Local woman shares mother’s poetry verses

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 12, 2005

Louise Fox knows the power of the written word. As a retired schoolteacher and counselor, the Luverne area resident knows words can instruct, enlighten, entertain and comfort readers – perhaps even touch their immortal souls.

Upbeat ’til the end

Her mother, Bertha Copeland Bays, also knew the importance of words. At the time of her passing in 2000 at the ripe old age of 95, the senior citizen had been busy working late into the night in her room at the Luverne Nursing Home, writing poems in hopes of completing a book of her verse.

&uot;Mother was a very positive, upbeat person. She had a great attitude. And her mind stayed sharp right up until the end,&uot; Fox recalls.

When Bays passed away, her daughter took over the publication process, with &uot;My Beautiful Autumn&uot;, a soft-cover volume of Bays’ original poetry, artwork and photos released by Nicholas Printing in 2003.

‘A room filled with words’

As a child growing up in Nicholas County, West Virginia, Bertha Bays’ favorite childhood home was a house with walls papered with newspaper.

Those words captured Bays’ imagination, intriguing her enough to use them in her own funny little rhymes.

&uot;Mother had such fond memories of those walls filled with words,&uot; recalls Fox with a smile.

Bays continued to write her verses. As a teen, her poems were published in the local newspaper and many readers thought she was destined for a literary career.

Instead, the teenager passed her state teachers’ exams and began a career in education before she even finished high school.

&uot;Mother taught thirty-two years in West Virginia and thirteen of those were in one-room schoolhouses. She also taught for ten years in Florida,&uot; says Fox.

During those years Bays also played the roles of wife, mother and student as she completed undergraduate and graduate work.

And all the while, she continued her love affair with words.

Senior wit and wisdom

Some of her poems were published in 1930 in a booklet titled &uot;Hello, Poets&uot;. A lover of palindromes (word, phrases and sentences which read the same backwards and forwards), Bays also published a witty collection of her own original palindromes in

&uot;The Not Like Any Other Book, Book!&uot; in 1988. Included are such droll works as &uot;Hobo Bob? Oh!&uot;, &uot;Mad Adam&uot;, and &uot;Eve is a Sieve&uot;.

&uot;She had the best time coming up with those palindromes; she would test them out on me,&uot; Fox laughs.

While writing was a life-long love of Bays, most of her poems were written after the age of 90, her daughter recalls.

&uot;Writing was a way of expressing her Christian faith, her love of family and her sense of humor. She shared thoughts about growing older…she hoped to touch people in a positive way with her poetry She called those last poems her ‘autumn leaves.’&uot;

The impetus to publish that last book came about after Bays was visited by a nurse who had once been in the retired teacher’s second grade class.

&uot;Yvette Hall, the nurse, had a mother who was quite ill and who was not a Christian. Mother began sending poems to Yvette’s mom.

One day, Yvette came in and said, ‘That last one did it.’ Her mother had finally made a profession of faith. She passed away shortly thereafter. Mother said, ‘Maybe I can inspire other people to become Christians, too.’ That’s why my mom wanted so much to see this book published,&uot; explains Fox.

The author’s daughter had &uot;My Beautiful Autumn&uot; printed in large, boldface type with the hope other seniors would find the book easy on the eyesight. &uot;I would love to see this book in many senior centers, assisted living facilities and nursing homes – I really feel older folks would especially enjoy and be inspired by the words of a fellow senior.&uot;

The softbound book also features reproductions of some of her mother’s colorful nature paintings, along with prized family photos and eye-catching graphics.

&uot;I am so glad I was able to have this book published and carry out my mother’s wishes…this way I can share a little of her with others.&uot;

Louise Fox has a number of copies of &uot;My Beautiful Autumn&uot; still available for purchase at a cost of $10 per book. To learn more about the book or to purchase copies, contact Fox at 335-2385.