Column: Friends of Love Cruikshank write tribute to beloved local writer

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 8, 2006

Editor’s note: Tribune columnist and Albert Lea resident Love Cruikshank is in the hospital with serious health problems. The Tribune dearly wishes her the best. Several of her friends in the community penned the following tribute. They shared their memories, and Sarah Aeikens recorded them. It is titled &8220;Love Stories.&8221;

The column deadline for Love Cruikshank’s Albert Lea Tribune column, &8220;Love’s Notes,&8221; is Tuesday at noon, and Love likes it on time.&160; Twenty-four hours before deadline, Love is lying on her hospital bed asleep, but responding to visitors with a nod in recognition of his or her name.&160;Many friends wanted to let her know how important she is in their lives.&160;As members of her Washington Avenue Open Weekly Tuesday Writers’ Group stopped by her hospital room,&160;they realized her column deadline loomed near.

Someone shared a recent &8220;Love Story&8221; about a hospital visitor who offered to write her column for her, and without words, Love firmly shook her head negatively. However, with Love’s creative and humorous approach, some of the writer visitors decided to submit a mutual tribute column in her honor. Even with input from all who have stories, the group was a bit nervous, fearing they could never measure up to her standards. Although a writer agreed to record memories, it was discovered that no one had a pen.&160;Love would find this ironic touch endearing.

Where do friends begin with a lifetime of memories?&160;A mention was made of her fantastic fruitcake and everyone wanted the recipe. There is an unconfirmed rumor that a writer friend smuggled a snugly kitten into her hospital room, knowing her love of cats.&160;One friend quoted Love’s saying, &8220;Too many books, too little time,&8220; as a tribute to her love of reading.&160;Another person recalled Love commenting on her novice writer’s poetry by telling her &8220;butterflies don’t bounce.&8221;

A columnist shared, &8220;Love loves having people around her.&160;One of her most beautiful attributes is her ability to attract interesting people.&160;She has many friends and is a friend to everyone.&160;All her many friends are always welcomed to her home. Love said she is never bored and that is understandably so, with her active imagination.&8221;

One of her major support persons in the past few years shared, &8220;I had read all of Love’s columns and I wanted to meet her for years.&8221; This same friend was the one Love phoned two hours after she fell and was unable to pull herself off the floor. Love waited patiently reciting all the poetry she knew by heart until 7 a.m., an hour she deemed a proper time to phone someone for help. That is when she decided to get the Life Alert, since she was living alone in her own home.

Another friend added, &8220;The first time I&160;met Love, I was intimidated because she was so opinionated.&160;Once I got to know Love, I quickly discovered that she is not only opinionated, she is open-minded.&8221; Love is someone who enjoys a gentle discourse on many subjects.

A church friend shared that for many years, &8220;Love was the first reader at many of the services and also second reader at many others. Sometimes she would be a substitute for the Wednesday evening meeting featuring personal selections from the Bible.&160;She had such a wonderful understanding of the Bible and was a ready reference source for anyone troubled with the correct pronunciations of the more difficult Biblical names.&160;She also loved the hymns.&8221;

Writers’ Group participants reminisced about the longevity, location and activities of their gatherings in Love’s book-filled living room at her home by the railroad tracks.&160;For many years a dozen or so regulars came to write, read or share their creativity in the form of short or long stories, poetry, journal entries, book excerpts, memoirs, childhood stories or happenings in everyday life.

There are few rules, but one of them is firm.&160;You write, you read, and if not, you put a quarter in the pot.&160;Traditionally that money is used for a yearly &8220;restaurant night out&8221; with the Writers’ Group. Each weekly gathering typically has a group of different participants.&160;What remains the same is that people usually sit in the same place, a train customarily goes by during the middle of a compelling piece, and the interrupted author patiently waits for the whistle to subside.&160;What is also predictable is that Love mostly listens, making sacred space for some issue-oriented life discussions touched off by the unique variety of selected topics.

Where Love is, the Washington Avenue Open Weekly Tuesday Writers’ Group gathers. As her friends gather around as &8220;Love Groupies&8221; and share their unique memories about Love,&160;they decide, &8220;Where Love is, everyone gathers.&8221;

Editor’s note: Publisher and writer Joan Claire Graham of Albert Lea wished to add the following tribute.

When Cheri Register gave the keynote address at a writers’ conference in Plainview last year, she said, &8220;When I was a little girl in Albert Lea, there were many housewives, store clerks, teachers and nurses, but there was only one writer in town, and when I looked at all those role models, Love Cruikshank represented what I wanted to become.&8221;

Love talked of meeting John F. Kennedy and other luminaries. Her house contained an overwhelming collection of the things she loved &045; paintings by Lloyd Herfindahl and other artists she knew, photos of friends, mementos and a sea of books. She read her books until she nearly wore them out. She could quote scripture and Shakespeare, and the poets, and she seldom spent a day without the company of friends.&160;She could not only hold her own, but could make relevant, witty and memorable contributions to any conversation or argument.&160;

She stood to the left in a town that leans to the right.&160;She refused to get on the bandwagon to condemn those whose opinion, behavior or lifestyle strayed from local custom, and she defended the rights of underdogs.&160;

She held her own in a world of men back in the day when a working newswoman was a rarity.&160;When the boss gave her assignments to write about tea parties and weddings, she did a good job, even though she had very little interest in those frivolities, and she was more suited to write hard news and editorials.&160;

The publication of her novel, a trilogy, remained her dream deferred.&160;But she hung on to that dream and continued to investigate possibilities to make it happen.&160;Her last column, published last week, brought comments from another Albert Lea native writer, Dex Westrum. He said, &8220;You are fortunate to be a part of her circle.&8221; He was right.&160;I doubt that I will ever meet anyone like Love Cruikshank.