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Vashon author, 87, writes about her 'neighbors'
Emma Amiad admits she was a little dubious when an elderly Vashon woman told her she planned to publish a book about Islanders as a fundraiser for the Vashon-Maury Interfaith Council on Homelessness.
Not only was Dorothy Hall-Bauer in her 80s at the time, Amiad recalled, she had also never published anything.
But now, Hall-Bauer, 87, is on her second book; she’s turned over more than $1,400 to the interfaith council; and Amiad, the president of the council, is happily eating her words.
“She’s paid her dues a thousand times over,” Amiad said of Hall-Bauer. “She’s doing a great service. And on top of that, she’s creating this remarkable list of life stories. What a heck of a deal.”
Hall-Bauer’s second book, “Islanders, Meet Your Neighbors II,” is, like her first, a delightful collection of essays on an eclectic array of Island residents — written in Hall-Bauer’s conversational, authentic voice.
She talks about former Gov. Booth Gardener and his struggle with Parkinson’s Disease; Yvonne Kuperberg and her history as an Island conservationist, and Lao Kiriazis, an Access bus driver who says his luckiest day was when he and his wife qualified for a home at Roseballen, the sweat-equity housing project.
Gary Koch, an Island physician, graces the pages, as do boating enthusiast John Burke, peace activist Joy Goldstein, real estate agent Paul Helsby and seven other Islanders with stories Hall-Bauer finds compelling.
In each, she describes the Islander with a warm but insightful appraisal.
Koch, she said, is “the tall, good-looking man with the big smile and shock of gray hair that you see striding back and forth at the clinic.”
Helsby is as “likeable as Will Rogers and acts like he has all the time in the world, but he’s a go-getter, and fast on his feet.”
Kuperberg is “an 80-year-old who would be a good sport on a camping trip. She would know how to cook pancakes in the rain, stake a tent so it doesn’t blow over in a windstorm or take care of a buddy’s snoring.”
And Gardner? “He looks right at you with brown, friendly eyes. You know he’s listening, and you know he’s interested in you.”
Each essay in the self-published book is three or four pages long, accompanied by striking black-and-white
photos taken by Dr. Kim Farrell, an Island photographer.
Hall-Bauer said she looks for variety when deciding on subjects, striving to include both old-timers and newcomers, young and old. But there is a thread that holds her subjects together.
“A lot of these people are plucky,” she said.
And plucky could easily describe Hall-Bauer, who walks from her home in Burton to Vashon town twice a week, determined, she explained, to get into shape for hiking this summer. A diminutive woman with a serious manner, she said she took on the project for two reasons — she wanted to try her hand at writing and help the interfaith council make a difference on the Island.
Writing, unlike other jobs she’s held over the course of her life, “is very satisfying,” she said. “It’s a lot of work. But I enjoy it.”
And as for working with the interfaith council, she said, she thinks highly of what it’s attempting to do on the Island — help families pay rent, cover fuel costs or do whatever else is needed to enable them to keep a roof over their heads.
“It all begins with poverty,” Hall-Bauer said of the country’s social ills. “If you don’t have enough money, and your baby’s crying and your wife is sick — who knows what you’ll do if your back is against the wall?”
So will there be an “Islanders, Meet Your Neighbors III”?
“Oh yes. I’ve probably interviewed 14 people already,” Hall-Bauer said.
In fact, she added, some of them will likely have to spill into book four. “I’m busy,” she added.
Dorothy Hall-Bauer will sign her book at the Vashon Bookshop at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 28. The books, available at many Island locations, sell for $15 each.