Personal posts by public historian, Rose O'Keefe


Heavy Heart, Happy Heart

Feb 05, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

Word was this past week, that our part of western New York had 49 days without sun. Yikes. I don’t know if dealing with seasonal affective disorder ever gets easier, but January was a doozy. Well, it ends up I have more than. This week, I learned that I have a clogged left artery. It was with a heavy heart that I faced several medical appointments and dealt with the waiting by finishing All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten ((1986) by Robert Fulghum.

Stardust and Stuff

Jan 28, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

I brought Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten ((1986) with me to an appointment where I knew I would be waiting for a while. What a treat to reread his popular essay about sharing, not hitting others, playing fair, putting things back, cleaning up after yourself, not taking other’s things, saying sorry, washing your hands before eating, taking a nap every afternoon and more. Beyond that one are more, mostly short reads, perfect pick-me ups.


Jan 14, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

What a pleasure to read about “The art of "Louise's Daughter" by Rochester neighbors Cheryl and Don Olney, that is on display at the Central Library’s Arts & Literature Division (Rundel Building).Local artists Cheryl and Don Olney expertly craft colorful, upbeat, wooden figures of dancers and other joyful designs. They also make a variety of jewelry, note cards, and mechanical/kinetic pieces. Their business, named “Louise’s Daughter” in honor of Cheryl’s mother, was established in 1995.” I am so proud to know them!

My Happy Place

Jan 07, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe

I am prone to intense bouts of cabin fever and one way I work them out is to go to my happy place piecing together PowerPoints.  I have several stored in my computer files along with dozens of images about neighborhood and local history. I remember years ago thinking there must be a way to use them and share some of what I’ve learned. Happily, the other day I got the idea to convert them to eBooks, and saw that it is supposedly not that hard to do.


Dec 31, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

In no order in particular, I would like to give thanks for:  
My decision on the first day of 2022, when I chose once again to study the workbook daily lessons in A Course in Miracles. The ending lesson of the year includes the following: “And if I need a word to help me, He will give it to me. If I need a thought, that will He also give.” As an eclectic type, this year I combined ACIM’s daily lesson, with online daily sacred cards from The Source Cards, and then added “The Inner Child Meditation” and Ho’oponopono Hawaiian forgiveness prayer from YouTube. What a wonderful blend.

Happy All of It!

Dec 24, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

As the year draws to a close, I have to look back on the gifts that I have received from many books, magazines and newspaper articles. Thank you to all the writers who connect us to each other. Happy All of It to Everyone!

On a bright note, I was thrilled to receive a reply from noted scholar, Celeste-Marie Bernier. Among other kind words, she shared this about my 2nd edition of Special Delivery: From One Stop to Another on the Underground Railroad: “My heartfelt congratulations to you on your breathtakingly beautiful book!!!!!!!!!! Thank you ever so ever so ever so ever so much for wonderfully giving me a copy ! I read it the first minute I got on the train from Rochester to Boston and absolutely loved loved loved loved it - absolutely magnificent!!!!! A tour de force of sparkly brilliance!! Wow wow wow!!”

So Many Books

Dec 08, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe
Two weeks ago, I woke up feeling so young, without understand how young. I had finished reading Carolyn Sherwin Bailey’s Miss Hickory, the 1946 Newbery Award winner, and must have absorbed a youthful mindset from it. The story is about the upsets of a twig doll whose barely mentioned owner has outgrown her. The relationships that this feisty doll has with Crow, Squirrel, Fawn, Cow and others were imaginative and fanciful.

Heart Warming

Nov 21, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

It felt good to read Robert Lawson’s 1945 Newbery Award winner, Rabbit Hill, because it was such a heart-warming and clever story. The characters were animals in the countryside who were all atwitter about new people moving into a rundown house. The critters were anxious about whether the newcomers would have a mean dog or cat, use poison, traps and baits, and most of all, what kind of garden they would grow. Each animal had its favorite foods that it longed for.

My Humble Career

Nov 14, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

Recently, when I re-read the words of the Desiderata, a poem written in 1972 by Max Ehrmann, a line jumped out at me: “Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.” How true. I keep plugging away at projects that keep me happy. Speaking of happiness, it’s a pleasure to share the link to a short video on Spectrum Local News about a recent school visit:

The Learning Curve

Nov 08, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

I have had my share of successes and failures with the learning curve on book projects. The creative burst-and-bust cycle has thrashed and bashed me more than once and my latest round with editing a non-fiction history project was like wrestling with an alligator. So what, right? Having to take breaks only meant that it took longer to complete than expected. It also meant that I didn’t keep up with my regular reading.

Upcoming Events

Nov 03, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

I  have the pleasure of being one of 49 authors and illustrators who will be at the 25th Rochester Children's Book Festival, Saturday Nov. 5. This year’s event is at RIT, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  in the Student Alumni Union. My presentation on Frederick and Anna Douglass will be at 11 :30 a.m. in the Bamboo Room. If you plan to attend, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to walk from Parking Lot D. I am selling my history books from 1 to 4 p.m. in the main room.

