May 23, 2019 was a "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day!" That's not an original thought for me. I borrowed it from author Judith Viorst. That was the day that we alI received the news that our beloved friend, Rebecca (Tobin) Yount, had passed away quietly and quite suddenly in her sleep.
My first reaction was stunned disbelief. I literally couldn't accept it as real. I've sent out dozens of sympathy cards and attended many funerals and memorials in the last year. But none of them hit me quite as hard as this one did. Maybe it was because Becky was a contemporary - someone in my age group. But I think it was more than that. She had become a dear friend over the last several years, and I suspect that she will be in my thoughts frequently.
How did we originally reconnect after decades? It started on a Website called "You know you're from Reynoldsburg when ....." I'm quite sure many of you reading this are quite familiar with it. And if you're not, you should definitely check it out. It's full of reminiscences from "old timers" who grew up in Reynoldsburg, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. Responses frequently began with phrases like "I surely do remember that..." or "Oh, my, I haven't thought of that in years!" You get the picture!!
That's where I first saw the name Rebecca Yount. She had many responses that were funny, insightful, thought-provoking, etc., and I loved reading them (along with everyone else's as well). We chatted back and forth many times, and had great conversations. Finally one day, I made a comment to her that I had just sent her a "private message (PM)." Most of you know that means only Rebecca and I could see it and chat. In it, I told her I loved chatting with her about anything and everything, but "I can't quite place you, Rebecca. What year did you graduate and what was your maiden name?" I could see she was responding when all of a sudden, it hit me like a bolt of lightning! While she was still responding, I went and typed again, "Are you Rebecca Tobin?" Meanwhile she had been typing that she hadn't been able to place me either, and was asking the same questions of me! In school, I had been known as Wanda - not Wendy so that was probably the confusion. Anyway, we chatted privately that day for nearly an hour! We shared stories and re-connected in a big way.
We knew Rebecca Yount as “Becky Tobin”. Her parents were Dallas R. and Nelle McCoy Tobin. Nelle was an elementary school teacher in Reynoldsburg and Dallas was an editor/journalist for UPI as well as a writer for the Columbus Dispatch. Becky’s brother, Don G. (Toby), graduated from RHS in 1954 and her sister, Jane, graduated in 1957. Becky graduated from RHS in 1962 where she was an honor student and a member of the marching band.
One of the first stories I shared with her was that I always remembered her as being the tiny, pretty girl with the below the waist pony-tail with always a curl at the end and big eyes. And that I had had a good friend in her class (1962) named Judy Pierson who I saw her with a lot in the halls. Judy and I had become friends when we sat together in a big study hall, and she was so much fun.
Becky agreed, and told me one of her favorite memories of Judy was that she had once tried to teach Becky and another girl to do the hula. Becky said she wasn't very good at it - the hula, that is. I told Becky I had just re-connected with Judy a couple of years before that, and had her contact information. After checking with Judy first for permission, I gave them each other’s info. They were both tickled to be able to "talk" again after so many decades. It was a joy to re-connect with Judy and with Becky, but to be able to help the two of them to re-connect as well was very satisfying.
We went on over the next weeks and months and years to discover SO many similar likes and dislikes and parallel experiences. We both loved to read, and loved nothing better than the look and smell and feel of a real book in our hands! And hanging out in libraries was our idea of heaven! How funny then for Becky to find out that my first job was working at the brand new Reynoldsburg Library when it first opened in 1964. And how funny for me to find out that Becky was a published author! And of mysteries - my very favorite genre! I introduced her to one of my favorites - Rex Stout's books about private detective, Nero Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin. And Becky introduced to her own mysteries about a Scotland Yard detective named Michael "Mick" Chandra. And her books were available only as eBooks!
As I began to read her books, I saw a lot of Rebecca (Tobin) Yount in her heroine, Jessica Beaumont. Jessica was an American professional concert pianist, who moved to England to try to get over a tragedy in her life. Becky had majored in music at Capital University with the desire to become a concert pianist. Jessica loved to cook and many chapters show her cooking meals for friends and trying out English recipes that are new to her.
Becky and David loved going to England and staying several months at a time, and she also loved trying new recipes unique to England. She even started a Website called "Crime and Cottage Pie." It's worth checking out to learn more about Becky.
You should also (if you haven't already) read Becky's books. The first is "A murder in C minor." At the end of my article is a list of her books in the order they were written, I believe. Also there is an article that Becky wrote herself about how she got started as an author called “The Quivering Pen: My First Time: My First Advocate”. Her husband, David has provided RTHS with a biography of her life and her careers.
One conversation we had started with Becky commenting about binge watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musicals. I discovered she loved classic movies and musicals in particular. So that year I recorded about six Fred and Ginger musicals, and sent them to her for her birthday. They were quite a hit, and she sent me a thank you letter on pretty stationery, along with a story about how her mother taught her to always write thank you notes for gifts or for nice things people did for her.
