Friday, May 24, 2019

A Crowded Life in Comics –

Cartoonists’ Love Notes, Good-Byes, and Get-Wells

Rick Marschall

May 24 was the anniversary of me and my late wife Nancy. She died six and a half years ago, a great wife and mother to our three children. She endured a lifetime of ailments – diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, cancer, celiac disease, amputations, dialysis, heart and kidney transplants, and, at the end, creeping dementia. She was strong; complained little; and kept her faith. The transplants were forecast to buy her three extra years, but she survived 16 years.

She was a saint to endure my comics and cartoon collecting; but after all I knew someday I would be writing this column for Yesterday’s Papers. She was also the star of our team, socially. The only people who did not love her were those who had not yet met her. A favorite of cartoonists and their wives; there were many dinners and parties in Connecticut especially, when we lived in Westport and Weston; and she loved throwing parties herself, especially surprise parties for us all.

Among the cartoonists and wives at our wedding were Dik Browne, Jerry Dumas, Jack Tippit, Bill Brown, Mel Casson, Mort Walker. Comics historians Maurice Horn and Bill Crouch were also there.

I will share some drawings here to illustrate the memories. The first is a Little Nemo take-off. When I left the Connecticut Herald political-cartooning job to join United Feature Syndicate, Dik and Joan Browne threw a little farewell party, and son Chris – the best amateur cartoonist of the day – drew me (Ouch! Yes, I looked like that, then) having fever dreams… with a cameo of Nancy, looking like, well, Nancy.

When we moved, years later, to Bucks County PA, a bunch of cartoonists had a BBQ where we were farewelled. Ron Goulart joined Bob Weber, Leonard Starr, Stan Drake, Ray Burns, Jack Berrill, Herb Green, and others. Orlando Busino engineered a scrapbook of everybody’s farewell drawings, some of which I have shared in Crowded Life columns. Here is the title page Orlando drew (yes, characters are his versions, including Moose Miller, which he occasionally ghosted). Also here, the Jerry Marcus vision of visitors at our old house’s door. I used this as a change-of-address card!

About a decade after we moved to Pennsylvania,  Nancy’s health problems spiked, and she was listed for transplants. More than four months, waiting for organs. Was her hospital room cheery? There was hardly room for flowers, so many cartoonists having sent get-well drawings for the walls. I shared some of these earlier; here are others – by Bob (Chance) Browne, with Hi & Lois and Hagar’s family; and by Dick Hodgins, who ghosted Hagar magnificently for years, followed by his son Richard III.

Nancy’s life was “crowded” in her own way – with challenges and faith, but also with cartoonist friends and their families.


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