On September 27, 2018 Lorne Bair of Lorne Bair Books of Winchester Virginia and John and Karen Thomson of the venerable Bartleby’s Books in Washington DC organized an event to honor Allen Ahearn of Quill and Brush Books. It was a brilliant concept. It was a surprise party to be held at the Archipelago Tiki Bar and Restaurant on 1201 U St NW Washington DC. John and Karen’s son, Owen, owns and operates that venue. All the proceeds went to charity—the ABAA Benevolent Fund.
It was a resounding success. About 70 booksellers, family, friends and bookish people showed up. Many old friends and acquaintances got together for the first time in many years. Allen and his wife, Nina, were very touched. Four friends gave brief addresses, and Allen closed the public discourse with a reminiscence of his decades in the book trade.
I will report on that evening at the end of this story. For there is another story that should be told here. That tale was touched on quite warmly that 2018 Thursday evening in DC. It was not the time or place to go too deeply into another part, now past, of the Ahearn saga.
This I hope is a good time and I hope will be a fitting tribute to Patricia Ahearn. She and Allen were married from 1959 to 2014. During those years they accomplished so many things. Some of those stories will follow.
On May 28, 2014 Allen Ahearn sent the following to friends, family and colleagues:
I’m very sorry to say that Pat, my wife of 55 years, died yesterday of complications from cancer and Alzheimer’s. As many of you know, her breast cancer from 2009 came back in her head between the brain and the skull in 2011, and she was also diagnosed with Alzheimer’s that year. Pat was born in Virginia Beach June 26, 1937. Attended Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, MD, where she shared the editing of the school newspaper, yearbooks and was a class officer and member of the Quill and Scroll Honor Society. She attended Maryland University but left after a year to work for the President of a major insurance company in DC.
We were married in 1959 and had Beth, Sue and Allen, Jr. in four years, as good Catholics did then. Dyanne was born in 1968.
Pat raised the children during the 60’s and 70’s, but also was active in our church and the League of Women Voters. She coached girls CYO basketball (finals one year) and also coached for Olney Boys and Girls Club for many years. In 1976, we co-founded the Quill & Brush, a book-and-art store, which she ran first in Olney and then in Bethesda until 1987, when the business moved to our home.
A talented artist, she studied art at Maryland School of Art and the Corcoran, and illustrated the covers for many early Quill & Brush catalogs. Co-author with Allen of seven books on book collecting and rare book values; edited and published several small-press literary editions and hundreds of Quill & Brush collectible—book catalogs.
She is survived by our 4 children, 13 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. Services will be at St. Mary’s Church on Barnesville Road in Barnesville, MD at 11 am Saturday May 31st. In lieu of flowers we ask that a donation be made to your local non-profit Hospice or the Alzheimer’s Association.
All my best wishes. Allen
Allen doesn’t mention that they had been booksellers starting after college in the early 1960s operating as Allen Ahearn—First Editions.
When I received Allen’s email, Wonder Book was in the final throes of “The Move.” Our deadline to be out of the 72,000 square foot warehouse on Monocacy Blvd in Frederick, MD was June 30, 2014. There would be penalties, hell to pay and a certain sense of failure if the move could not be completed by that date. Part of the “hell to pay” was that our rent would double. I was STILL in no way convinced that this move was the best idea. However, it was the only idea—besides liquidating Wonder Book. The Move had commenced in September 2013 when PNC Bank had shocked me by giving Wonder Book a huge loan to buy the former US Postal Distribution Facility on Tilco Dr. With many trailers and other storage concepts, it is now about 130,000 square feet—FULL of books. The bank and the landlord of the old warehouse had given us a 9 month gestation period to move millions of books, miles of shelving, all kinds of equipment and furnishings and “stuff.” At the end of May, we only had one month left to finish the daunting task.
I was no more confident that we could finish the transfer than I was that Wonder could ever support the multimillion-dollar loan whose first monthly payments were looming.
