Personal posts by public historian, Rose O'Keefe


While We Can

Jul 29, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

In the paid obit in Tuesday’s Rochester Democrat and Chronicle for 29-year RPD officer Anthony Mazurkiewicz the family said: “In Tony’s honor, please take an extra evening to cancel whatever else you had planned and instead share a good meal, stories and laughs with your family. What we wouldn’t give to spend even one more might like this with him.” There is something about magnificent summer weather that makes it seem like it will last forever. So too, with those close to us. Let us enjoy both while we can.

My Two Cents

Jul 25, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

What a pleasure to read today’s front page article in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: “Planting Opportunity” by Justin Murphy. As part of its plan to develop a fuller tree canopy, the city of Rochester is considering using fruits that can give food as well as shade. As someone who has tried out many things in 50 years of city gardening, I’d like to add my two cents. It’s taken me at least 10 years to improve the soil in several backyards, and so far I’ve done that in three.

Summer Reading

Jul 22, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

Even with air conditioning, there’s something about the heat that changes everything. Whatever progress I’ve made in the garden happens early in the day or not at all. Whatever chores or errands I have happen early or not at all. There’s a part of the afternoon when the crush of the heat makes all plans evaporate. I started Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink (1935) at night, and got so caught up in it, I read it straight through.

Kindness Remembered

Jul 08, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle outdid itself today with a full-page obit for James Goodman, a retired D&C reporter. The outpouring of comments from those who knew him attested to Goodman’s kindness in the thick of a busy newsroom. Gary Craig’s coverage of this dedicated advocate for underdogs, was a reminder of what good community coverage is all about. Thank you.

Changing Times

Jul 04, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

Laura Adams Armer’s Waterless Mountain (1931) gave a profound, respectful view of Navaho life in Arizona in the 1920s. It showed Younger Brother’s growth into a skilled medicine man. The Navaho’s way of life seemed so sane, sensible and good. The contrast between that, wacked-out American tourists and one messed-up community member was well done. An archaeologist’s theft of precious artifacts had a painful ring of truth. Poetry and black-and-white illustrations added to its charm.

Misnaming Things

Jul 01, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe
One of Frederick Douglass’s last great lectures was, “The Lesson of the Hour: Why the Negro is Lynched.” In his talk January 1894, at Metropolitan A. M. E. Church in Washington, D. C., he condemned the press and much of the public for calling Southern violence against Blacks “the Negro Problem,” saying it was the “old trick of misnaming things. ... There is nothing the matter with the Negro, whatever. He is all right. Learned or ignorant, he is all right. He is neither a lyncher, a mobocrat or an anarchist. He is now what he has ever been, a loyal, law-abiding, hard working and peaceable man.” Calling injustice to Blacks “the Negro Problem,” removed the burden of proof from the old master class.

A Different View

Jun 27, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

Elizabeth Coatsworth’s The Cat Who Went to Heaven (1930) was everything I could want in a short book. The story of a poor Japanese artist and a new cat in his house was a touching tale of learning to let go of long-held ideas ingrained by his community. He had trouble liking the cat in question, Good Fortune, because he had been told that cats were evil. This gently paced story with marvelous illustrations ended magnificently. It was the 1931 Newbery Award winner.

World Treasures

Jun 24, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

The Economist had four notable obits honoring women lately. Cristina Calderon, 93 (March 5) was the last full-blooded member of people from Tierra del Fuego, at the tip of South America. By the time she was born in 1928, the Yaghan population had dropped from 3,000 in the mid-1800s to 100. The Yahgan still lived by the old ways of half on the sea and half on land. Cristina was orphaned at 6, lost three partners, had nine children and got relocated to government housing. Abuela Cristina was eventually dubbed a national treasure by the Chilean government. She and her granddaughter spent years compiling a Spanish-Yaghan dictionary, running workshops and making recordings. She wrote a book of Yaghan legends in 2005. What a gem!

