Helene experienced a crazy year in 2013. First she sold two young adult contemporary books, the first of which, These Gentle Wounds, was published by Flux on May 8 of this year. Then, in December 2013, she and her husband, John, brought their daughter Keira home from Bulgaria. Helene still lives in Nashville, works in marketing, and assumes that 2014 will probably be just at frantic.
by Jane (Hudson) Knuth ’80 and Ellen Knuth
Letting go of her daughter, Ellen, was a 6,000-mile proposition for alumna Jane Knuth. Ellen, a recent college graduate and eager to get a grip on the adventure of life, was on her way to a remote part of Japan to teach English.
It wasn’t so much that Jane was afraid of the long distance. She feared more that her daughter might hit a bump or two in her life path, perhaps even a crisis, and not have a Christian church nearby. Jane’s faith is important to her, and she had worked lifelong to share and cultivate that importance in her daughter. The nearest Christian church was two hours away from Ellen’s new residence. Ellen wasn’t worried. Her concerns centered more on her new job and life in another country than the one in which she had been raised.
Love Will Steer Me True: A Mother and Daughter’s Conversations on Life, Love, and God is a collaborative book by Jane and Ellen. It is Jane’s third book and Ellen’s first. (Thrift Stone Saints: Meeting Jesus 25 Cents at a Time and Thrift Store Graces: Finding God’s Gifts in the Midst of a Mess are collections of stories from Jane’s volunteer work in a Kalamazoo thrift store.) Chapters lean heavily to Ellen’s story, with Jane mostly writing in response to her daughter’s musings.
The two keep in touch often by calling each other over the Internet, using Skype. “I’ll call you in your morning,” becomes their mantra. They trade stories of teaching, because Jane finds herself teaching eighth-graders in Kalamazoo, an unexpected job. Ellen’s work with Japanese children teaches her cultural differences and common universalities among children.
When Ellen writes of religion, she explores the beliefs she finds in Japan. She discovers a statue near the school where she teaches, nearly obscured by trash and weeds. It is a jizo, a Japanese figure of divinity, offering protection in the Buddhist tradition. This one appears to be a protector of children, and during the months Ellen teaches at the school, she tends the jizo, cleaning the statue and filling its offering cup with water (rather than the traditional sake, since alcohol is not allowed on school grounds). While her faith remains important to her, she expresses it effortlessly through a variety of other faiths.
The shared story takes an unexpected turn in 2011, when a tsunami crashes against the shores of Japan, leaving a path of destruction. In the tsunami’s wake follows a nuclear disaster, and while Jane at home prays for her daughter’s protection, Ellen joins a group of volunteers and heads into the fray.
Love Will Steer Me True is less a conversation than a daughter’s story reflected on her mother’s heart. Both reach a higher level of respect for the other in the process. Both gain new facets to their individual journeys of faith. Both learn to let go, and in letting go, strengthen their bonds.
Guardian angels and jizos work side by side, it appears. During parental visits to Japan, mother and daughter meet as equals, and in Jane’s willingness to abide by local culture and faith traditions, the reader becomes witness to the blending of two worlds. Jane gives a string of a thousand folded cranes to the Japanese she meets, their symbol of hope.
After five years of teaching in Japan, Ellen has returned to the United States. She works as a manager for a company in Clinton Township, Michigan, that specializes in study abroad and international internships. Jane lives with her husband, alumnus Dean Knuth ’78, in Portage, Michigan, and continues to volunteer at the thrift store as well as write a monthly column for The Good News, the newspaper of the Diocese of Kalamazoo. (Reviewed by Zinta Aistars)
James died on February 20, 2015. He attended Kalamazoo College and earned advanced degrees from Western Michigan University and Columbia College. James was vice president of field operations for Federated Insurance for 30 years prior to his retirement (2007). He served as chair of the Eaton County Parks Committee and as a board member of the Grand Ledge Emergency Assistance Program. He also volunteered to teach reading for Capital Area Literacy Coalition. He was an author of several books about sports and business, and he was a motivational speaker as well. His career included work as a teacher and coach at the high school and college levels, and James continued to coach youth throughout his life. He briefly played professional football for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Hamilton Tiger Cats.
