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Carol Perkins: Thoughts on the death of Robin Williams

Robin Williams' depression was quite well known. But sometimes, no one suspects depression hidden behind a facade of infectious happiness. Such was the situation when a dorm mate of the writer went home one weekend never to return to campus.
Next earlier Carol Perkins column: Edmonton to Horse Cave II: The show is saved. Posted August 17, 2014

By Carol Perkins

The death of Robin Williams brought back a time back in 1966 when I was at EKU, living in a dorm, and enjoying my sophomore year with friends from the previous year and new ones we had just met. This new year in a brand new dorm was to be a happy time and I couldn't wait.


'Stella' was infectiously happy

One of those new girls was Stella (not her real name). I knew Stella from classes and from seeing her on campus, but I didn't really know her until she and her roommate moved in just down the hall. Stella was infectiously happy. Smart, cute with freckles and hair that flipped when she walked, boys wanted to date her and girls wanted to be her. Late at night some of us would gather in the hallway with our hair rolled in orange juice cans and in our baby doll PJ's like those of Doris Day's in Pajama Party and talk. Those nights were when I got to know Stella.

I knew where she lived (the town), about her high school days, and her family, but didn't yet know her on the level I would know a close friend. I didn't have time. I would never have known, for instance, that she was depressed or blue or even desperate. She was the fun girl who lifted others.

With thoughts of Robin Williams came thoughts of Stella and the sequence of those tragic events unraveled like an unwritten book as I stared at the ceiling and went back to that weekend. Here is what I recall.

She had gone home for the weekend, which she didn't often do because she was so busy on campus. I had gone home that weekend, too. When I got back to the dorm late on Sunday night, our normally busy floor was quiet. What I do remember is wondering where everyone was, so I began to look for them. What I found first were my next door roommates quieting sitting in silence.

Then came dreadful news

They then gave me the dreadful news. Stella had gone home and on Friday night while her parents were gone to a ballgame, she hanged herself with a belt in her bathroom. She was only nineteen. That vision has never left me. Privacy was truly respected back then and suicide was a whispered word, so none of us girls ever knew any details. What was going on in her life? Why hadn't we noticed?

We solemnly watched as adults (not sure who) move her belongings out of her dorm room on Monday and that was that. I don't remember where her roommate moved, but she didn't live in that room. Her existence was wiped out without a word from anyone to help us or comfort us.

I wonder what Stella might be like today

As I was reliving this painful experience, I thought about what Stella might be like today. A wife and mother? She would have been in the middle of the action, leading a PTO group and going to her grandchildren's ballgames or fighting for rights for others, or something front and center. If she could have gotten through one more day, that extra day might have made a difference. Could some of us have made a difference? I wish she could have had one more day.

Carol Perkins, the writer, is an author, weekly radio talk show Host on The Hoss, 99.1 FM, on the Tuesdays at 10amCT, Susan (Chambers) & Carol (Perkins) Unscripted and is owner of Main Street Screenprinting PO Box 1051 601 S. Main Street Edmonton, KY 42120 270-432-3152 270-670-4913


This story was posted on 2014-08-24 11:13:48
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