In Memoriam: Updike translator Javier Marías

In an obituary for, Linnea Crowther wrote that Spanish novelist Javier Marías, “considered by many to be the greatest living Spanish writer,” died at his home in Madrid of pneumonia on September 11, 2022 at the age of 70.

Like Updike, Marías found literary acclaim early in life. Only 20 when his first novel, Los Dominios del Lobo (Dominions of the Wolf) was published, he wrote 16 more novels and numerous short stories and novellas. “He won the Fray Luis de León Translation Award for his translation of Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, and he also translated works by authors including John Updike and Henry James.” And like Updike, he was widely considered to be a top candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature . . . an honor that would never come, but should have.

Read the full Legacy obituary.

In Memoriam: Dennis B. Ledden

We are saddened to learn that Dr. Dennis B. Ledden, a society member who was to have presented his paper on “Hemingway, Masculinity, and John Updike’s ‘Twin Beds in Rome’” at the upcoming 6th biennial conference, died of cancer on April 1, 2021.

Dennis’s main scholarly pursuits were the works of Hemingway and Faulkner, but in recent years he expanded his interests to include Updike. His scholarship has been published in numerous university journals, even though he came to academia late in life.

Dennis, of Butler, Pennsylvania, graduated from Penn State University Park, served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam era and afterwards the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, then taught at Butler Intermediate H.S. for nearly 30 years. After retiring, he earned a Ph.D. in literature from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and taught as an Assistant Teaching Professor of English at Penn State.

He is survived by his wife, Yong Hui Ledden of Butler; son Dr. Brian Ledden and family of Pensacola, Fla.; and daughter Alicia Ledden Heine and family of the San Francisco Bay area.

Dennis was quietly passionate about literature, and members who attended the 3rd Biennial John Updike Society Conference in Reading/Shillington may recall having wide-ranging discussions with him. He enjoyed the fellowship of fellow Updike enthusiasts so much that he and Yong Hui both attended the 4th Biennial J.U.S. Conference in Columbia, South Carolina. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family. He and his positive energy will be missed.

Pictured below: Closing banquet at the 4th conference. Clockwise from Don Greiner (back of head): Peter Bailey, Fran Bailey, Richard Androne, Yong Hui Ledden, Dennis Ledden, Robert Morace, and Ellen Greiner.

In Memoriam: James Yerkes

Three and a half years ago The John Updike Society lost contact with James Yerkes, well known to Updike scholars as the editor-publisher of The Centaurian newsletter. Now we are saddened to report that we have learned from Dave Lull, who served as Yerkes’ assistant for many years, that Yerkes passed away.

Lull managed to track down Yerkes’ daughter, Janet Winslow, who responded in an email, “I’m sorry to tell you that my father died in November 2018. My father fell and broke his pelvis on 10/31/17, and we moved him and my mother to assisted living in Indianapolis one month later. Unbeknownst to us at the time, he had a form of Parkinson’s that impacted both his physical and cognitive ability fairly quickly and significantly during his last year.”

For many years before the society was formed, The Centaurian served to unite academics and writers who were interested in the life, works, and legacy of John Updike. For his important and groundbreaking service to Updike studies, Yerkes was honored in 2010 as the first recipient of The John Updike Society’s Distinguished Service Award (pictured above). Due to his inability to travel, the award was presented to him on the society’s behalf by Rich Boulet, then director of the Blue Hill Public Library, a literary center in Maine near Yerkes’ home.

“I remember when Dad received this–he was so appreciative,” Winslow said. “My father’s Updike work was incredibly important and meaningful to him and provided a wonderful ‘place’ to put his energy and intellect in the years following retirement.”

Yerkes, Professor of Religion and Philosophy Emeritus and former provost of Moravian College, edited the important collection of essays on John Updike and Religion: The Sense of the Sacred and the Motions of Grace, published by Eerdmans in December 1999. We will miss him.

In Memoriam: Harlan L. Boyer

We are saddened to report that Harlan L. Boyer, who graduated from Shillington High School in 1950 and was a classmate of John Updike’s, died on Monday, March 1, 2021. He was 88. Boyer, whose father was Updike’s art teacher at Shillington High School, was the only male childhood friend invited to play inside the Updike house at 117 Philadelphia Ave. Boyer said that he and young Updike mostly played in the dining room just off the side porch, and that a favorite pastime was setting up dominoes on the sideboard and then knocking them down. When told about a handful of marbles that were found under a loose floorboard in the Black Room adjacent to Updike’s boyhood bedroom, Boyer said that they never really played much marbles. Rather, they would shoot them with their slingshots. Updike, he guessed, probably shot at something from his bedroom window, then panicked and hid the marbles.

Boyer had a wealth of stories to share, and members of The John Updike Society will fondly recall his participation on the classmates panel at the society’s first conference in Reading, Pa. In the years that followed he was generous with his time, always willing to answer scholars’ questions about his relationship with “Uppy,” as he called the author back when they were children.

