Like most journalists, I receive a fair share of email from readers.
Some of the correspondence contains compliments or constructive criticism. Some of the missives come with missiles so vile I can’t share them in a family newspaper.
Every once in a while, however, a message will come through that touches my heart.
Let me tell you about the love letter Alan Lipke sent about his wife Yvonne LaMon Lipke.
"Had we but world enough, and time…"
Some of you know that line as the beginning of one of the greatest come-ons ever written. It’s by an eighteenth-century Englishman named Andrew Marvell. When I tried it on this cute, charming woman she thought it terrific. Adopted it as "our poem."
Twenty-one years wasn’t time enough with her.
And the East Coast and New Orleans – Peru – Ireland, Greece, Turkey, Italy – Ghana – Cancun – wasn’t world enough either.
Immediately I envision a cute couple, carrying each other through years of marital bliss. The time element and 17th century poetry tells me it’s a mature love, nurtured perhaps by life’s occasional hard knocks. Before I can wonder if it’s all perfect between Alan and Yvonne he answers with the next paragraph.
We loved each other. From time to time we disappointed each other, even hurt each other’s feelings. That’s marriage.
But Alan continued with more praise, referencing Shakespeare to describe how people loved Yvonne and she loved people — unconditionally. He told of the day she was born — March 12, 1950 — but said she never looked her age thanks to a "big smile and lovely skin."
Yvonne earned her BA in Education at the University of South Florida while driving a ten-gang lawnmower-tractor at the Palma Ceia Country Club. She taught elementary exceptional students for 34 years, first in Brooksville, then in Tampa, most recently at Mendenhall and Miles Elementary.
They both lamented how exceptional education teachers are underappreciated.
Alan asked if I could be sure to include how disillusioned Yvonne grew with education’s overriding emphasis on testing, and how it took the teacher’s judgment out of the equation. She never wavered in her devotion to children, however she longed for leaders to restore independent innovation to teachers.
She loved causes because she hated injustice, cruelty, fear, racism, greed and meddling bureaucrats.
He wrote that Yvonne raised two powerful daughters, practically on her own, and while he had never met her first husband, he was certain he made a huge mistake.
Not long after we got engaged, she took me aside and told me I didn’t want to marry her because she was selfish and stubborn and used to deciding things for herself. And I thought it mighty selfish of her to be saying such unpleasant things about this neat, fascinating girl who was willing to trade a classy name like "LaMon" for a shlubby one like "Lipke."
This humble, heart-felt letter left me wanting to meet Yvonne LaMon Lipke, to hear her stories about the classroom, her devotion to Alan and how she finally got her, "crazy family to love each other as much as she loved them." But I won’t get that chance.
As Alan wrote, Yvonne beat cancer for seven years before dying on July 25. Family and friends will celebrated her life from 6-8 p.m. tonight at Blount & Curry’s Garden of Memories, 4207 East Lake Avenue; and at 2 p.m. on Saturday at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church, 706 E. 113th Ave.
A New Orleans "second line" will be part of the celebration on Saturday, and Alan says Yvonne would want everyone to wear bright, colorful clothes.
She has passed on, but the love story lives.
She was the most wonderful person I ever met. I’m so lucky that she shared her life with me.