Down a Rabbit Hole

Oct 27, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe
It feels like I've slipped down a rabbit hole lately while doing a large editing project and I'm not reading much. Pearl Buck's essays in My Several Worlds are too intense to keep up with.

On Being a Wannabe

Oct 10, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

The October issue of Rochester’s City magazine hit the spot. The page-two Welcome was about the return of a bigger and better Best-of-Rochester readers’ poll. The enthusiasm was catchy! Every time I read City, I wish I were working at a newspaper again (but only while I’m reading it.)

The feature, “Family Business, A century of being there,” about Millard E. Latimer and Sons funeral business, was well done. This hundred-year-old business has been an anchor in the black community through countless ups and downs. David Andreatta’s article was informative, respectful and thorough.


Oct 03, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

Like the cold front that moved across WNY with low gray clouds and high crystal-blue clouds, downpours and brisk winds, my reading habits have been unsettled. Each week, I plan to finish one book and start another, but that didn’t work with Pearl S. Buck’s memoir, My Several Worlds: A Personal Record (1954). My heart ached at the poignancy of her longing for the early, innocent years of her childhood in China before 1900. She was eight during the anti-colonial Boxer Rebellion that forced her missionary parents to return to the United States around 1901.

If Only

Sep 26, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

If only I had bionic eyes that could read without straining and could complete all my chores and errands without getting discombobulated, then I would definitely add more books to my reading list. The Christian Science Monitor Weekly of Sept. 12 & 19, Books for Global Readers, was so enticing, starting with How to Speak Whale by Tom Mustill. I remember buying the record mentioned, Songs of the Humpback Whale in the Seventies and playing it for my baby. Such fond memories.

Gather and Heal

Sep 23, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

While I was looking on my shelves for another book, I came across a postcard for Gather at the Table: The Healing Journey of a Daughter of Slavery and a Son of the Slave Trade (2012) by Sharon Morgan and Thomas DeWolf. As we enter into the glorious fall season with its harvests and feasts, we also get to acknowledge painful legacies against kidnapped workers and the peoples who were already here when colonists arrived. My wish is that we may gather at our tables, enjoy our feasts and spread the healing that so many long for.

Mixed Feelings

Sep 19, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

My regret about finishing Walter Edmonds’ 1934 story collection, Mostly Canallers was partly because of so-little-time, so-many-books syndrome. While I am moving along well with my goal of reading all 100 Newbery Award winners, detouring into one of those authors’ other books took more time than I wanted. Most of his stories took a step back in time and showed the hardships and harshness of the frontier era along the Erie Canal. Some of the stories included former canallers who had turned to farming and missed their days moving back and forth across the country side. Strict social codes were observed or ignored. Harsh sexist roles made for uncomfortable reading. The bullying, competition, occasional murder and suicide left no room for nostalgia for easier times. The last story had a harsh ending I never saw coming. I wished I hadn’t read it.


Sep 12, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

The August/September issue of AARP magazine had a wonderful article in the Real/People War Hero page about Fannie McClendon. As a young woman, she enlisted in the Army during WWII when it was still segregated, and served in the first all-Black, all female unit that sorted through a backlog of mail that had piled up for 2 to 3 years. The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion worked non-stop and moved about 17 million pieces of mail in three months. After that war she joined the Air Force where she was repeatedly sent for more training rather than being promoted. Eventually she became the first woman to lead an all-male squadron and served for over 26 years. While she was honored to receive a Congressional Gold Medal for service during WWII, she was sorry that out of 800 women, only a few were left to accept it.  

Witness to Change

Sep 05, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

It was a gorgeous late summer day on Friday (9.2) when I attended the unveiling ceremony for a statue of Harriet Tubman, “Journey to Freedom.” This dramatic nine-foot tall sculpture by Wesley Wofford has traveled around New York state this year. Congratulations to project director Jacqueline Sprague who brought it to Washington Square Park in Rochester for two months. The speakers and performer were outstanding and included a magnificent Harriet Tubman reenactor and two local school girls who nailed it! The plaque next to the statue explained that the foot of the slave child Harriet was pulling along rested on a cliff between slave states and free states. It was a living history lesson including Sept. 2 being celebrated as Harriet Tubman Day. Many thanks to Dr. Susan Taylor-Brown for her sponsorship.

Late Summer

Aug 29, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

I am such a happy camper when the daily high/lows fall in the 80/60 range. My enthusiasm wilts in the 90/70 range, but we still have glorious cool morning air here in WNY. The dew is heavy on the grass, but I miss the morning birds because of fans or AC. The crickets and locusts have taken over, sounding like they will last forever. Yes, morning light starts later and sunsets are earlier.