In Memoriam: Dorothy Huber

Dorothy Huber, who lived next door to The John Updike Childhood Home and was a wonderful neighbor during the 10 years that the society owned the property, died peacefully at age 92 on April 28, 2024.

Dorothy was a dynamic individual who worked as an office manager and accountant until she was 85. She also devoted much of her time to charity work, including service as a past president of the Reading Soroptimist International professional business women’s organization and as a member of the Berks County Prison Society where, according to her obituary, she “brought the Word of God to incarcerated individuals. Her impact was amazing, lives were changed, and the success stories made her smile; she saw this as a highlight in her life’s work.”

Dorothy also kept an eye on the Updike property and looked forward to visits from society president James Plath when he traveled from Illinois to Shillington to work on the house. The feeling was mutual. “Just about every trip included an hour or two at Dorothy’s, talking about this and that,” Plath said. “She was also very interested in Updike and the progress that we were making on the museum.”

Updike’s Shillington contact, Dave Silcox, was even closer, regularly checking on  Dorothy and bringing dinners on special occasions. It was during one of those visits with Silcox that Dorothy asked if the society would have any interest in buying an elaborate carved sideboard that came out of Clint Shilling’s house. The answer was yes.

Mrs. Updike paid Shilling to give her son art lessons when he was only five years old, so the Updike connection was a great interest. It turned out that Dorothy and Shilling were good friends, and she was told that she could take what she wanted after he passed away. She took the sideboard but also rescued a lot of Shilling’s paint scoops and brushes and some of the artwork as well.

The society bought the sideboard and many of the Shilling items from her, and they now are on display in the museum. The sideboard especially is a unique item that young John Updike would have seen when he crossed the street to take lessons from Shilling. Sometimes Shilling conducted lessons on the Updikes’ side porch, while other times young Johnny went to Shilling’s house. The sideboard meant a lot to Huber, but it meant even more to her that people would continue to enjoy it in the museum next door to her house.

Always smiling and cheerful, Dorothy had what sounds like a cliché: a perpetual twinkle in her eyes. She loved life, loved people, and loved helping people. She was a good neighbor and friend who will be deeply missed. The society offers its heartfelt condolences to Dorothy’s son, daughter, and grandchildren.

In Memoriam: Myrtle Council

We’re saddened to report the passing of Myrtle Council, an avid and knowledgeable local historian who was an honored guest at the grand opening of The John Updike Childhood Home in October 2021. She was 99.

Myrtle was a 1941 graduate of Shillington High School, and after serving in the Navy WAVES during WWII she worked at the Reading Eagle-Times, Jacobs Aircraft Engineering Co., and Edelman’s Law Office in Reading.

But Berks County knew her mostly from her extensive volunteerism and advocacy for the preservation of local history. The list of organizations she served is almost as long as her rich life. She was a member of the National Parliamentarians Association, the American Institute of Parliamentarians, Berks Unit of PAP, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, the PA Federation of Women’s Clubs, Southeastern District of PFWC, Berks County Federation of Women’s Clubs, Women’s Club of Shillington, Federation of Past Presidents Club, and the Shillington/Mifflin Alumni Association, frequently serving as president or a board member of those organizations. She was also a lifetime member of the Immanuel UCC, Shillington, where she was a youth group leader, Altar Guild Chairman, founder/leader of the Shawl Ministry for 10 years, and a kitchen helper.

Her intersecting interests of Shillington High School, John Updike, and local history and its preservation led her to take an active role in passing on archival materials that the Shillington/Mifflin Alumni Association had acquired to the John Updike Childhood Home, where some items could be displayed and others catalogued and safely protected for the future. Items currently at the house museum—including Shillington H.S. pennants, pins, hats, athletic letters, and a student handbook—are on display because of Myrtle’s vision and dedication to preserving local history for future generations to understand and appreciate.

