A New Orleans Farewell

Some of you may know Coleen Salley’s books about the little possum Epossumondas. There’s Epossumondas, Why Epossumondas Has No Hair On His Tail, Epossumondas Saves The Day, and Eppossumondas Plays Possum. You may also know her as the Market Lady in To Market, To Market. She created some wonderful books with my friend Janet Stevens, who illustrated my Anansi stories.

Coleen was a dear friend. We had so many adventures together, including driving across Massachusetts to go to Tanglewood and up from New Orleans to attend a conference in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Coleen taught me how to love the South. One of the reasons I love it as much as I do is because I loved Coleen.

Coleen lived in New Orleans. Her apartment in the French Quarter was filled with Christmas trees, even in April. Children’s books filled any space left. Those were her two greatest loves: children’s books, and having a good time. She had her own crewe. At Mardi Gras time her crewe pushed her through the streets in a shopping cart. Why watch someone else’s parade when you can have your own?

Coleen had friends all over the country and all over the world. Hundreds, if not thousands, mourned when she died this fall. Coleen’s daughter Genevieve lives in Portland, not far from me. She promised to send me a video of the funeral. Doris and I were leaving for China and couldn’t attend.

Coleen didn’t want anyone to mourn or feel sad. She wanted an authentic New Orleans Jazz Funeral. That’s what she had. Friends came from all over the country to push her through the streets one last time as an authentic New Orleans jazz band played.

Genevieve sent me the video. It’s posted on YouTube. Click on this link. It will take you right there: Coleen Salley’s Jazz Funeral.

I hope you’ll enjoy it. You’ll see several of Coleen’s friends in their Mardi Gras costumes. As you watch and listen, drink a toast to the memory of a dear friend, a fine writer, a gifted storyteller, and a truly great lady.

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