To say that personally I was manic—well, more manic than usual—would be an understatement. I had been on a non-stop 8-month marathon. Planning, laying out, driving trucks back and forth 7 days a week. The final month would perforce be a sprint.
But Allen’s email about Pat stopped all that. Everything else in my life lost focus. Creditors, contractors, employees, accountants, bankers, demons—all wanting little bits (or larger bits) of me were ignored. Death has a way of doing that. If it is someone you know and love, it is kind of like being smacked in the fore head by a 2×4. It gets your attention. Business, money, other peoples’ demands, the daily world—all get shunted aside for a while.
Why it took me a couple days to create an homage for Pat, I don’t remember. Maybe it took that long for the panic on one hand and the sorrow on the other to reach equilibrium. I do remember I wanted to do a good job.
On May 30, 2014 I posted the following letter on the Discuss List. That is private chat line open only to members of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA.) I wanted to express my feelings about that sad but not unexpected event.
Only a matter of days before I had seen her along with Allen, Conor Kenny, an Irish rare book dealer, and two other Wonder Book friends (Clark Kline and Tracee Haupt) at my house up on Lonely Mountain. I live alone in the woods with no nearby neighbors. The property abuts the Frederick Watershed—a vast conservation area atop the mountains to the west and north of Frederick city. Frederick is now Maryland’s second largest metropolis. My land is perched near the top of the South Mountain ridge looking down panoramically onto the Frederick Valley to the east and, on clear days, far beyond.
Pat was clearly quite ill. She had suffered from…many horrendous things…over the past five years. Allen had been by her side the whole time. I asked them up because I thought it would be good for them both to get out of their house for a little while.
It was a bittersweet afternoon. We talked and laughed. Pat would come and go from reality periodically. She was suffering from end stage Alzheimers as well as brain cancer. We all sat around a large, “L” shaped couch and filled in gaps or changed the conversation when Pat “went somewhere else” now and then.
She had a wine glass filled with red—Rioja if memory serves—sometimes she would wave it about laughing and joking—mostly poking fun at Allen for some perceived missteps. It was a defensive thing I think. A way to cover the confusion that took over from time to time.
Then at some point as the afternoon was wearing on, a benevolent spirit brought her back for a spell. Her eyes focused, her voice firmed, her eyes flashed mischievously, and she made a quip or two. Her dazzling smile that had warmed me hundreds of times appeared, and we were all together one last time for one brief shining moment.
But the following is what came out. I have edited it a bit—to bring it up to date and correct misspellings.
From: Chuck/Wonder Book
Date: May 30, 2014 3:01:08 PM EDT
To: Discuss—mailing list
Subject: [ABAA Discuss] Pat Ahearn
Reply—To: Discuss—mailing list
We are in full warehouse moving frenzy so pardon any typos:
My family moved to a sterile Rockville MD subdivision in 1967. My Dad, a 60 year old MD/PHD had been called to active duty as a Lt Col in the Medical Corps at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in NW DC. The Vietnam War was raging. I guess they were so desperate for doctors they were pulling old men who were Reservists from private life to wear the uniform and serve their country. I was a 12 year old kid, uprooted from a comfortable and venerated upper middle class school and a neighborhood with vintage homes. Trees arched across the streets and their upper branches mingled high above. My friends were also the children of professionals or well to do businessmen. The home I grew up in was built in 1908. The third floor had an original oak pool table. The room dedicated to it had a mounted bear’s head on one wall. A ten point buck’s head was hung on another. As a toddler I was sure the rest of the bear was behind the wall and would never go up there alone. The house my parents found for us in Rockville was a three year cookie cutter split level. In our tract of several hundred houses there were three basic styles. They would vary in color and trim and very little else except about half were flipped—mirror images. For example, to break up the monotony the upper level of the split would be on the right instead of the left. Our split had the bedrooms on the left as you faced it. It was the then new frontier of Rockville Md. Farms and country homes were being gobbled up as quickly as possible. Wherever you drove you passed vast stretches of bare muddy fields bulldozed and awaiting the drop off of pallets of brick, bundled stacks of roof tresses and 2x4s. When Dad and Mom showed me our new home (my brothers were all long gone) I recall vividly the trees in our yard were all saplings. Six skinny maples lined the “county strip” between the sidewalk and the streets. We had twice as many as most for our house was on the corner of Levada Terrace and Briarwood Terrace. There were no terraces on either. Dad called the yard a “pie shaped” lot. The front yard had another maple, an ornamental crabapple and a White Pine. I recall vividly the pine was so small I could jump over it. The back yard was too small for any trees. Actually, all the trees throughout the subdivision were tiny saplings. The house I’d grown up in Amherst New York had a rock wall full of fossils around it. I could climb the plum and the Queen Anne’s Cherry trees. Climbing the pine I soon learned was a sticky proposition. The other trees in the yard were too tall to get up into.
