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A Chapter To Remember: Mary Lee Hendrickson Worked For Gileses And Became, Hers

This article first appeared in issue 21, and was written by Dwayne Harris. The full title appeared as: A chapter to remember: Mary Lee Hendrickson worked for Gileses and became, herself, a part of literary history.

This delightful story first appeared in"WESTWord," the employee magazine for the Westlake Healthcare Team. It is reprinted with permission of the editor of the magazine who also wrote the story.

Long after most of us are forgotten, the name of Mary Lee Hendrickson will be remembered. As long as the pages of Janice Holt Giles novels are read, Mary's voyage will continue.

Pick up a copy of Run Me a River, and there it is, a steamboat named the "Mary Lee."

"Mrs. Giles asked if she could use my name," explained Henrickson, an LPN and message nurse for Westlake Primary Care. "And I said, 'Sure.'"

She had been agreeable when Janice and Henry Giles, the famed Adair County authors, had asked the young Neatsville girl to be their household assistant in the summer of 1963.

Mary, fresh out of high school, needed to make some money for nursing school, so she agreed to the terms: Half days, five days a week, $13.50 a week.

At the time it was just good employment.

"I didn't really realize the significance of working for them," she said. "I was just a poor country girl. It just didn't really sink in."

Janice Holt Giles wrote more than 20 historical novels which have sold more than 3 million copies. She and Mr. Giles collaborated on four books. They lived much of their lives on Henry's homeplace in Knifley.

Mary cooked and cleaned, did laundry, ran errands and even carried manuscripts to the Knifley Post Office.

And she enjoyed it all.

"They were fantastic to work for."

Mrs. Giles, Mary said, wrote nearly every day. She remembers hearing her reading aloud what she had written, and she recalls the tap-tap-tapping of Mrs. Giles' typewriter.

"I could see the typewriter," Mary said. "But I was not to go near it."

Mary, one of 18 children, worked for the Giles' for about a year, long enough to save $100 for nursing school tuition. A Westlake employee since 1990, she has been at WPC since 1994.

She beams with pride when she opens the front cover of The GI Journal of Sergeant Giles and reveals a special note, "For Mary Lee," it says, "who helped with this book by taking care of the home for me. With love, Janice Holt Giles."

This story was posted on 1998-07-15 12:01:01
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