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THE WONDERFUL and beloved Mary Sherrill died after, as they say, a long illness. Some of those sonsofbitches seem a lot longer than others when you’re watching a valuable person erased bit by bit. If I could give you the fabulous gift of knowing Mary Sherrill, I think it would start with her voice that invincibly chipper, slightly well-bred, somewhat Katherine Hepburn-ish voice, almost always crisply articulating some thought poised neatly between common sense and comic. What an observer of the human comedy she was; droll and kind and wise: Even for those of us who loved her dearly, it is hard to think of her as a sepa rate person, not part of Mary-and-Bob. The Sherrills had, and this is written without a smidge of sentimentality, an extraordinary partnership. And much of Mary in her own right is predicated on how she differed from and how she complemented Bob Sherrill. For one thing, Mary had no temper that I ever saw. It neither upset nor disconcerted her that Bob was often mad as hell at some lunkhead or another. She seemed to think he was entitled to be mad as hell, rather Molly Ivins, a former Observer editor, is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. thought it was a good thing, just didn’t do it herself. Perfectly capable of despising the despicable, of course, but always with a calm good sense that didn’t exclude whatever redeeming social value might be found lurking in a person. Let’s face it, Mary was an optimist. I don’t think, if you had asked her about the human race in general, she would have been much more encouraging than some Aggie entomologist on the subject of fire ants. But she had a great kindness for individuals. Grace and class and kindness. I think the most important thing to say about Mary is that she was bright, in both senses of the word. She was just plain smart, so intelligent and perceptive that it was a treat to be around her. And bright as a person, not in any smarmy, goody-goody way, just upbeat and full of joy. She was at home in her skin. No pre tense, no affectation, never tried to impress. She smoked cigars because she liked cigars. She played the piano because she loved good music. And I see her now, in the evening, after a long busy day, wonderful smells coming from the kitchen, she chortling over some outrageous observa tion of Bob’s, and then sitting down at the piano to make classical music come rippling out. It’s going to be darker without her. -Molly Ivins 1960s, thanks to a job on The Texas Observer, and then they clicked for 15 years in Washington D.C., thanks to The Nation, The New York Times Magazine, Playboy and many other publications. But thanks basically to Mary. During those years six trade books, two college textbooks and hundreds of magazine articles were produced with my name on them. But all who were close to us knew, as Jim Abourezk tells you in his sidebar tribute, that most of the important work was Mary’s: most of the research, all of the editing and most of the ideas. The books had some great titles, all Mary’s. Did she ever get credit? The closest she came was in the acknowledgments in my second book, Gothic Politics In The Deep South, where I conceded, “By rights, at least a co-authorship should be assigned to Mary Sherrill. … But Southern women, after all, are accustomed to being cheated of credit.” Admittedly, a limp excuse for a major injustice. Also invaluable were her mis chievously funny techniques for lifting me from black moods. On those occasions, not infrequent, when I began to rage at what I considered the effete decline of The Nation magazine under Victor Navasky, my nominal boss, she would let me go on for five minutes, yelling and ripping up the magazine, and then she would interrupt me with the comment always the same comment “But Victor is so sweet.” The total irrelevance of that remark to what I was saying always reduced me, as she knew it would, to laughter and calm. It’s hard to convey the essence of Mary. She was a thoroughgoing romantic and adventuress, but a practical one. I talked her into taking a 400-mile bicycle trip up the California coast, but after 50 miles and a serious sunburn she persuaded me it might be just as romantic to toss our bikes into a boxcar and make most of the rest of the trip on a freight train. Her tastes were extremely varied. For one of only moderate wealth, she filled the walls of her home with a fairly impressive collection of rare maps, signed prints and drawings \(Avery, Feininger, Hopper, photos \(Adams, Arbus, Brandt, Brassai, whole days, one after another, soaking up the lush beauty of Washington’s art galleries. But in the world of nature, oddly, her favorites were two of its bleakest spots, deep West Texas and the Badlands of South Dakota. A clue to her politics perhaps could be found in the only two inscribed photos she hung on the wall behind her desk: one of Fidel Castro and Abourezk obviously plotting behind two enormous cigars, the other of a grinning Dugger and Willie Morris, each flipping not one but two fingers at the world. She had an incredible memory: names, dates, family history, political history, biographies. And what a speller. A few weeks before Mary died, she was trying to cheer me up and she made a pun on the day, which was a Monday. The pun was made around the word “mappemonde.” I asked if she knew how to spell it. “Which do you want,” she asked, rubbing it in, “the Middle English or the Medieval Latin?” giving me both. And of course, as Webster’ s Inter national confirmed, she got both right. A small woman with a neat, strong body, Mary was no athlete but she could swim a mile, could throw a football or baseball masculine efficiency, and was a tireless walker. When her car broke down on the other side of Washington, instead of taking a cab she walked the four miles home just for the hell of it, carrying our Lhasa apso Charlie in her oversized handbag. In impossible situations, she could always find something to save the day. Once we were traveling from Los Angeles to San Angelo, Texas, to take yet another newspaper job and about 50 miles short of our destination we discovered we were nearly out of gas. We were totally out of money. Not a cent. Then she remembered that at the bottom of her suitcase was a silver dollar, given to her for luck years before. In those 25 cents-a-gallon days, it got us in. When she wanted to dress up, Mary could look spiffy indeed. But her usual attire was jeans or walking shorts, T-shirts or un-ironed blouses THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15