Yvonne died on March 12, 2015. She matriculated to K from Lombard, Illinois. She majored in sociology and later earned two master’s degrees (education and library science) from the University of Oklahoma. She worked in the personnel field in Chicago before she married Frederick Lee Hinchee in June 1958. She was a homemaker and, later, a librarian, serving as branch manager of the Shawnee (Oklahoma) Public Library, a post from which she retired in 2005. She was a longtime member of Wesley United Methodist Church and throughout her life was active in many civic organizations and causes. She is survived by her daughter and son-in-law and two grandchildren.
Alice died on August 9, 2015, in The Dalles, Oregon. She earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology and later married Gordon Dudley, with whom she had two sons. They enjoyed camping and exploring the West, and lived both in Oregon and Boston. After a divorce, Alice lived with her sons in Portland, where she earned a master’s degree in social work (Portland State University) in 1971. She dedicated herself to raising her two sons and to a career in social work, first in Salem and then in The Dalles. She primarily worked in the Oregon Children’s Services Division in The Dalles, where she served as an administrator. She positively influenced the lives of many children in foster care. She loved to play golf and bridge. Alice is survived by her two sons and three granddaughters.
Madame Gollé, widow of M. Maurice Gollé, who for many years was director of the Kalamazoo College foreign study program in Strasbourg, passed away on October 18, 2015, in Strasbourg at the age of 92. She frequently interacted with and came to know many Kalamazoo students over the years because of her warm, outgoing, and easily approachable personality. She had a wonderful sense of humor and could always be counted on to have an interesting joke or humorous story to relate. She liked to entertain, was an excellent cook (as anyone who enjoyed the hospitality of her home would confirm), and a passionate dog lover. A wonderful wife, mother and friend, she was preceded in death by her husband and one son and is survived by two sons and the deceased son’s wife and their families. (Obituary by Joe Fugate, professor emeritus of German, and director emeritus of foreign study)
Class Agent (1963) Don Schneider sent the following note about his classmate: “After Dennis retired from Penn State University a few years ago, he and his spouse, Pat, talked about moving and nothing happened. Not until 2015, when they decided on another university town, sold the State College house, and moved to Fort Collins, Colorado. However, they found no housing there quite what they wanted, so they contracted to have a house built and traveled ’homeless’ for 4 months. Destinations included the family cottage in Northern Michigan, Canada, and France. They are now settled into their new home and can be reached at email@example.com.”
Mary died on February 24, 2016. She was 96 years old. She was born and grew up in Ontario, Canada, and was a long-time resident of Paris, Ontario. She earned her B.A. at Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario), her M.A. at Radcliffe College (Cambridge, Mass.) and her Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis). She taught at a number of colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. She served as an assistant professor of psychology and professor of psychology at K from 1961 to 1972.
Jack died on June 29, 2016, following an automobile accident. Jack matriculated to K from Lakeland High School (White Lake, Michigan) where he was an outstanding athlete (football and baseball) and honor student. At K he was part of the 3/2 engineering program. He completed the requirements for his major in physics in his first three years, and he intended to complete the engineering portion of his degree at Michigan Technological University (Houghton). Jack also played baseball for the Hornets. He loved the outdoors–fishing, golfing and camping–and he loved music. Most of all he loved his family and friends. He is survived by his parents and his sister, three grandparents and many cousins, aunts and uncles.
Dennis died on October 1, 2016, in Shalimar, Florida. At K he earned his degree in physics and shortly after graduating married Joyce Lavalle Dye. Dennis served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. He enjoyed a 40-year career as an engineer for NASA. He and Joyce were married 64 years, and they have five children, six grandchildren and three great grandchildren.