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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Carol Otis Hurst (1933-2007)

I received word this afternoon that Carol Otis Hurst died of a massive heart attack. She was 73 (October 13, 1933-January 24, 2007). She was born in Springfield Massachusetts and moved to Westfield Massachusetts at the age of 5. She was the next to the youngest child in a family of 5 boys and 2 girls. Her mother broke both of her arms when Carol was five. She went to stay with her Grandmother Clark (in Westfield) while her mother's arms healed. Carol went to her grandmother's and never left -- until she was 21, when she married John Hurst (1954). She had three children Rebecca, Jill, and David (died in infancy). The family moved a lot and in 1961 her marriage ended and she settled back in Westfield where she had a full career as teacher, librarian, columnist (she wrote for years for Teaching K-8), storyteller and finally in the last decades of her life she was convinced to put many of her stories on paper. Her first book, Rocks in His Head (Greenwillow, 2001) was her own father's biography. She wrote several novels, Through the Lock (fictionalized account of her grandmother's story), In Plain Sight (contains bits and pieces from her great-great-grandfather's life -- a grandfather who followed the path to the Gold Rush in California leaving his wife and children behind.
In a note in 2002 she told me that Walter Lorraine had accepted a manuscript tentatively titled: One Thimble, Three Bicycles and a Bit of Ingenuity. I haven't seen a publication date announced but I hope that HM publishes the book -- she told me the story over lunch one day in San Diego and it would, I believe, be her best tale yet.

Carol Otis Hurst was the most fabulous storyteller that I have ever known. She could tell a story like no other storyteller could. Her life was filled with story -- someday let me tell you Carol's true story of her storytelling trip to Texas, the town tour, and the gift of furniture. Even with my inept retelling you will be chuckling for a long while. I still can not think about purchasing a sofa without remembering her and smiling. I guess now that image will have to remain.

She is survived by, "two wonderful daughters, Jill and Rebecca. Rebecca has two boys: Keith and Jesse, and they are practically perfect." (quoted from a 2006 letter).

I loved her sense of humor, I loved her stories, I loved her laugh, I loved her friendship. I will miss her voice.

Sharron McElmeel

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