Dad took a 70% pay cut to move from Ft Howard to Rockville. He was thrilled. He’d always wanted to wear an active duty uniform. He’d been denied that in WW2. My 3 older brothers were young children then. Dad had some cancer issues. The government decided that being a stateside Selective Service doc would be his best role. That was before my time.
I didn’t find out until years later that the Ahearns house of books was only a few blocks away. Their neighborhood was far more established. The homes were all different—custom built many years before. Coincidentally, Bob Madle—the legendary Sci Fi dealer and “First Science Fiction Fan” had his home of collectible SF books a few blocks in the other direction.
I attended the same schools as the Ahearn kids, but they were younger so I didn’t know them then. Maybe I passed them walking to school or visiting friends.
Flash forward to 1980. I opened my scruffy used bookstore. $1000 from me and $1000 from my silent partner, Carl Sickles, for the 1st and last months’ rent and a load of #2 pine planks. 1x8s for hardcovers and 1x6s for softcovers. Carl introduced me to the Clifton Book Company outside of Shepherdstown WVa. It was an old farm whose outbuildings were full of millions books for 25 cents each. The owner had died. His daughter was trying to liquidate as many books as she could. Her father had owned the Maryland Book Exchange near the University in College Park. The farm had been partially a mail order operation, but it was mostly just hoarded books piled in barns and quonset huts.
Soon after opened, I began attending Waverly Auctions in Bethesda. Carl had told me I should. “You may not be able to buy much but you should learn a lot. After most auctions some of the young bookmen would go out to discuss that evening’s sale. We often went to Booeymongers. Once someone suggested Matuba. That Japanese place across the street from Waverly. There I was introduced to sushi. It was quite an exotic adventure at the time. “Young Turks” like John Thomson, Bill Hutchison, Andy Moursand, Ray Sickles (Carl’s son) were among the regulars. There were plenty of other guys whose names and faces blur with the passage of time.
Quill and Brush was in the same building as Waverly. That area is now the epicenter of one of the world’s wealthiest counties. I’d already explored every used book operation in the region. Someone suggested I go into Quill and Brush before one auction. I’d heard of it. High end fancy first editions and such. I felt I wasn’t worthy—like going in to Winstons on 5th Ave in Manhattan—I wouldn’t belong.
But I dared myself, and before one auction I crossed the threshold.
It was like Oz. All glittering perfect jackets or leather or vintage cloth in a beautiful boutique setting. There was also plenty of art and sculpture which were grace notes amongst all the books. I recall being greeted by a beautiful tall woman exquisitely dressed. If this was Oz she was Glenda—statuesque, magical, sexy and “motherly” all in one. She treated me as if I was someone who could be their best customer.
Time passed, and I got to know Allen and Pat Ahearn. He’d often visit the store and would pay me more for good books I’d put aside for him than I could retail them for.
After some years they began inviting me to social events—a real shock—who’d want me in attendance?
They would bring other dealers in from around the country. I would visit their “home store” after they closed the Bethesda shop. They had added a wing to their house. There was a mezzanine lined with bookshelves. A cast iron spiral staircase was the primary way to get up there. There I would “learn”—about books, business, ethics, class and scholarship…and family.