Her mom went to Lazarus downtown and ordered Becky her own engraved stationery. When I wrote back, I told her I also had my own stationery. I bought mine myself and it also came from Lazarus - pale blue with "Words by Wendy" on each sheet and note card. Becky's response was "How Jeffersonian!!" Talking about Lazarus led to several conversations over time about going downtown to Lazarus, our favorite floors to shop and our restaurants of choice. My choice was The Colonial Room; Becky's was the Buckeye Room. Her Mom took her there when she was quite young, and Becky remembered they always dressed up and wore white gloves and made an occasion of it. I even told her about my first purchase with my first paycheck from the library. I went to the third floor, and paid $20.00 for a bathing suit! In 1964 dollars, that would be like paying $300.00 in today’s money.
Last year when she was facing going into the hospital because they had discovered a tumor in her abdomen, she mentioned on her site that she was anticipating a long time in rehab afterwards. So she said she'd better go to the library and stock up on books to read. I had duplicate copies of about 12 Nero Wolfe mysteries on hand. I packed them into a box, along with six or seven other books I had already read and enjoyed. I thought she might enjoy them, too. I sent them off to her, along with some more classic movie DVD's.
When her thank you letter came this time, she said, "When I opened your box, Wendy, you cannot believe how I sucked in my breath!! I was overwhelmed. Tears came to my eyes. I don't think I'll have to go to the library for a while!! I am so blessed to have so many wonderful friends like you!!" She thanked me for 2 books in particular, "The Last Templar" because she said she had always been fascinated by the Templars. And "The History of the National Road in Ohio." That book brought her so many memories of her dad, who was an appraiser for the Columbus Office of the FHA.
During summer vacations, her dad often took her with him on his appraisal trips throughout the area. She said the memories of those trips and her dad were wonderful. She once asked him why the biggest, prettiest house in most small towns always seemed to be a funeral home!! And the movies brought memories of her mom. She said although most people knew her mom was an elementary school teacher in Reynoldsburg (many had her as a teacher, including my sister, Cheryl), what most people didn't know was that during summer vacation her mom worked as a cashier at Miles East Main Drive-in movie theatre. Because of that, Becky and her siblings got in free to see many movies every summer. Such fun! But she never expected to own many favorite movies, and get to watch whenever she was in the mood for a good old-fashioned movie!
We shared another thing in common, our children! Becky and I both married men who had children from a previous marriage that we adopted and loved as our own, and who filled our lives with great joy. Christina, Lisa, and Virginia, I'm sure you know how very much she loved you, and how proud she was of you. I never got to meet you, David, but I knew if Becky loved you, you must be a wonderful man. Our hearts go out to all of you as you try to figure out a way to have a meaningful life without her with you in the physical sense. We'll all keep her in our hearts, as you will keep her in yours.
Another frequent topic of conversation for us was genealogy. We both have been exploring our ancestral roots for many years. We both subscribed to Ancestry.com on our computers, and both had gotten DNA tests done from kits ordered from Ancestry.com. We both STRONGLY disagreed with our initial DNA analysis. A year or so later Ancestry revised their initial breakdown of percentages, and this time we were both pleased to see that the second breakdown more accurately represented what we each had found in our "paper trails." We both loved this hobby a lot, and loved talking about it. As a matter of fact, we both loved history in general, and our own in particular. That love of our shared Reynoldsburg history led me to ask her - to encourage her - to become a member of the Reynoldsburg-Truro Historical Society. She did so, and told me she was so proud of her membership that she hung her membership certificate over her desk where she would see it every day. She was very proud of being a "corn-fed, down-home, small town girl." And she never forgot her roots!
I mentioned above that Rebecca never forgot her roots. I remember reading that the best thing you could give your children or your grandchildren was "Roots and Wings!!" Rebecca always had roots - deep roots, and now she has wings, too! God bless you, Rebecca! I'll miss you always, think of you often with love, and always be proud that we were friends. Not good-bye, Becky. I'll see you again on the other side.
Wendy (Wheatley) Raftery
Reynoldsburg High School Class of 1964
Obituary for REBECCA TOBIN YOUNT from her husband, David Yount
Rebecca Yount (born Rebecca Way Tobin on June 17, 1944 in Columbus, Ohio), was an American author, known for her series of crime novels featuring Scotland Yard inspector Michael ("Mick") Chandra, also a Facebook series on home cooking, entitled “Crime and Cottage Pie”, and historical novels set in England. She was the daughter of journalist Dallas R. Tobin, who later worked for the U.S. government, and teacher, Nelle McCoy.
Becky was educated at public schools in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, then Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, where she received a four-year proficiency award; then the graduate schools of Indiana, Binghamton, and New York Universities. While pursuing doctoral studies, she received her master's degree and was awarded a teaching assistantship in music at Binghamton.
Becky began music studies in conservatory at the age of eight, aiming at a career as a concert pianist. As an undergraduate, she had already published poetry and co-edited the campus poetry magazine. Later she wrote music and verse for voice: “Three Songs of Transition,” which was performed at Lincoln Center in New York.
