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"A Passion for Farming: The Fred and Ruby Wasson Story"

Through much of 2009 and 2010 it was my great pleasure to work with Fred and Ruby Wasson and their four adult daughters--Marcia, Kathy, Beverly and Reta--in writing a well-known local family LifeStory. Fred and Ruby's pioneer ancestors date back to the 1870s in grape growing, winemaking and prune picking in Alexander Valley, California. Along with what the Wassons shared about their rich and extensive history in the valley, I was fortunate to include (with permission) information summarized from an original manuscript by renown wine historian, William F. Heintz.

Working with the Wassons was not entirely new to me because I had previously interviewed both Fred and Ruby and the four Wasson daughters for my Healdsburg Tribune "Neighbors" column and it was a dream come true to be able to spend so much time with some of the nicest folks on earth.

The Wassons in their kitchenBesides having the benefit of William Heintz's manuscript which contained rich details about both of Ruby's maternal and paternal winemaking pioneer grandparents, I had Ruby herself who, at age 90, has an exquisite memory. The Wassons also had many scrapbooks with great old photos and details scribbled in the margins which helped put the whole story together in a cohesive way. There was no scarcity of photos and details as both Ruby and Fred told their ancestral and childhood stories. Because they grew up in such interesting times in our country, they could speak directly to the Great Depression years as well as rural farm life before, during and after World War II and the relationship between farming and wartime America.

One of the most interesting things about this work was the sheer depth and breadth of the entire Wasson family's knowledge about Alexander Valley. In a drive through the Valley, Fred and Reta showed me all the historical landmarks and told me the history of almost every inch of the Valley. My favorite thing about the book is how much the Wassons taught me about Alexander Valley farming history with reference to grapes, prunes and what I have termed "the grape's second coming".

I had weekly meetings with Fred and Ruby which usually also consisted of a Wasson daughter or two (mainly Reta and often Bev). As the manuscript grew, the daughters became involved in adding stories about their folks and their own childhoods. Beverly was particularly helpful in adding family photos and Reta found a collection of precious historical photos.

Fred and Ruby Wasson signing memoirThe last part of my work was editing the manuscript over and over again and getting the approval of the entire family. We spent hours choosing over 100 photos together, which I then scanned, titled and catalogued. I owe a debt of gratitude to the talent of Dia Misuraca of Sonoma Web Design who created the layout for publication by beautifully displaying the photos and designing a book cover which exactly represented what the Wassons had in mind. Dia used Lulu online publishing because it creates professional quality over which the author and the layout person have complete control, and it is very reasonably priced.

The final job before ordering the books was for me to again edit the entire book proof not once, but twice and three times. I am so pleased to say that it was entirely worth the effort when I saw the look on Ruby's face as she read her story and the twinkle in Fred's eyes as he signed his autograph for a fan! Again, my greatest pleasure comes from knowing that my clients are completely happy with their investment.

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Phone: 707-431-2445   Email: shonnie@sonic.net