I had kids, and we got together on holidays and dinners. Pat was never anything but positive. I can’t recall her ever being angry. She always had stories to tell: “Ya know…”
In the mid 90s they sent a note to all their friends and colleagues: “In our dotage…. [we decided to build a new home for us and Q&B in the country]….”
When Allen showed me the plans—the blue prints and drawings—it was more like: “in Xanadu did Kubla Khan a pleasure dome decree…” The place was huge. Out of scale in every way—but tasteful and subdued at the same time.
Their mentorship and confidence building was strong. My business grew, and Wonder evolved from being an 1100 square foot “used book shop” to a big bookstore with some better books.
They suggested going on trips to their ancestral homeland—Ireland. These are life-long highlights of fun and family. They introduced me to some international dealers who became friends and still buy and sell with me.
In the 2000s, I introduced them to my pal Barbara Mertz (the bestselling mystery writer AKA Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels) and we spent many, many liquid evenings at Barbara’s estate. Barbara and I had “Martinis” (gin shaken til cold with nothing added.) It was red wine for Pat. Whisky, beer, wine for Allen—in that order. The evenings were full of book stories and family, dogs…life… Sometimes we ate food as well.
“Ya know….” Pat would begin and she would tell us many, many stories about many of the legendary (and a few infamous) booksellers around the country. Before that they were just names I’d seen in AB Bookmen’s Weekly ads. I’d never ventured further afield than the Florida and Baltimore Antiquarian Book Shows. I was too busy getting books in the region and building Wonder Book and raising two boys.
If you never went to their home and business in the woods below Sugarloaf Mountain in rural Maryland, I can tell you it was staggering. Built on a scale to equal their physical and professional stature. When you entered their “office,” you would first see a huge partner’s desk in front of a tall wide wall of bibliographies and other reference material.
To the left the front wall was 2 stories of glass looking out into the woods below Sugarloaf Mt. 12 feet up there was a wood railed mezzanine—on a much larger scale that the one in Rockville. The 3 walls behind it were lined with 8 foot shelves full of books. Perfect books every one. Most glowing with Brodarts wrapping their precious dust jackets.
It was a great Great room. The rest of the business part and personal parts of the sprawling home were built to scale with any feature a book lover and enjoyer of life could want. Pool table, bar, grand piano…
A home, edifice built by books for books and bookselling…and family.
You must visit it. Must.
It is now 2018. Allen left his Xanadu in Dickerson, MD in August 2017. So it is too late to visit. But if you want a taste of it, you can read about the last days there here.
At some point, Allen and Pat told me I should join the ABAA (Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America.) I demurred many times. I felt I wouldn’t belong. I’d stopped doing shows.
Finally, they convinced me, and I applied. Then I was accepted. (i.e. I passed the knowledge and quality and positive referral tests.) It took awhile to become “accepted” by some of the membership. My business model was quite a bit out of the typical collectible bookseller mode. Eventually, I won most of the hearts and minds of the reluctant traditionalists. Sometimes I felt the need to use a 2×4 to make my points.
Christmas on Sugarloaf Mountain Road, Dickerson, Maryland.
I would never have dreamed of being away from home with my two small children on Christmas Eve—but like joining the ABAA, Allen and Pat kept bringing it up. Dickensian comes close to describing those parties. The attendees were the Ahearn clans and many, many friends from babes in arms to the very old. I saw many children grow up—once a year—at Christmas for many years. Music, good cheer, carols and always Santa—arriving with his sack of presents. Everyone must bring a wrapped gift for themselves and their kids with their name written upon it. Santa would call your name and you’d go sit on his lap. Allen would look askance should anyone refuse to participate. Old and young would be called and childishly go to Santa, sit upon his lap and be asked if you’d been good this year. We didn’t miss any save for a snowstorm or two for many, many years.
Their social life was incredible. The daughters and I would joke that none of us could ever keep their schedule. Theater, books shows, all manner of friends PLUS the kids grandkids and great grandkids. They were busy it seemed at least 6 nights a week.
