I joined the full-time staff of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. I was in heaven, doing serious features and quirky fashion stories that took me to a death row cell block in Texas and a desolate cotton-gin town in the Yazoo Delta, to the Four Seasons in New York for lunch with Oleg Cassini and to a walled garden behind the Frick Museum for twilight cocktails with Ralph and Ricky Lauren, to the 50-yard-line at Lambeau Field with a Packer wide receiver and the first-base line with a couple of Brewers at their Arizona training camp. It was a great gig, until … September of 2001.
I was in Manhattan to cover New York Fashion Week. At first word of the terrorist attacks, I rushed toward Ground Zero and filed award-winning eyewitness reports. If you weren’t there, you cannot begin to conjure the horror of it, from the streets, at close range.
References to my reportage that day are included with accounts of other reporters and photographers in Running Toward Danger (2002, Rowman & Littlefield). A front page of the newspaper edition containing one of my 9/11 dispatches is among those memorialized in Washington D.C.’s Newseum. My book-length account of the harrowing experience has been accessioned into the State History Society of Missouri archives.
Through the years, my articles have been published in newspapers, magazines, literary web sites, and anthologies. On the off-chance that naming them all here will bore you to tears, I will refrain from doing so. If you have an abiding interest, however, just say so on the contact page and I’ll get right back to you.
I’m a former board member of the Chicago-area TallGrass Writers Guild and a member of the Florida Writers Association.
My husband and I live in Bonita Springs, FL, where there are alligators, snakes, fire ants, palm rats, epic humidity, and occasional hurricanes. Also sunny beaches, year-round golf and tennis, birdsong in winter, and our very own swimming pool, right out back.