“I miss Linda!”
That’s the most appropriate way to begin this remembrance of the first author in our 13 years as a publishing house to die—and leave our worldwide community of authors, journalists and editors feeling such a personal loss. That line is appropriate because the climactic line in her picture book for young readers, Sadie Sees Trouble, is:
“I miss my Penny!”
In the book, those are the words of the good-as-gold pet dog Sadie, mourning the loss of her beloved little girl Penny—in this case to an obsession with a new digital device that pulls Penny away from her dog for a while.
That’s the moment in Sadie Sees Trouble when many readers make a spontaneous, audible response. My wife Amy, reading the book for the first time, couldn’t resist exclaiming: “Ohhh, poor Sadie! Ohhhh! Penny! Come on! Sadie needs you! You need her!”
Educators immediately recognized this story as helping with one of the most important early learning priorities of our time: Reducing children’s “screen time.” That’s why Linda received many invitations to visit schools to read—and interact in creative ways—with children and staff.
Linda was a veteran educator herself. So is her sister Julie Jarkey-Kozlowski, who developed the unique illustrations for the book. In an interview, Linda explained:
“Because of all of the work we’ve done as educators over the years, we hear from lots of parents and teachers all over the country. Right now, we are hearing about the problem of technology becoming the baby sitter in so many families—cutting off the interaction with other people that is an important part of early learning. It’s an attractive option: Give a child a tablet or a smart phone and many children will sit quietly while you’re free to do other things around the home. But, very quickly that technology can replace interaction with your children.
“Yes, this is similar to the old problem families have had with too much TV time. Now, many parents are realizing that they need to limit ‘screen time’ on tablets or other devices like smart phones. And, the real challenge is that this awareness does not come naturally to everyone. The message of Sadie Sees Trouble tells this story, not in a preachy way, but through the eyes of this lovable dog Sadie who sees the problem first hand. It’s a fun way for parents to begin the conversation about the balance of technology in a person’s life.”
Why is that exchange so important in recalling Linda’s remarkable life?
Because Linda was defined by her love of interacting with people—from her years working with classrooms in Macomb County north of Detroit to her global travels from which she dreamed of developing a series of books to help other travelers deepen their experiences.
During her long career in education, Linda served as a secondary language arts teacher, public school administrator and assistant professor at the university level. She earned her Master of Arts in Teaching from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, and her doctorate in leadership in administration from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.
Linda’s last public event with our community of media professionals was in a Michigan-wide gathering of dozens of men and women in late February—just before the COVID-19 shutdowns began. She shared with this group, called Michigan Communicators, the latest developments in her efforts to spread awareness of her Sadie book. Those of us who knew her well understood that she was making these efforts even as she was in the midst of her struggle with cancer. Her effort to attend that half-day gathering was part of her determination to continue her public work. Then, when the formal gathering ended, many of us recall her lingering for a long time to talk one-on-one with many of us who she had not seen for a while.
One thing we all realized: Linda gained strength from other people.
Linda often told me that she came by her extrovert’s love of people and travel naturally, because she was the daughter of entertainer and comic Harry Jarkey. Over many meetings during the production of her book Sadie, especially if our work extended through lunch, Linda loved to tell stories about Harry who was born in 1913. Linda wasn’t born until 1949, but she loved to retell early stories from Harry’s life. Among his earliest professional exploits, Harry emceed events like the infamous dance tournaments popular in the Great Depression in which couples tried to outlast each other through days of dancing in the hope of winning a cash prize. Harry was most famous in Michigan starting in the 1950s for hosting regional TV shows, including “Fun House” for kids. He also was a regular headliner at the Wenona Beach Casino on Saginaw Bay in Michigan. When he died at age 100 in 2014, Linda announced that she would spread his ashes along that shoreline he loved so much.
Linda spent many weeks each year traveling around the world. Her goal was 100 countries—and she reached 76 on six continents. A talented photographer, she brought back thousands of images that she began organizing and self-publishing in book form. She planned to develop these pilot projects into a unique format of flexible guidebooks that easily could be adapted for each tour group’s unique itinerary.
“That’s my dream. I want to develop more Sadie books and I also want to turn all that I’ve learned about travel into these books that really can focus on where each tour group may choose to travel,” she told me more than once.
Our publishing house produced the first Sadie volume, but we were unable to complete production on the other projects with Linda.
Linda was born June 19, 1949, and died September 19, 2020 after battling pancreatic cancer for more than a year. She is survived by her sister, Julie Jarkey-Kozlowski, and her brother-in-law, Ron Kozlowski, many friends and extended family.
Linda’s family has not scheduled a memorial service to celebrate her life, due to pandemic restrictions, but we will share any news in the future. For now, Linda’s wish was that any memorial gifts be directed to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or to Heifer International in her name.
Care to Learn More about Her Beloved Sadie Project?