Like The Bridge of San Luis Rey, one wonders why someone so wonderful was put through what Pat was for her last 5 years. One wonders why Allen was too?
If there is a positive tale somewhere in the years of suffering, it is in the love, dedication and devotion they bestowed upon one another. As Pat’s condition declined in the last year, Allen had to take over all the care as well as cooking, bookselling, numerous and various medical treatments and appointments as their two lives contracted to mostly intramural—within their home walls—except for healthcare.
If there’s a tale of hope, it is that Allen could do all this.
I last saw Pat a few weeks before she passed. It was at my house. An Irish bookseller friend was visiting. It was Conor Kenny of Kenny’s Galway. The same bookseller Allen and Pat had introduced me to long before. He would come nearly every year and buy 10,000s of books from me to ship to Ireland. We had pizza and drinks. Much of Pat was somewhere else. Disease had attacked and robbed her mind. But toward the end of the evening, she returned for a bit. Something Allen said got her attention. She waved a glass of Rioja in her hand, and with a twinkle in her eye and flashing that beautiful smile, she chided him for his infraction. Patricia was back if only for a moment.
I’ll remember that image of Patricia. Another at the fortress of Dun Aengus on Aran Island looking bonny and Irish. Another behind the partner desk with Allen on his side one Christmas Eve looking out over all the kids seated on the floor looking up at Santa—so many of whom were hers or her children’s. And then there was that beauty in the Quill and Brush circa 1984.
What a partnership.
What a love story.
Some days later, her funeral was held. I don’t do well at funerals and do my best to avoid them. Since I’d experienced the death of my parents at a quite young age and my nearest brother when he was fairly young, I have found that when mortality looks me in the eye, I cannot return its gaze. But I steeled myself to attend this. I could not hide from death this day.
I posted this report to my bookseller colleagues who were unable to attend. Many had known Allen and Pat for decades. I felt they might want to know about it. It was a bit of a duty. But, I can assure you, it also helped me a great deal to get these words down.
The following was written after Pat’s funeral. Again, I’ve updated and corrected a bit of it. Wonder Book now had 29 days to be completely out of the old massive warehouse and into the new “massiver” one.
From: Chuck/Wonder Book
Date: June 1, 2014 2:44:49 PM EDT
To: Discuss—mailing list
Subject: [ABAA Discuss] Fwd: The Ahearn service
Reply—To: Discuss—mailing list
I wrote the first posting [May 30—above] about Pat and Allen out of concern that newer ABAA members may not know enough about them. Especially since Pat had to scale back since 2009 due to the many illnesses that conspired against her. The Ahearns are so much more to the “book” and bookselling than all the book collecting books they co-wrote and the business they built.
The funeral service for Patrica Ahearn was held at St Mary’s in Barnesville MD. It is a beautiful building inside with an angelic fresco in the apse above the altar and lots of dark carved wood throughout. Although externally it didn’t appear very old it did “feel” 18th century. It was a bit like I was in a chapel in southern Germany. This would fit because the Frederick region was settled by Germans. Almost all the local 18th c and early 19th c book imprints I’ve seen are in German—published in “Friederichstadt”. The occasional book published locally in English back then lists “Frederick City” as its source.
I decided for some reason I should know more about this place. Looking up its history on the internet this morning the building only dates back to 1900. The earlier church burned down. As I said, it seemed older. However, the roots of the parish go back to 1741. This particular church was established by a Father Dubois. He fled the French Revolution to America (an odd coincidence to what follows.) He got permission from John Carroll to build the church in 1807. Dubois moved on to Emmitsburg where he founded Mt St Mary’s. He was the spiritual director to Elizabeth Seton—the first American Saint. He became Bishop of New York City and ordained John Neumann thus directly influencing 2 American Saints.
Odd, the connections you can come up with when you go down some paths.
Barnesville is close to the Potomac River and changed hands at least 3 times during the Civil War.
Between Barnesville and the Quill & Brush in Dickerson is the hamlet of Comus, Maryland. I always think of John Milton’s masque when I pass through.