According to the Reading Eagle obituary, Boyer served as a U.S. Navy pilot during the Korean Conflict and later earned a Master’s in Guidance and Counseling, serving 12 years in the Governor Mifflin School District and 23 years at Schuylkill Valley School District before retiring in 1992. A 32 Degree Mason, Boyer had a passion for airplanes and in his later years enjoyed tending to his two acres of property. The society offers our sympathies to his wife Beverly, son Kirk, and daughter Kirstin. We will miss him too.

Class of 1950 panel from the 2010 conference (l to r): Moderator Jack De Bellis, Joan Youngerman, Jackie Hirneisen Kendall, Harlan Boyer, Jimmie Trexler

In Memoriam: Derek Parker Royal

With sadness we report that Derek Parker Royal, who founded the Philip Roth Society in 2002 and also volunteered to serve on the first board of directors for The John Updike Society when it began in 2009, died on July 11, 2019 at the age of 55 as a result of coronary disease.

As current Philip Roth Society president Matthew Shipe wrote in his July 15, 2019 announcement, Derek, who also served as the first executive editor of the journal Philip Roth Studies, was “a kind, energetic, and generous scholar, who brought in many younger scholars into Roth Studies. Derek was a deeply astute critic and writer, and his intelligence and enthusiasm for not only Roth but also comics, music, and films will be deeply missed. He is survived by his wife Amanda and his two children”—who have our deepest sympathies.

Although Derek was too over-committed to remain on the Updike Society board for long, we appreciated his service, his willingness to share things he learned from founding a single author society, and his genial “let’s do this” attitude.

The Philip Roth Society also posted a “Tribute to Derek Parker Royal” that was written by Robert Paul Lamb, who taught Derek in graduate school.

In Memoriam: Ann W. Cassar

We are saddened to report the passing of Updike Society member Ann W. Cassar, who died on May 20, 2019 at the age of 86. Over the years Ann has helped numerous Updike scholars with their research, and society members will miss her bright intellect and warm personality. Although the memorial service has already been held, those who fondly remember Ann can still offer condolences on the Paganof Funeral Home website. As the obituary below reminds, Ann wasn’t just a society member; she was a classmate of Updike’s who shared the lofty distinction of being co-valedictorian in the Shillington High School Class of 1950 . . . with John Updike.

“Ann W. Cassar, 86, of Concord Township, PA passed away on May 20, 2019 at Riddle Hospital. Born in Shillington, PA to Luther and Martha Weik, she lived in Wilmington, DE briefly before moving to Concord Township where she resided over 50 years. Ann graduated from Shillington High School as co-valedictorian with author, John Updike, in 1950. She attended Albright College, graduating Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelors in Chemistry in 1954. Upon graduation she worked at the technical library indexing lab reports at Atlas Powder Co. (now Astra-Zeneca). She left Atlas to raise her family, returning to work as a freelance indexer until 2017 for major publishers in the US and India.

“Ann had a passion and talent for music, playing cello in the Delaware County Symphony, several string quartets and many community productions. She was instrumental in the production of an annual Messiah sing-along at the Brandywine Baptist Church which she attended most of her life. Interest in her family’s genealogy led her to become an active participant in the Johannes Schwalm Historical Association. In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her husband, Richard Cassar who died in 2018, a son, David Cassar, and her sister Jean Hertzog. She is survived by two sons, Thomas Cassar (Jill Sanders) and James Cassar (Tianjia Wang) as well as three grandchildren, Rachel, Grace and Chelsea Cassar. A visitation will be held on June 9, 2019, Sunday, 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. at the Pagano Funeral Home, 3711 Foulk Rd. Garnet Valley, PA followed by a Memorial Service at 1:00 p.m. Online condolences may be made by visiting”

We will miss Ann, and we offer our deepest condolences to her family.

In Memoriam: Pavel Šrut

Radia Praha reported on May 2, 2018 that Czech Republic author Pavel Šrut died a week ago and was laid to rest at the age of 78.

“Mr Šrut was one of the Czech Republic’s most respected authors of poetry and books for children. His popular trilogy Lichožrouti or Oddsockeaters won him the Magnesia Litera Award for literature.

“Apart from his work for children, he was also a translator from English and Spanish. His translations include books of Robert Graves, D.H Lawrence and John Updike.

“He also authored lyrics to many songs, including hits sung by Michal Prokop, Vladimír Mišík and Petr Skoumal.”

Mary Weatherall celebration of life scheduled for May 5

The obituary for Mary Pennington (Updike) Weatherall published by the Local reports that a celebration of her life will be held at First Church in Ipswich, UCC, One Meetinghouse Green, on Saturday, May 5 at 2 p.m. And there is much to celebrate. John Updike Society members know only that she was an artist and a supporter of her first husband, John Updike, who read his drafts and gave him advice, and that she continued to support him after he died by graciously backing the society by contributing to the restoration of The John Updike Childhood Home, participating in two conferences (shown in photo below at the Plowville home with scholar Don Greiner and husband Robert Weatherall), and assisting scholars with their projects.

But there was much more to Mary, as the obituary notes:

In addition to raising her four children and continuing to paint, Mary served on Ipswich’s Fair Housing Committee, “working to ensure that all who wanted to move to, and purchase property in Ipswich, were welcome to do so. She was active in the civil rights movement and, in 1965, flew to Alabama with fellow Ipswich residents, the late Rev. Goldthwaite Sherrill, William Wasserman, and the late Sally Landis Wasserman, to participate in one of the three Selma to Montgomery marches.”

