Tahoe Pine Nuts: Remembering General Grant and Josephine Baldassare
Special to the Bonanza
On Thursday last, at 3:15 p.m., church bells rang out across this great land of ours, commemorating the sesquicentennial of the end of the Civil War, a war that cost us more than 750,000 precious lives, more than 7 million in proportion to our population today.
In pouring over Friday morning’s photos of the reenactment of the battle of Appomattox, I had to think of Josephine Baldassare, as behind every one of those living history re-enactors is a talented, dedicated and caring seamstress who is able to take an ordinary man and turn that man into General Grant, or General Lee, a soldier, or a young drummer boy. It is the seamstress who sews the fabric of that moment in time together for us to witness in the 21st century and remember that moment, so we never allow ourselves go down that road again.
I had the pleasure of meeting Josephine Baldassare 28 years ago when I arrived on her doorstep in Carson City with a folder full of photos of Mark Twain. I asked her if she could “make me look like this.” She laughed that hardy laugh of hers and said, “Yes, I think I can.” And she did.
Josephine made it possible for me to visit our schools and talk about Nevada history firsthand, in first person. And, as it was Mark Twain who published General Grant’s memoirs, I was able to talk about the general too. “Manifestly, dying is nothing to a really great and brave man,” Twain said. It was, and is still, a wonderful journey.
I always looked forward to my fittings with Jo, as she took great joy in turning out one white suit after another. She was always good company, pleasant company, and she had a divine sense of humor. She told me while she was fitting that first white suit, “Well, McAvoy, if Mark Twain does not work for you, you can always go to work for Kentucky Fried Chicken.”
Jo Baldassare was called home on the 18th of March, but her work continues to keep the memory of Mark Twain alive in our schools. Jo’s gift to me was more than a white suit, she gave me another life, and I will always be grateful to her for that gift.
What I might like to suggest in closing is, whatever talent you might possess, extend that talent freely to enhance somebody else’s life. Your contribution will be significant and very much appreciated.
Today I wear a black armband on my white suit in memory of all those we lost in the Civil War and Josephine Baldassare, may they rest in eternal peace.
To learn more about McAvoy Layne visit http://www.ghostoftwain.com.
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