Submitted by Arlan Hess, City Books

I got word yesterday that one of my favorite and best customers unexpectedly died in her sleep Monday night. She lived a block from the store. I am shocked and heartbroken.

Josette was a vibrant 80 years young. She never walked by without stopping in to say hello. She was a spry woman with a cracking wit who craved information the way some people hunger for adrenaline.

Books were Josette’s rush. A way for her to rise above the madness of twenty-first century life and discover the minutiae of the past. She preferred nonfiction because she felt it helped her better understand people. She was an ardent feminist, though that might not be a label she was comfortable with. She told me she lost friends as a young woman because she told new brides to stand up to their husbands.

For the years I knew her, Josette almost exclusively read biographies of US first ladies. She didn’t read them in order, so I kept a chart in the store to keep track. Her latest purchase was a bio of Rose Kennedy. It is probably still on her bed stand.

She was just beginning to read the memoirs of the female Supreme Court Justices. I knew her reading pace and tastes so well, that sometimes I ordered books in anticipation of her visits. Though occasionally, she would change it up and order the diaries of John Wilkes Booth, or War and Peace. She read To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time this summer. I loved her unpredictability.

In the coming days, I expect I will meet her son—the one who lives in Iowa who likes to read about wartime aviation—and I hope I can be a comfort to Andy, the son who lived with her, who enjoys reading personal accounts of the Civil War.

We all know what it’s like when we finish a book or when one of our favorite characters dies. That emptiness, that sadness. Yesterday was a rough day, so I was thankful for the rain and a hot cup of tea. Today begins a new chapter. When you crack open your book this evening, know that you are part of a larger story and, no matter the size of the role you play, you are seen and valued. Thanks for being part of mine.

RIP (Read in peace) Josette K, 1939-2019