“A Michigan farm was my birthplace. Because I only weighed three-and-a-half pounds, the doctor said I would not live. ... Now I am 101 years old and the doctor is dead and buried.”
That anecdote by Mamie Ritz appears in the book “Life Matters,” a collection of memoirs self-published in 2005 by residents of Fellowship Square, an east Mesa retirement community near Power Road and Main Street. The average age among residents is 86, staff members said.
Ritz died after the book’s publication.
The senior writers this spring will publish a second anthology, “Wrinkles, White Hair and Whiskers.”
The book will contain more than 200 stories. Its folksy tone mirrors “Life Matters” and in creating the book, some of the 365 Fellowship Square resident were again able to channel their creative energy, said Beth Smith, writer and project coordinator.
“It’s a collection of wisdom stories,” she said. “They just needed a little encouragement to go ahead and do it.” Margaret Leafdale, a 95-year-old resident and writer, said she contributed to the new book a story from her early childhood. When she was 4, her family crossed South Dakota in a covered wagon.
Readers might be surprised to learn what it was like for homesteaders at the turn of the century, she said.
“I don’t think people realize what it was like back then,” Leafdale said of the two-room shanty where her family lived at the time.
Elvera Hoffman, 95, illustrated the new book and contributed several stories about her childhood. Hoffman — who has seven great-grandchildren — said she hopes to set an example for the fledgling artists and authors.
“This grandmother lays a line for those kids,” Hoffman said. “We’re all readers. All studiers.”
She said writers in the latest book created a common theme — the importance of a positive outlook on life, despite living through hard times.
“We all came through the Depression,” Hoffman said. “A lot of that appears in little bits and pieces.”
Although the stories in “Wrinkles, White Hair and Whiskers” may be simple yarns, writers were encouraged to include in their narratives a deeper, thought-provoking element, Hoffman said.
“This time, they got more serious,” she said. “They’re trying to get older people to put their philosophy in the stories.”
Both books will be available for purchase at local bookstores, at Fellowship Square, or online from several vendors. For information about either of the books, call (480) 654-1800.