Friday, December 13, 2013

Remembering Erma Bombeck February 21, 1927 - April 22, 1996

She was America's "First Lady of Household Humor."

Erma Bombeck achieved her popularity from writing and expressing her views on daily life through her  many newspaper columns and best selling books.

She was born Erma Fiste and raised in Dayton, Ohio.  Her dad was the city crane operator and was raised with her elder half sister.  She was an avid reader during her early years and an excellent student.    She also enjoyed tap dancing and singing and worked for a local radio station for eight years.

Erma began writing while in junior high school where she wrote a humor column for the school newspaper called "The Owl." In 1942, she took a job as a copygirl for the Dayton Herald and soon found herself beginning a journalism career.  One of her first major assignments was the opportunity to interview Shirley Temple who was visiting Dayton, Ohio and received rave reviews for the article.

After graduating from high school, Erma earned money and scholarships by continuing her writing and began writing obituaries and other jobs while going to school at Ohio University. She had hoped to
continue her writing but her experience at the university wasn't successful.  She found herself back in Dayton and enrolled in the University of Dayton where she supported herself by working in a department store.  She wrote her humor in the company newsletter and took another job with an advertising agency.  She eventually graduated with a degree in English.  Her English professor encouraged her to continue with her path of writing.  She wrote for the student publication called "The Exponent." She married a fellow student by the name of Bill Bombeck who served on the Korean Front during World War II and eventually became an educator.  The two of them were strong members of the Catholic faith.

Erma discontinued her journalism career when the Bombecks decided to adopt a daughter, Betsy.  They relocated to Centerville, Ohio and became neighbors to the young television personality, Phil Donahue.  She continued her journey as a homemaker for the next twelve years. Her family increased by one when they had a son.

On the cover of Time
In 1964, Erma reestablished her journalism career when she began writing weekly columns for the Kettering, Ohio Times where she claimed to have made $3.00/column.  The Dayton newspaper requested her columns as well and she agreed to write two columns for them.  Her articles went into national syndication under the title "At Wit's End."Her writing career then exploded and her columns were seen in nearly 900 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada. On top of a successful writing career, Erma's career expanded as a lecturer in the cities where her columns appeared.    She was also a regular guest of the popular Arthur Godfrey's radio show.

Over Erma's career, she published fourteen bestselling books
including "The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Septic Tank" "When God Created Mothers" and "If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?"  She also wrote over 4000 newspaper columns that were read by over 30 million readers.  She wrote for Good Housekeeping, Reader's Digest, Family Circle, Redbook, and McCall's magazines.  She also frequent guest on talk shows including Good Morning America from 1975-86.

Her popularity earned her the distinction of Grand Marshal for the 97th Tournament of Roses Parade and she served on the Presidential Advisory Committee for Women.

Erma Bombeck was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy in 1991 that eventually worked its way to the kidneys two years later.  In 1996, Erma received a kidney transplant and often wrote about her health problems.  She died three weeks following the transplant on April 22, 1996 at the age of 69.
Erma's funeral mass program

Erma's life was celebrated during a funeral mass at the St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Phoenix, Arizona (program pictured) on April 29, 1996.  Rev. Robert Skagen reminded mourners of a final Erma Bombeck quotation:  "When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, "I used everything You gave me."

Erma's resting place at Woodlawn
She was laid to rest in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio and one of the pallbearers was Phil Donahue.  A huge 29000 pound rock (pictured) covers her grave taken from her former home in Arizona.  Her husband, Bill said he wanted a "piece of Phoenix" at Erma's grave to commemorate the 25 years they resided there.

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