On Juneteenth

Jun 20, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

Yes, it is momentous that Juneteenth has become a national holiday. But. Having Father’s Day and Juneteenth on the same day yesterday felt confusing. The topic of fatherhood can be complicated. Emancipation can be one heck of a touchy subject. I believe a focus on healing and celebration is the way to go. Hmph.


Jun 17, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe
Trumpet sound: I am pleased to announce that Special Delivery: From One Stop to Another on the Underground Railroad, second edition, is online as a eBook, and a paperback. I self-published this book through Pyramid Press in 2014, and have redone it through IngramSpark. Years ago, when I started to learn about Frederick and Anna Douglass, I wanted to share what it would be like to live in their house.

History Repeats Itself

Jun 13, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

The opening paragraph of The Trumpeter of Krakow (1929) blew me away: “It was in the spring of the year 1241 that rumors began to travel along the highroad from Kiev in the land of Rus that the Tartars of the East were again upon the march. As the weeks went on, the rumors grew thicker and there began to come through to Poland, our land of the fields, the news that the country lands of the Ukraine were ablaze.” What chilling words!

What a Gift!

Jun 10, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe
Rachel Field’s Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, (1999) was such a pleasure. Author Rosemary Wells and illustrator Susan Jeffries did a magnificent job of updating the 1930 Newbery Award winner. The story of a hand-carved doll’s adventures with many owners over  a century was so captivating I read it twice. There is so much to notice in the images, it’s one of those picture books that takes more than one look.

Pick and Choose

Jun 06, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe
Depending on the topics, I have to pick and choose my way through The Christian Science Monitor Weekly. I’m so not in the mood for anything heavy. The article in People Making a Difference (June 6) on Dakarai Singletary of Buffalo, New York, was good.

Loss and Betrayal

May 31, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe
How to cope with loss and betrayal is a timely topic. How our hearts and minds process painful news, can be unpredictable and slow. The opinion page article on Southern Baptists’ Moment of Reckoning by Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in the WSJ (May 27) caught my eye.

A Future President?

May 27, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

What a touching photo in today’s Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, (8A) of Gianna Floyd, George Floyd’s daughter. She was shown sitting at President Biden’s desk after he signed an executive order about police reform. The adults surrounding her seemed aware of the momentous occasion–a sad little Black girl, sitting in the president’s chair!

Serving God and Country

May 23, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe
How I enjoyed reading the Wall Street Journal Review (May 21/22) about Khallid Shabazz, a Muslim military chaplain. After 20 years in the military, Col. Shabazz became head chaplain at an Air Force base in Florida.


May 16, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

The weeks between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day have such beautiful spring days when Heaven seems to touch the earth. The morning air can be so lovely, the lilacs and flowering trees so magnificent, and early birdsong gets louder and louder. But.


May 09, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

Getting used to an uneven energy level is part of reconciling with covid’s aftermath. When I’m good, I feel on top of the world, and I when I feel low it’s as if I’d never had a happy thought in my life. As part of getting back on a hahppy track, I reviewed the Newbery award winners.

On the Rebound

May 02, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

The part of me that was ready to dive into spring cleaning and start my garden got derailed. Three out of three people in my house got sick with the latest variant, spaced five days apart. What a kill joy. It’s been easy to be down on myself for not rebounding as effortlessly as I would like. In the meantime, it’s been a pleasure watching the fascinating and uplifting National Parks series narrated by former President Barrack Obama, on Netflix.

Popcorn Shish Kebob

Apr 29, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

Were he still walking on this side of life, yesterday would have been my father’s 107th birthday. (HBD, Dad.) It was a sunny and crisp day in WNY, and I was wondering how our cherry tree, which looks like popcorn shish kebabs of blossoms, would handle the lastest frost warning. Last year, when the tree was similarly marvelous and the weather also crisp, I wondered the same thing – and we didn’t get one cherry last spring.