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The Dementia Dance

8:48 AM  Jun 27th, 2013
by Audrey Starr

A book by Rosemary Barkes ’95

She says, “A fan of lifelong learning, I started my master’s degree program at UD when I was 54 years old. A few years after graduating, I read about the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition in UD Quarterly, entered on a whim — and won. I’d written a few short stories, but never entered any contests. I’ve been a professional writer ever since.”

In addition to her UD degree, Barkes holds two bachelor’s degrees from Ohio State in radio and TV communications (1960) and speech and hearing therapy (1974). “I moved to Columbus from Mount Gilead, Ohio, immediately after high school and worked at an insurance agency for a year to save enough money for tuition,” she said. That job supported her first year, and Barkes worked three jobs, sometimes simultaneously — manufacturing company secretary in the mornings, faculty club waitress at night and model on the weekends — to fund the rest.

After the competition, Barkes said she “was like a woman possessed. I wrote constantly: on toilet paper, on restaurant tablecloths, on a scratch pad balanced on the steering wheel,” she said. Her work has been featured in Taste of Home Magazine, and she’s served as a guest columnist for the Grove City [Ohio] Record. “I write about the human condition, and I like to think there’s a little bit of Erma in that.”

“As a young mother in the 1960s, I idolized Erma — we all did,” Barkes said. “Through humor, she raised the bar on being a homemaker to a level of respect. She gave us hope. I felt like I owed it to her to write something for the competition.” Barkes was convinced her entry didn’t stand a chance after she had to “cut all the good parts out” to meet the competition’s word count. Barkes arrived at the 2000 Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop an hour early in hopes of scoring a photo with keynoter and The Washington Post columnist Art Buchwald.

Barkes’ career included secretarial work and a stint as a speech and hearing therapist with Columbus City Schools. In 1985, Barkes took a job as executive assistant to the president of Doctors Hospital, retiring in 1998. She entered the UD master’s of education program after her boss, Rick Vincent ’84, recommended it. Two nights a week she attended classes taught by UD faculty on the campus of Capital University.

A regular volunteer at an assisted living facility, Barkes never thought much of it — until she moved her mother, a dementia patient, there. Then, inspiration struck: Barkes’ writing — straightforward, with a healthy dose of humor — could help others cope. Her book, The Dementia Dance, was published earlier this year. She’s excited to hear what others think and won’t have to wait long for a response: Her
local book club has chosen her book as its next selection.

5 Responses to The Dementia Dance

  1. Julia Shanon says:

    what this the genre of this dance?

  2. Laura (LollieLawrence) Miller says:

    Hi Rosemary, I saw your notice in the OSU magazine today and am excited for you book. I will buy it and recommend it. Do you remember our time at the rooming house on 13th?
    Keep in touch, if you like, on e-mail.
    Your ex roommate, Lollie

  3. Janet says:

    Hi Rosemary, I just attended one of your siminars at Hilliard Assistant Living Facility. It was very helpful. I also bought your book. I started reading it and could not put it down. It is very easy to understand and I can really relate to what you wrote. Thank you so much for making this journey I am on with my dad easier. I look forward to seeing you again.

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