Inurnment, with full military honors, will take place in Fairview Cemetery, 375 New Holland Ave., Shillington, at 10 a.m. on Dec. 30, 2023. A celebration of life service will follow at 11 a.m. at Immanuel United Church of Christ, 99 S. Waverly St., Shillington. The family will receive friends immediately following services in the church fellowship hall.

Contributions in memory of Myrtle Council can be made to Immanuel UCC at the above address. Here is a link to the obituary where memories can be shared.

The society sends its deepest sympathies to Myrtle’s daughter, Elizabeth, and to the rest of the family. Myrtle will be missed, but her work lives on.

In Memoriam: Martha Ruggles (Bernhard) Updike

The society is saddened to report that Martha Ruggles (Bernhard) Updike died Monday, October 9, at the age of 85. Below is the obituary written by her sons from her first marriage, as well as an announcement sent to parishioners by Emmanuel Church in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts. She is pictured here on the steps of another church—Grace Lutheran, in Shillington, Pa.—in a photo taken by society member David Silcox.

Martha Ruggles (Bernhard) Updike, previously of Beverly Farms, MA, died on October 9 2023 in New York City at the age of 85 after suffering from dementia for several years. She was the widow of the author John Updike to whom she had been married for over 30 years when he died in 2009. Her previous marriage to Alexander Bernhard ended in divorce in 1974. Martha is predeceased by her parents Margaret Ruggles and Frederic Stanboro Ruggles and her brother Keith Ridgeway Ruggles. Born in Chicago in 1937, Martha was raised in Fairfield Connecticut before attending Cornell University and later obtaining her Masters in Education from Harvard University in 1964 and her Masters in Social Work from Simmons College in 1988. She subsequently worked at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston as a social worker in their inpatient psychiatric unit. A long-time resident of Boston’s North Shore, Martha was a member of Myopia Hunt Club and at the time of her death the Chilton Club. Martha was passionate about gardening, holding several positions with the Garden Club of America throughout her lifetime and was involved in numerous organizations including the Holland Dames, the Huguenot Society of America and the Mayflower Society. Martha was known for her no- nonsense Yankee approach to life and people, her work and her gardens. Her greatest happiness was the life she shared with her late husband John. Martha is survived by her four stepchildren, Liz Updike Cobblah, David Updike, Michael Updike and Miranda Updike, and three sons from her first marriage, John H. Bernhard II, Jason Ruggles Bernhard and Frederic (Ted) Ridgeway Bernhard. A memorial service will be held at a future date in Manchester MA.

The society extends its deepest sympathies to John, Jason, and Ted Bernhard, and to the stepchildren and grandchildren.


In Memoriam: Christopher Carduff

Christopher Carduff, Books Editor of The Wall Street Journal, died unexpectedly on August 14, 2023. He was 66. According to his obituary, “The cause was complications related to a sudden brain bleed and blood clot. An extremely talented editor, he left a large literary legacy and made an enormous contribution to the canon of American letters.”

As an expert on John Updike, he was asked to serve as a trustee for the John H. Updike Literary Trust, and in his capacity as publishing consultant to the Trust he edited the posthumously published Updike volumes Higher Gossip, Always Looking, Collected Stories, Selected Poems, and multiple collections of Updike’s novels. Recently he oversaw publication of a forthcoming collection of selected letters compiled by Updike scholar and John Updike Society vice-president James Schiff—a volume now expected to be released sometime in 2024-25.

As his obituary notes, “In addition to Updike, Chris was the estate-appointed editor of posthumous works by Maeve Brennan, Penelope Fitzgerald, Daniel Fuchs, and William Maxwell. From 2006 to 2017, he was an editor and publishing consultant at The Library of America, overseeing the publication of American classics. He conceived and supervised multivolume editions of the collected works of many writers, including Carson McCullers, Katherine Anne Porter, Virgil Thomson, Kurt Vonnegut, and Laura Ingalls Wilder.” Carduff has been the Books Editor at The Wall Street Journal since 2017.

