In Memoriam

Helene S. Baumann

On the first night of our Spring meetings, Karen Jean Hunt and her colleagues at John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture welcomed us with a reception. The reception took place in the Perkins Library, Duke University; in the very same Rare Book Reading Room where a tall image of Dr. John Hope Franklin (1915-2009) towered approvingly over us.  Our gathering in that scholarly room was made even more memorable because it happened a day after Dr. Franklin’s death.

Another memorable experience was when the ALC members shared memories and fond thoughts about a departed colleague, Helene Baumann (1941-2006) . There couldn’t have been a better venue for the meeting of Dr. Franklin (a great American historian), Helene Baumann (a dedicated librarian), albeit in spirit, while in attendance were ALC members, Helene’s husband and daughter. Her daughter, Madeleine read some of the poems she wrote in memory of her mother, one of which she graciously granted us permission to reproduce below.  

She’s entered my body
I know that sounds weird
A ghostly invader,
You’d think I’d be scared
But instead I embrace it
At least now that I’ve faced it
And recognized that I’m altered inside
Like a plant never lived in my apartment before
The ones that tried always died,
Now they thrive, not one but five
That’s her in me keeping me safe
The old me wouldn’t even have them in my place
And it’s not just that, I’m suddenly neater
More patient with people
A whole lot sweeter
I swear that it’s true I’m not cussing as much
And if that’s not enough
I’ve started to recycle and ride a bicycle
All things I’ve never done before
I’m a lazy girl, take my word
Oh no, this is her at work on my soul
Making me better, making me whole
So I’m proud to say in a funny way
I’m turning into my mother.

-Madeleine Baumann