Mary was a local activist as well, working in the 1990s with second husband Robert Weatherall and “the town, the Greenbelt Association, the Nichols family of Essex, and with a substantial monetary contribution of their own, helped make it possible to purchase 10 acres of open meadow above their house. Now known as The Nichols Field, it is an invaluable addition to the open spaces of Ipswich, enjoyed by joggers, dog walkers, fishermen, and romantically inclined teenagers, who walk the mile down Labor-in-Vain Road to enjoy the field overlooking the Ipswich River.”

Mary’s “landscapes of Ipswich, the obituary reports, “were avidly purchased and collected, and a large retrospective of her work was held at the Schlsingler Library at Radcliffe College [her alma mater] in the year 2000.”

Mary, the daughter of Rev. Leslie Talbot Pennington and Elizabeth Entwistle Daniels, a teacher of Latin, was born in Braintree, Mass. on Jan. 26, 1930, and “raised in Cambridge and Chicago,” according to the obituary. “She married John Hoyer Updike on June 26, 1953, and they spent their honeymoon in a small cottage behind the Goodale Apple Orchard on Argilla Road, loaned to them by a family friend.” After living in New York City they moved to Ipswich in 1957 and spent nearly two decades on the North Shore together. Their marriage, which was famously chronicled in The Maples Stories, ended with a “no-fault” divorce in March 1976.

According to the obituary, weeks after celebrating her 88th birthday Mary “caught a bad cold, which in turn led to pneumonia. When they learned of her illness, all seven of her grandsons and a wife, Anoff and Jaime Cobblah, Kwame Cobblah, Wesley Updike, Trevor Updike, Sawyer Updike, Kai Freyleue, and Seneca Freyleue, arrived from various corners of New England to be with her. Her great grandson, Weston Scott Kofi Cobblah, was also there with his parents.

“She is survived by her four children, Elizabeth Cobblah, David Updike, Michael Updike, and Miranda Updike; their spouses, Tete Cobblah, Wambui Githiora Updike, Jeffrey Kern; her three step-children, Robert, Alexander, and Helen Weatherall and their spouses.”

Condolences may be sent by visiting In lieu of flowers, contributions in her memory may be made to the Ipswich Refugee Program, P.O. Box 285, Ipswich, MA  01938-9998.

“Mary Pennington Updike Weatherall, 88, an artist and first wife of John Updike” (Boston Globe)


In Memoriam: Mary Pennington (Updike) Weatherall

All of us at The John Updike Society were saddened to see the notice that Michael Updike just posted on Facebook that his mother, Mary Pennington (Updike) Weatherall, has died. Mary, John Updike’s first wife and the mother of his four children, was a supporter of the society from the very beginning. She donated money to help us restore the childhood home, donated objects for display that once belonged to Updike, took part in a family panel at the first conference in Reading, Pa., and even welcomed into her home all who attended the second conference in Boston.

We offer our sympathies to the family but share in the feeling of tremendous loss. All who were privileged to meet and spend any time with Mary know how warm and kind and generous she was, and how helpful she has been to Updike scholars over the years. She will be sorely missed, and our hearts go out to her children, Elizabeth Cobblah Updike, David Updike, Michael Updike, and Miranda Updike and their families.

We will post more information as we receive it.

In Memoriam: former Knopf editor Judith Jones

Judith Jones, who retired as senior editor and vice president at Alfred A. Knopf in 2011 after a 54-year career at the fabled publishing house, died Wednesday, August 2, at the age of 93 as a result of complications from Alzheimer’s disease, according to a New York Times story by Robert D. McFadden.

Although Ms. Jones was most famous for discovering Julia Child and co-writing three books of her own with her food-critic husband Evan, devoted readers of John Updike knew her as the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s editor responsible for shepherding “all but one of Mr. Updike’s scores of books of fiction, short stories, poetry and essays to publication.”

Ms. Jones was also responsible for the publication of the American version of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl while she worked in Doubleday’s Paris office prior to joining Knopf. Among her many honors was the James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award, named for another writer she edited during her distinguished career at Knopf. While at Knopf Ms. Jones also “commissioned and edited regional and ethic food books for the ‘Knopf Cooks American’ series.” Among other writers she edited were Anne Tyler, John Hersey, Elizabeth Bowen, Peter Taylor, and William Maxwell. But it was her working relationship with Updike, Knopf’s most successful and lauded author, that put her in the conversation of important authors and their equally important editors. One hopes that her correspondence with Updike will one day be published, as the Max Perkins/Ernest Hemingway letters have been, so readers can get a fuller understanding of their working relationship.

The literary world has lost another one of its giants, but she will be appreciated well into the future. Photo: Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times.

“Judith Jones, editor of Julia Child, dead at 93” (AP)

“The Side of Judith Jones You Didn’t See” (Food 52)

“Judith Jones got the best out of her authors. I know: I was one of them” (Washington Post)

“Remembering Culinary Giant Judith Jones” (Daily Beast)