Chris was also an occasional but valued advisor to the Updike Society, president James Plath said. “He was a resource whose opinions I trusted and appreciated, whether they were about our work on an Updike museum-in-progress or, more recently, concerning a campaign the society plans to mount to get Updike on a U.S. postage stamp,” Plath said. “He will be missed, and his passing leaves a void on the John H. Updike Literary Trust that has yet to be filled.”

In “A friend’s passing reminds me that life is precious,” Danny Heitman wrote, “Among his favorite writers was John Updike, whom Chris admired for describing everyday experience in a way that makes it seem worthy of respect. That ideal, which Updike called giving ‘the mundane its beautiful due,’ is something that Chris seemed to regard as a kind of prayer.”

The society sends its condolences to Chris’s wife, Elizabeth Skinner Carduff, his two sisters, a brother, and nieces and nephews. See his obituary for details on how to donate to the Christopher Carduff Scholarship fund at The Columbia University Publishing Course.



In Memoriam: Richard “Dick” Rhoda

Former multi-sport athlete Richard “Dick” Rhoda died June 12, 2023 at the age of 92. Born in Shillington, he was the son of textile mill worker William “Wit” Rhoda and hospital administrator Kathryn Long.

At Shillington High School, Rhoda was on the varsity football, basketball, track, and swim teams. John Updike’s father, Wesley, coached the swim team and was an assistant coach on the football team, and Rhoda’s son, Jeff, recalled his father telling him that a “classmate, John Updike, would stop by his family home with his father to help count the concession stand proceeds after games.”

“My father had a Huck Finn childhood,” Jeff Rhoda said. “He hunted with his father and trapped muskrats before school and then sold them for 10 cents each.” The younger Rhoda also said his father “grew up in Amish country and enjoyed his scrapple and shoofly pie.” He added, “My parents rarely missed a happy hour at the end of the day. My father had a daily cigar.”

Rhoda later attended Albright College, where he was the starting point guard on the basketball team, after which he received a degree in pharmacy from Philadelphia Pharmaceutical (later Philadelphia College of the Sciences). He worked as a pharmacist for most of his life, and also coached youth football in his community. He is survived by his wife of 69 years, Irene McLaughlin, a retired Baltimore County Library administrator; two sons, Rich Rhoda of Centerville, Ohio and Jeff Rhoda of Baltimore; a daughter, Sharon Hovde of Madison, Wis.; six grandchildren and six great grandchildren. The John Updike Society offers their condolences.

A life celebration will be held August 8 on what would have been the couple’s 70th wedding anniversary at a location to be announced.

Read the full obituary

In Memoriam: Ellen Gallagher

A remarkable Berks County woman died on May 16, 2023. Ellen Lou Gallagher (Brownmiller) was a beloved teacher who touched many lives, but she was also a student, artist, musician, playwright, quilter, and “almost an astronaut when she was a Pennsylvania finalist for the Teacher in Space program in 1985,” according to her obituary.

Her son, Drew Gallagher, told The John Updike Society that Ellen had “three organizations that were very dear to her and one was the Updike Childhood Home.” In lieu of flowers, the family requested that donations be made to those three organizations: The Reading Symphony, The John Updike Childhood Home, or The Kurt Vonnegut Museum. “Or simply read a favorite book or listen to a show tune in her honor. Try to remember when love was an ember about to billow. When everything was beautiful and nothing hurt. And so it goes.”

Born in West Reading on July 1, 1941, Gallagher graduated from Millersville State with a degree in education and added a Master’s degree from Temple University years later. “Ultimately she landed at Lorane Elementary School in Exeter as a fifth grade teacher. Her students will remember the annual incubation projects, waiting for the chicks to hatch in the classroom, and they will not forget learning what a million something looked like when they collected that many aluminum can pull tabs over many more school years than anticipated. There was a large ceremony at Lorane to commemorate the millionth pull tab and photos were taken and published in The Reading Eagle [where her late husband, Charles Gallagher, was longtime editor] before the tabs were recycled.”