Allen greeted everyone as they entered the church. The kids and grandkids and spouses filled the front 4 pews. The church was packed, and many had to stand in back and along the sides. The service started with Amazing Grace. We all rose and sang. My heart broke and then was filled again over and over in those 5 verses—not just for Pat—but for all of them and all of us. This would happen again and again over the next couple hours or so.
At least 8 grandkids performed Rites of the Ceremony, sang or played music. A jewel in the crown, Ariana, who is the same age and life-long friends of my older son, gave the Eulogy. It began with 2 grandsons bringing the Symbols of the Church to the altar and laying them before the wooden casket containing Pat’s ashes. The Symbols being the Book and the Crucifix. The Catholic tradition of laying a book before the deceased struck me deeply.
It was a very traditional service. I’m not a Catholic but I am a believer (although not a church attendee or devout enough.)
It is a beautiful religion full of mystery and symbolism. Father O’Reilly (out of central casting) spoke words of hope, redemption, sadness and joy. “Pat is with the Saints.” I hope so. If there are any and there is a “there” somewhere it is a certainty. He lit the incense and swung the metal holder attached to the chain over the casket and altar.
“The smoke rising symbolizes our prayers rising to heaven.”
“And heaven swallowed up the smoke,” I thought. Beowulf.
And these words came through my mind many times during the service:
“I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die.”
—Dickens A Tale of Two Cities. To me, one of the most moving scenes in all literature.
I don’t know why those words came to me at this time and place. The quote is not a regular part of my personal canon of faith. But reciting them inwardly as I sat upon the pew kept the sobs inside although the tears flowed freely.
One of the grandkids read from Ecclesiastes: “to every thing there is a season…a time to embrace, a time to refrain from embracing…”
Remember this was written over 4 years ago. Much has changed. Iconoclasts continue to focus on a tiny minority of miscreants in order erode the foundations of the faith that got us here from the chaos of the collapse of the Roman Empire and the subsequent Dark Ages when hoards attempted to scour the Western world of art, literature and the written word. There is an interesting book touching on this: How the Irish Saved Civilization written in 1995. The text of my 2014 email continues:
The Church is out of fashion in our modern revolution. Not unlike the mob of “Citizen” rulers in Paris during the French Revolution many civil authorities today are coerced to try to hide or remove historic religion. Especially Christian religion.
Despite its historic and cultural value as the source, the touchstone, for much of the literature in the last thousands of years the Bible is not a welcome book in schools.
I hope the Church and the Book and the book will survive our revolution.
Believe me, I wouldn’t want my children indoctrinated by teachers of any “faith”—even (and especially) the “faith” of faithlessness. Where’s the balance between history, literature, art, tradition and proselytizing?
The “Book” frightens many. Why? It is just a book like all other books. Paper and ink and binding.
I don’t know.
You would think the readers could be trusted to think for themselves.
But how can any education of the West be complete without impartial knowledge of the “literature” of Genesis, Moses, Job, turn the other cheek, the Crucifixion, Apocalypse… whether you are a believer or not it is our history. It is censorship in the name free speech. So many of the greatest stories and quotes come from this book. Where do kids think these things come from?
I thought of all the wonderful music and art and books engendered by this faith.
I thought of the monks in Western Ireland and the Jews in the Ghettos keeping the flickering flame of civilization and the West alive while so much was done to dust.
“..and all the books that were not hidden will be burned.”
Then the service ended. Did the lights come up? I don’t remember. My mind and soul came back from wherever they had been.
Why did those words come to me? The Dickens?
They were the words of Sydney Carton approaching death and redemption; waiting in line for his turn at the guillotine; comforting the innocent young seamstress next to him who is also soon to lose her head.
They were the words of Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities—”It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”
They were the words of the Saint John the Apostle.
I don’t know. Perhaps the spirit of Father Dubois who fled the mob terror of the Revolution whispered them to me. He had been in that very church 200 years before.
We all stepped out into the Spring sunshine—friends, family, book people—all brought together here by Pat Ahearn.