Turning to research, she served as associate editor of the annual “Political Handbook of the World”, published by McGraw-Hill. Moving to Washington, D.C. she edited publications for The Society for Values in Higher Education, then became director of development for the Partners of the Americas, leading to a series of leadership roles for the Council of Chief State School Officers, whose members are responsible for the quality of public education across the U.S. and its territories.
In conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education and the Bureau of the Census, she created the very first comprehensive map of the nation's school boundaries. She also directed a nationwide program to invest private funds to strengthen America's public schools, soliciting grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to enrich public education in a series of states and territories as disparate as Alaska and the Northern Mariana Islands. She lectured widely. Her model programs persuaded state legislators to increase public funding for public schools.
In the 1980s she drafted education legislation for the Congress that became public policy. She was personally honored by grants from the Exxon Education Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. Her interest in public policy and governance can be traced to her leadership in the Girls State of Ohio, where she served in the governor's cabinet. In her writing life, she mentored young women in Afghanistan who aspired to be published internationally.
Becky married David Yount, a multiple award-winning author, journalist, and foundation president, in Washington, D.C. in 1978, adopting his three pre-adolescent daughters, who call her "Mom." For decades the Younts resided in a small lake-front home in Northern Virginia with three cats and a series of Scottish Terriers. While still raising the children, she began writing historical fiction set in England, where the family continued to live for part of every year.
Early on, when exchanging homes with an English couple in a small Essex village, she learned of the unsolved violent murder of a wealthy neighbor with his own kitchen cleaver. She resolved to solve the crime by way of her first novel, which introduced Anglo-Indian Mick Chandra, styled after a real Scotland Yard inspector who was a neighbor during yet another home exchange.
By 2018 her Mick Chandra series had expanded to six e-novels with more on tap, each awarded four to five stars by reviewers, including Amazon, Kindle Books, and Goodreads. Rebecca underwent successful open-heart surgery at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital in January 2010 and continued her writing undiminished until she died unexpectedly and without pain while sleeping at home on May 23, 2019. She had just completed her seventh Mick Chandra mystery, “The Mirror of Naples”, which was delivered to her publisher only a week later. – David Yount
ABOUT REBECCA YOUNT by Rebecca Yount
Who is Rebecca Yount? I frequently ask myself that question.
This much I know for certain: I hail from a literary family. My mother’s cousin, Julia Peterkin, was author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “Scarlet Sister Mary”. Another cousin, Nella Braddy, edited most of Helen Keller’s books. Nella also wrote the first definitive biography of Anne Sullivan Macy, Helen’s beloved teacher.
For many years, my father was an editor/journalist for UPI, as well as a writer for the “Columbus Dispatch”. One of his first assignments with the “Dispatch” was to review burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee’s act at the Gaiety Theater. Mother was not amused.
With such a literary heritage, my parents would no more allow me to write sloppy prose than walk blindfolded into heavy traffic. So I suppose you could say that writing is in my blood.
Even though I studied music from the age of eight until twenty-one at the Capital University Conservatory of Music in Columbus with the intent of becoming a concert pianist, I never shook the writing bug. From an early age, I wrote stories, poetry, and even a novel about my beloved Springer Spaniel, Mac. When I wasn’t actively writing, I was making up stories in my brain, which rarely shut down.
After graduate school, I worked for a research center as associate editor for “The Political Handbook of the World”, a compendium of the world’s political systems. Afterwards, I moved to Washington D.C. where I found myself working at a series of grant-funded projects that included everything from advising members of Congress on education policy to working with the Inuit and Athabasca Indians in Alaska and the Blackfoot tribe in Montana to improve communication between state education agencies and their far-flung tribal villages. I wrote legislative language for Title V (Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act), and through a series of private grants, worked to reduce the dropout rate of children at risk of failure in schools.
Along the way there was a bad marriage, divorce, then a good marriage, plus three loving stepdaughters. And what became of my music and writing? Sadly, they both fell by the wayside while my husband, David, and I concentrated on our Washington careers and raised our three children.
Then came early retirement: me first, followed closely by David. Unlike many retirees who haven’t a clue what to do with all of that free time, we both knew we would return to the thing we both loved the most: writing. And so we write, in separate home offices in our little Hobbit house just outside of Washington D.C. While I hammer away at my crime novels, David continues to write and publish his books on religious faith and practice.
Finally came that fateful date in Essex, England, when I sat under a solitary tree in a fallow field and developed the plot for “A Death in C Minor”. After a highly diverse and scattered career, that late summer afternoon marked my true beginning.
MICK CHANDRA MYSTERY SERIES BOOKS by Rebecca Tobin Yount
Book 1 – “A Death in C Minor”, 2012
Book 2 – “The Erlking”, 2012
Book 3 – “The Ravenhoe Cauldron”, 2013
Book 4 – “The Oracle of Baal”, 2014
Book 5 – “When Half Spent Was the Night”, 2015
Book 6 – “The Mouldwarp Prophecy”, 2017
Book 7 - “The Mirror of Naples”, to be released sometime in 2019