Gallagher spent summer 1981 teaching children on the island of Majuro in the Marshall Islands and was an inspiration for a character in the young adult novel Me and Marvin Gardens, written by one of her former students, A.S. King.

Perhaps most remarkably, when she retired she had two goals: “learn to quilt and to play the violin. She was successful at both. As a member of the Reading Philharmonic Orchestra, she played the violin until she was unable and then became the narrator for their concerts up until her death.”

The John Updike Society is touched that a person who loomed so large in so many lives thought enough of John Updike and our little childhood home museum to name us as a donation beneficiary. Even in death, she continues to make a difference and set an example. Our deepest sympathies go out to her sons Drew and Thomas, her daughter Julie Stern, and their families.

In Memoriam: Emerson Wicklein Gundy

Emerson Gundy, known to John Updike Society members as Updike’s second cousin and classmate who graduated from Shillington High School in 1950, passed away on April 4, 2023. He was 90.

According to his obituary, Emerson graduated from Temple University, served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, worked for Conestoga Telephone Company, and was a U.S. Coast Guard Charter Captain who liked to fish on the Chesapeake Bay. A member of Robeson Evangelical Lutheran Church and Union Lodge No. 479 F&AM, Birdsboro, Emerson was also an avid hunter and private plane pilot.

From 1990-2014 Emerson and his wife, Marlene, owned the Updike family home in Plowville, and were enthusiastic and mindful caretakers of Updike’s legacy. They donated their papers (Emerson and Marlene Gundy Collection of John Updike Materials) to Alvernia University, and their collection of Updike books to The John Updike Childhood Home, where they are on display in the bedroom where Linda and Wesley Updike slept. Emerson specified that he wanted some of the books to be displayed so that Updike’s inscriptions could be seen, and the books will be rotated so that all of them can be viewed at some point.

When the society held their first conference in 2010, the Gundys graciously opened their home so that members could have a look inside the sandstone farmhouse where Linda Updike was raised and where she returned to live with the family when John was 13. Everyone who posed for a photo in front of the Gundys’ home will forever remember their generosity and geniality. Emerson’s passing leaves a hole in our hearts. On behalf of those and other members, we extend our heartfelt sympathies to Marlene and the family.

In Memoriam: Lawrence R. Broer

We are saddened to belatedly learn of the death of Lawrence R. Broer, who died at age 84 in his Tampa, Fla. home on Nov. 30, 2022. As his obituary notes, “He was an internationally acclaimed scholar of modern and postmodern literature,” and while he published extensively on Hemingway and Vonnegut, Updike society members know him from his edited collection of critical essays Rabbit Tales: Poetry and Politics in John Updike’s Novels (U. of Alabama,1998). Larry was also the author of Hemingway’s Spanish Tragedy (U. of Alabama, 1973), Sanity Plea: Schizophrenia in the Novels of Kurt Vonnegut (U. of Alabama, 1989), and Vonnegut & Hemingway: Writers at War (U. of South Carolina, 2011). With Gloria Holland he edited Hemingway and Women: Female Critics and the Female Voice (U. of Alabama, 2004), and charter Updike Society members will remember that Larry served on the very first society-sponsored panel at the 2009 American Literature Association Conference in Boston.

Larry taught at the University of South Florida from 1965-2003, when he retired. At USF he received the Theodore and Vanette Askounes-Ashford Distinguished Scholar Award and the Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching. He was also a Fulbright fellow, lecturing at the University of Paris in 1981 and 1984, and from 2018-22 he was a Fulbright Specialist.

His academic friends might not know this, but Larry was also athletic, taking pride in being able to quarterback the USF Faculty Football Team and participate in senior softball leagues into his 80s.

The society extends its sympathies to his partner, Béatrice Frouté De Domec, sons Joshua and Wesley Broer, and stepson Ashkahn Ardalan. Academia has lost a powerful voice and a generous mentor to up-and-coming scholars.

