The first thing you need to know is that I come from a pretty darn big family, and that I consider that one of the true blessings of my life.
I grew up in suburban St. Louis, the second of six kids lucky enough to be born to Bob and Merrilee Underhill.
I attended St. Joseph’s Academy high school, comporting myself in a fairly undistinguished manner, then continued on in that vein at Creighton University in Omaha, where my most lasting accomplishment was badgering Dennis Fitzpatrick to take me out on a date, which he finally did. The rest is history. After my sophomore year at Creighton, however, I knew I wanted to be a newspaper reporter, and so with great reluctance I left Creighton, and Dennis, and transferred to the University of Missouri’s renowned School of Journalism in Columbia., MO
After graduating, I took a job as a reporter at the Hannibal Courier Post, enticed by the experience I would gain, not the salary they offered. I bought my first car, drove upriver to Hannibal, and rented an “apartment” that was actually the front rooms of an Queen Anne house a lumber baron had built about 100 prior to my occupancy. In the morning, I covered all manner of municipal government news. In the afternoon, I wrote feature stories. On weekends, I drove home!
Seven months later, I quit, moved back home, and got a job as a copyeditor at the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. After freelancing several major stories for St. Louis (then St. Louisan) Magazine, the editors at the Globe transferred me to cityside reporting.
In the fall of 1974, I proposed to Dennis, my college sweetheart, and he accepted. We moved to his hometown, Milwaukee, where autumn brings snow, winter brings thunder-blizzards, spring brings—wait, how could I forget? there is no spring in Wisconsin—and in summer, among the crowds huddled on blankets in Klode Park awaiting the annual July 4th fireworks show, mothers bundled their sleepy toddlers in snowsuits and grandmothers, equally sleepy, bundled themselves in fur coats.
When our children, Claire and Meg, were in grade school, I returned to newspaper work part-time at the Milwaukee Sentinel. At the merger of the Sentinel and the Milwaukee Journal, I joined the full-time staff of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. I wrote general features and fashion stories that took me to a death row cell block in Texas and to a desolate cotton-gin town in the Yazoo Delta of Mississippi, to a table at the Four Seasons in New York with Oleg Cassini and a champagne cocktail party in a walled garden with Ralph and Ricki Lauren, to the 50-yard-line at Lambeau Field and the first-base line at the Brewers’ training camp in Arizona. It was a great gig, until. . .
In September of 2001, I was in Manhattan to cover New York Fashion Week. At first word of the terrorist attacks, I rushed to Ground Zero and filed award-winning eyewitness reports. 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.
My articles have been published in newspapers throughout the country. My freelance stories and essays have appeared in St. Louisan Magazine, The Vocabula Review, Prick of the Spindle, Sew News, Fan Story, Yesterday’s Magazette, Reminisce Magazine, Ruminate, in four Outrider Press anthologies, on www.defenestrationmag.net, Lessons from my Parents (Familius, 2013), and others.
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, and occasional hurricanes, but also sunny beaches, year-round golf, birdsong in February, and our very own little swimming pool right out back, enticing our loved ones to fly down for wintertime visits, which we like.