The unforgettable Jean Bell Mosley

Saturday, April 21, 2007

By Millie Walhausen

I recently learned that a new book is about to be published concerning the life and works of Jean Bell Mosley, the late well-known, award-winning Missouri author. How proud we should be of her. And I urge everyone to buy a copy.

Jean Bell Mosley delighted her untold thousands of readers with her novels, short stories and articles since her first story sold to Woman's Day in 1951. Her weekly columns had appeared since 1955 in the Southeast Missourian until her death at 89 on June 11, 2003.

I met her through reading her poignant novel "The Crosses at Zarin" in 1967, a fascinating story going back some 2,000 years. She had a special gift of making her readers feel that they were actually there, in ages past and in current times.

"The Crosses at Zarin" sold 40,000 copies before publication, and the next reprinting was within the first month. It was selected as the Family Bookshelf selection of the year. Later, in 1970, it was reprinted in Spanish. "Las Cruces de Zarin" was published by Casa Beautista de Publicaciones of El Paso, Texas.

Her first novel, "The Mockingbird Piano," won The Missouri Writers Guild's top award for 1953. It is also available in Braille.

Everything Jean Bell Mosley has written has her rare, magic touch. Not only did she have a great love of the English language, she knew how to use it. Everything she wrote touched the universal heart and spirit of humanity -- all ages in their compassion, their struggles, ups and downs, joys and sorrows. What a sensitive and endearing intellectual she was. She never bragged, but her accomplishments could fill a book.

An example: One short story published in the digest national magazine "Guideposts" was her story about "The Green Grape Pie." As I turned the page, I noted that it was based on just two characters -- an ordinary housewife in the Great Depression days and a poor man who lived by doing scarce odd jobs -- and a green grape pie. I thought to myself, "Who on earth could write anything interesting about this?" Then my eyes caught her name as author. Oh my, was I ever wrong. It is unforgettable -- as she was, as a beautiful person!

Millie Wallhausen is the longtime editor of the Enterprise-Courier in Charleston, Mo.

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