Sportswriter marks the anniversary of Updike’s passing

Today The Salem News published a column (“Updike remembered 14 years later”) by sportswriter Gary Larrabee.

“It’s hard to comprehend that it’s been 14 years since one of our most famous and accomplished North Shore residents died,” the column began. “John Updike, of 675 Hale St., Beverly, died on Jan. 27, 2009, at Kaplan Family Hospice House, also known as Care Dimensions, in Danvers, less than two months shy of his 77th birthday.”

“Lung cancer was the culprit. Danvers was never so famous than in becoming the dateline of Updike’s death, read and spoken in newscasts around the world.

“He left behind his wife, Martha, four children, a golf game with which he constantly struggled for many years at his beloved Myopia Hunt Club, and an epic literary bibliography that garnered the Pennsylvania native global fame.

“As much as he savored the opportunity over many years to play the revered Myopia layout, he also got a kick, for years, playing our region’s public nine-hole courses, like Cape Ann and Candlewood.”

Larrabee recalled Updike’s prodigious output and wrote, “This scorecard does not include his one hugely popular book on his ruminations of the game he loved, Golf Dreams, and essays he wrote for the magazines published for the 1988 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline and the 2001 U.S. Senior Open at Salem Country Club.

“The vast majority of these works were created from his gifted imagination in his two North Shore hometowns, first Ipswich, where he wrote in a small upstairs rental space downtown, and later in his Beverly Farms home where he wordsmithed overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.”

Read the whole column.

from the Myopia Hunt Club website

In Memoriam: Richard Davison

We were saddened to learn of the death of John Updike Society member Richard Davison, who passed away peacefully at his home on Jan. 19, 2023. He was 88. Richard was a charter member of the society and attended the first four conferences in Reading, Pa., Boston, and Columbia, S.C. with his wife, Dr. Milena Davison.

Those who didn’t know him often did a double-take because of his slight resemblance to Updike, and he took delight in telling the story of when he first met Updike. The latter immediately saw the resemblance and joked that it was like looking into a mirror. They decided that Richard, who was shorter than the author, was “John Updike, Jr.”

Because of the resemblance, Richard, a professor emeritus at the University of Delaware, offered to read from Updike’s work at the society’s first conference in Reading. He thought it might be fun, and it was. As the featured reader for the closing dinner at Jimmie Kramer’s Peanut Bar Restaurant in Reading, which Updike frequented when he was a junior working as a copy boy at the Reading Eagle across the street, Richard read from Rabbit, Run and Updike’s writings about Shillington and Reading. Always willing to help, Richard donated to support the society’s mission and also moderated a conference session in Boston. He was the embodiment of the “gentleman scholar,” who enjoyed talking about literature and was always gracious.

Richard and Milena at the 4th Biennial JUS Conference in South Carolina

In addition to his being active in the Updike society, the Legacy obituary noted that Davison was a past president of the Frank Norris Society and also a member of the Hemingway and Fitzgerald societies. He published on a wide range of authors, including Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman, Stephen Crane, Hart Crane, Fitzgerald, Robert Penn Warren, Steinbeck, Albee, Salinger, and Hemingway. A passionate theater-goer as well, he co-edited two books on theater with Jackson Bryer and shared his passions with students. He was honored in 2001 with the University of Delaware College of Arts and Science Teaching Award.

During a distinguished career Richard was also a visiting professor at Washington College and at universities in Essen and Cologne, Germany. Additionally, he directed the English Graduate Program at Seattle University during his tenure there, and in 1966 he hosted 39 episodes of a TV series on Literature and Life. The two naturally went together for Richard, and the Updike Society is richer for his having been a member. He will be missed, and we offer our deepest condolences to Milena and the couple’s three children and one grandchild.

Society members at the 3rd Biennial Conference pose in front of the Updikes’ Plowville farmhouse. Richard and Milena Davison are in the back row, third and fourth from the left.