To my loyal readers who prefer to click on a post with photographs of humans, let me urge you to stay a moment, and look again. Because indeed a man is hidden in the image above. He is there amongst the stacks of titles. Those are his books, you see, and his daughter, my friend Alice, has turned her dining room table into a living library in his memory.
I remember the day I glanced at Alice's dining room and came to the easy conclusion that the space is stunning: the antique carved Spanish furniture, the gorgeously colored wallpaper, the wrought iron Rococo chandelier, the sunny window seat -- a favored perch of Alice's trio of dogs who keeps watch over the comings and goings of her large family.
It's a beautiful room, isn't it? Chauncey the Shih Tzu (pictured above) is a keeper. But this post is about the books. They absolutely magnetized me. We all know that today's dining rooms are obsolete. They're musty from disuse. So the idea of using the table as a vertical library solves two problems -- relevancy and storage. Plus, books make a room so much more interesting. They offer a peek inside the mind of the person who dwells there.
And that is how you, my reading friend, will see the person hidden in this room. Alice explained that the books stacked on the table belonged to her father, Verne Read, who passed away two years ago. Scroll through the images and you can ferret out Verne's character by his taste in reading. He was a lifelong learner, an inveterate Horatio Alger, a relentless handyman of the brain.
Verne Read kept the math textbook (pictured above) all his life as a reminder of the two weeks he spent cramming calculus before shipping off with the U.S. Army Air Corps as a weatherman during WWII. Alice thought that for Verne, the book was a badge of honor, a physical symbol of hard work.
Verne Read grew up in Hudson, Ohio, the son of a dry cleaner. Pictured below are pieces of cardboard, inserted in men's starched shirts, which Verne recycled into placards of definitions for words he wanted to learn.
As an accomplished young cellist, Verne Read passed up a music scholarship to Eastman School of Music to study law at Harvard. On scholarship. While there, he wooed a tennis champion from Milwaukee, Marion Chester, by beating her at doubles. They married and he gamely agreed to her plan to honeymoon by climbing the Matterhorn. Together, they would eventually climb three peaks in the Himalayas. Pictured below are Marion's girlhood travel journals from a journey aboard the Aquitania. She too was a person of reckoning. At Bryn Mawr College, she lettered twenty times. You know the old saying: "Behind every great man is an even greater woman."
When Marion and Verne moved back to Milwaukee, he ran her family's business, ran for Congress, and even ran the rapids on the floor of the Grand Canyon where he gravely injured himself attempting to rescue a fellow camper from a rocky ledge. A British rag picked up the story and published it under the title, "Milwaukee Business Man Falls for Blonde."
During their 'retirement', the twosome became attached to the plight of bats after discovering a few thousand of them roosting in the walls of their Wisconsin summer house. They traveled the world's jungles studying and trapping bats for a preservation park in Samoa that would become a world refuge and that was responsible for saving the Samoan Flying Fox from extinction. They founded the Bat Conservation International Foundation and in 1989, Verne was awarded the Chevron Conservation Award.
Can we pause for a moment to consider this? Can we acknowledge how unusual it was to react to a home infestation of bats in this way?
And now, I know you want to see a photo of this very interesting man, don't you. I asked Alice to supply an image and the one she gave me corresponds to the aspect of his personality that she most cherishes -- one of supporter. Her favorite memory of Verne is of him sitting in the stands at her kids' athletic events and activities. His drive for self-improvement mellowed with the years as he acquiesced to the role of spectator and caretaker of the next generation.
And that is the beauty of this story. A multifaceted man with an eclectic array of talents lives on in his daughter's memory, and in ours, through his collection of books. Now can you feel the pull of this room?
Happy Father's Day to all of you missing your dads. He is there. Look between the pages.
Thank you for reading today's post about Verne Read. Won't you come back again? I post every Friday morning about people, rooms, or objects that make my heart go pitter-patter.
Last week's post is about entertaining with vintage barware: