I spent a lot of my life in New Orleans. One person I remember most from New Orleans comes to mind very often. He was my English professor at UNO, Thornton Penfield, known to everyone as Thorny. He was truly an unforgettable person. It seems like just yesterday that I was with him.
When I came to UNO at the age of 20, it was a very difficult time for me. Several months earlier, I had left a religious community of 100 people where I'd spent two years. It was in central California, and we spent months living in Oregon and Washington as well. When I left, I was "disfellowshipped" which was the California Jesus People way of saying "shunned."
In one of my papers in Thorny's English class, I wrote about the place - expressing the enormous love I had for the place, which had been my whole life and which I'd originally planned to be part of forever.
Thorny wrote a comment on the paper that still means the world to me. It said that he was grading these compositions and finally came across one that meant something.
The last time I saw him, I came to his home to get the term paper he was grading for me. I wrote it in longhand.
There Mr. Penfield gave me a book... which I still have to this day, related to the subject of my term paper about the religious and social changes of 1920s.
He also gave me some great advice which I should have taken, which was to take summer work in New York state, which he thought would be a good experience for me.
He was very caring, truly full of life, and had that mischievous smile and attitude. I have thought of him SO often to this very day.
There are some people in life that we are lucky to have known. Thorny Penfield was definitely such a person to me, and to many others. He was the first person who ever specifically encouraged me as a writer. That was an important milestone for me and I will always be tremendously grateful he cared enough to do that.