In the newsroom Tuesday afternoon, while pulling my print jobs off the printer, I shuffled through printouts colleagues had yet to retrieve.
A familiar name caught my eye. It carried the name Mary Lee Hostert, of Cascade, Iowa. It was the draft of an obituary. Even though Mary Lee was well into her senior years, I was stunned. The death notice mentioned a "brief illness." She was 81.
From the start of my project to research and write the Red Faber biography, Mary Lee was a tremendous and faithful supporter. Proud of her town's Hall of Famer, she very much wanted a book written about him, and she pledged that she would help as much as she could. She did. And then some.
In the introduction of my book, I discussed choosing Faber as my subject, after considering other candidates:
That decision was affirmed after I contacted the Tri-County Historical Society in Cascade, Iowa -- Faber's hometown, just 25 miles from my front door. The organization's small museum does not have regular hours -- or much heat -- in the winter. But on a bring but frigid January day, Mary Lee Hostert and Lee Simon unlocked the place and showed me around. The museum's Faber collection, like the player himself, is modest. But what impressed me was Mary Lee and Lee's pride in their hometown star and their pledge to help my project any way possible.
A slight, white-haired woman you'd love to have as your grandmother, Mary Lee carries out much of the historical society's work. She knows Cascade history -- the famous, the infamous and the notorious -- and refers to Faber on a first-name basis. The historical society board granted me complete access to its collection at virtually any time; Mary Lee would just meet me and unlock the place. Whenever Mary Lee came across mentions of Red or other members of the Faber family in the back issues of the Cascade Pioneer, she sent me photocopies. It didn't take long for me to realize that the Tri-County Historical Society was counting on me. I hope they feel I did not let them down.
I'll miss checking in with Mary Lee now and then, discussing the museum (which has significantly improved its Faber exhibit, due in large part to Lee Simon's dedication and persistence, with political support from Mary Lee), and feedback either of us had received about the book.
It is some consolation that Mary Lee lived to see the Faber biography published and the museum improved to pay proper recognition of Cascade's baseball legend. She wanted that very much.
I consider Mary Lee a Hall of Famer herself.