It made me laugh that she has not only a wealth of Spanish lit stuff, but enough bio and chem stuff to have made it very hard to predict whether she'd end up with a writer or a scientist for a daughter. (You may think, looking through the cabinet, that it's the musical inclinations that came out of the blue. But that only requires going back one generation further.)
I came inside with a stack of books, thinking about my mom's aborted academic career (all who've been witness to her college counseling sessions are welcome to laugh here).
And it suddenly made me very interested to see what I had said about her in my obituary.
So I dug out the obituary. And quickly realized that I am getting pretty far behind.
No book published yet. And the genius friend from law school never materialized. Alas.
(Yes, I did write this for a class. And it made the teacher cry. That may be my greatest writing triumph.)
Emily Older, influential wife and mother, dies
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Emily Older, the woman who linked two of America’s most influential men, died in her sleep Monday. The cause of death has been identified as heart failure. She was 74.
Mrs. Older was the widow of retired District Judge Henry Older, and the mother of newly-minted Wall Street Journal editor Harry Older, Jr. Both men have credited their success to her encouragement, support, and – they are quick to note – honest criticism. “She lets me know when I’m right – and when I’m wrong,” said Judge Older last year at a dinner commemorating the couple’s 50th anniversary. “Sometimes I think she’s too quick to note the latter.”
Constructive criticism aside, the Olders’ marriage has long been characterized in Washington circles as a model of camaraderie, friendship, and mutual respect, although colleagues of Judge Older occasionally complained that his wife meddled in his work.
Judge Older died last month of a heart attack, and close friends had predicted that Mrs. Older would soon follow. “She just seemed tired,” said a family friend. “And she looked it, too. She had had a full life.”
Emily Ann Younger Older was born in Mission Viejo, California, to a tile contractor and a homemaker. Her mother had a profound impact on her life, and Mrs. Older would later say, “my mother gave up her own dreams and desires so she could stay home with me and my sisters and give us a love of learning. Our dreams were her dreams; our desires her desires.” After an accelerated early education, Older enrolled in Oak Brook College of Law at 15 and went on to become the youngest lawyer in California.
It was during the law school years that she met Henry Older, a fellow law student with an interest in the judiciary. After school, they went their own ways, but remained friends. Both spent some time practicing business litigation in California. She left litigation to establish her own estate planning firm and allow time for a second career in journalism; Henry left for D.C. and a clerkship at the Supreme Court.
“Estate planning paid the bills,” Older wrote in her autobiography Younger to Older: The Journey We All Must Make, “but writing kept me going.” She enjoyed success as a writer and co-authored two books before she turned 30. One was the popular, “Even Melted Cookies Beat MRE’s” a collection of letters to and from U.S. Marines during the second Iraqi conflict. The book was first published on Older’s 24th birthday.
“I saw the title in a book review,” Henry Older recalled at the anniversary dinner, “and I thought, ‘It’s about time to get a wife. I think I’ll marry Emily.’” Within six months, he had. But, he said, “It took a whole lot of persuasion. I also had to pass an IQ test, complete an obstacle course, write a summary of The Brothers Karamazov in Italian sonnet form, and recite the New Testament from memory. It was worth it.” The couple moved to northern California where Henry continued to practice law.
As a newlywed, Mrs. Older continued to write from home, but her priority soon became her growing family. Over the next twenty years, the Olders would welcome seven children. Several shared their mother’s interest in journalism, most notably Henry, Jr. (Harry). “My mother did for us what my grandmother did for her,” he remarked at a Press Club reception earlier this year. “She helped us to see that hard work would bring excellence in whatever field we chose. And she helped us to choose wisely.”
Mrs. Older is survived by seven children, 23 grandchildren, five sisters, corresponding brothers-in-law, and more nieces and nephews than she could count.