Enough sadness. It is a time to party now.
We must eat drink and be merry for a bit. For balance.
On June 3, Allen and Nina Masson announced they were going to be married on August 19. That was wonderful news!
Like The Bridge at San Luis Rey there are happy endings as well.
Pat would have loved Nina and vice versa.
Was there divine intervention to bring this match about? Or was it just incredible good luck and coincidence?
A great party was held at the Gordon Biersch Brewery and Restaurant in…Rockville Maryland. Rockville is now a bustling and urbane city.
There were many familiar faces. Friends and families from the Christmas parties as well as some of the booksellers I “grew up” with.
At some point late in the evening, John Thomson sidled up to me.
“Lorne wants to hold a tribute to Allen the night before the Washington Antiquarian Book Fair in September. Would you want to participate?”
Lorne, John and Karen did all the work. All I did was put in a share of the money to pay the restaurant.
The event was to be a secret from Allen. Nina and Allen’s daughters managed keep the real reason he was being taken to the Archipelago on September 27th hushed.
I left Frederick a couple hours early. I KNOW what getting into DC during rush hour can entail.
I want to thank Lorne and John and Karen for the concept and fruition of the event.
Second Story and Wonder Book donated 25% each for the restaurant fees. Lorne and Bartleby’s also put in 25% each—plus all the legwork.
The entire gate ($45 x ~70?) went to the Benevolent Fund (again a great concept from the organizers.)
Alan Stypeck (of Second Story Books), John, Lorne, myself, Michael Dirda (Pulitzer Prize winning book genius and long-time friend to many of us) and Allen Ahearn spoke.
It was a great party. And, again, I was able to reconnect with many friends and colleagues I had not seen for many, many years.
The next day I emailed again to my ABAA colleagues on Discuss:
It was a very moving evening. Allen and Pat nurtured many of us in the region. Their generosity and exemplary “example” certainly reaches far beyond that. They made very many of us better booksellers. They made many collectors have a better understanding and motivation to pursue collectible books.
I saw a number of folks I hadn’t seen for years. I met some new booksellers and some not so new.
The restaurant/Tiki Bar Archipelago owned by John and Karen’s son Owen was delightful. The food was great and I haven’t had so many Mai Tais…ever.
Each Mai Tai had an orchid and other tropical accouterments in appropriate containers.
Booksellers and food and an open bar are a risky combination. I hope the Archipelago didn’t lose money on the evening.
Honorific gatherings like this should certainly be considered by other members branches.
There was great camaraderie all around—even among some of us who have not been social for a long time (or ever.)
Did I mention there were great Mai Tais as well?
Thanks again L, J and K. Great idea for a great man and the spirit of our beloved departed Patricia.
It is time to wrap this story up.
The four ABAA speakers noted how Allen had not just made them better booksellers but also better “men.” Michael Dirda finished the tribute in the same vein.
So, the two recent “Ahearn Events” were, as always, out of scale and delightful.
When is the next one?
While searching for emails in 2014, I came across this one from Tracee Haupt. She had worked for Wonder Book, and I had asked Allen to take her on and train her about collectible books. Her tenure at Quill & Brush coincided with some of the most painful times for Pat and those around her. After the funeral service, I wrote saying I was sorry we hadn’t spoken. I told her I was just not able to speak that afternoon. She replied:
…I wish I had known Pat when she was well. Unfortunately she was sick most of the time that I knew her so I feel like I only got glimpses of her normal self. I remember one day she was having hallucinations and thought that there were people outside her house. She saw them near my car, so she concluded that they were probably my parents. Her reaction was to tell me that I absolutely had to invite them in for a drink. It was sad that she was hallucinating, but I also thought that it was revealing of her personality. Most people would probably be afraid if they saw strangers outside their house, but her response was to tell me that I should invite them in and find out if they wanted to stay for dinner. Even on her worst days she was warm and welcoming.
That was Pat, for sure. No one was a stranger if she could help it. No one would go hungry for food or drink or conversation if she could help it.