Tribute to a mother
Lamers writes her family’s history
By Jessica Walker
Multiple marriages, an abusive household, and a murder. It sounds like the premise of a crime novel, but, for Wisconsin native Sharon Lamers, it’s her family history.
The New London woman published the details in her memoir “Junny’s Marie.”
“Junny’s Marie” centers on the life of Lamers’ mother Marie, beginning with Marie’s own mother Frances who immigrated to the Midwest from Holland in 1908. It follows the two generations of women as they persevere through tragedies.
“My mother wanted her story done as a love story,” Lamers said. “She started writing down everything she could think of, and I started writing [“Junny’s Marie”] in the mid-70s.”
The prologue opens with Marie and her sister riding bikes near the Lamers’ property. Little did Marie know, her future husband John Lamers was watching from a barn window. The title of “Junny’s Marie” comes from the Dutch vernacular for Johnny.
John and Marie married in June 1937. The following August, Marie’s sister Helen was murdered at a dance. Marie went to identify the body by herself.
Lamers never knew about her aunt’s murder until a neighborhood kid mentioned it when she was in fifth grade.
“Helen’s murder destroyed [Marie],” Lamers said.
The man convicted of Helen’s murder served two and a half years of a 14 to 25 year sentence.
“Every day my mother’s main focus was to get up and get the paper to see if that [man] had died,” Lamers said. “She’d send him a mourning card every year on the day he murdered [Helen].”
Despite writing about other hardships such as Marie getting thrown out of her house when her mother Frances died, Lamers said writing about Helen’s murder was emotionally difficult.
“My mother was so funny, and some of that’s in the book. I don’t know how she kept that sense of humor with everything she went through,” Lamers said.
Lamers finished the first draft of “Junny’s Marie” in the 1980s. She used newspaper clippings, census records, and telephone calls to research her family history. Marie had also written notes with a manual typewriter, which began with the line: “I started this story July 25, 1975 because Sharon wanted me to.”
“My mom started losing her memory so I hurried up and finished the book,” Lamers said. “It was terrible, but she didn’t care.”
Lamers revised the story in 2001 but, when Marie later died, she didn’t revisit the manuscript for years.
“Finally I decided I absolutely had to do this as a tribute to my mother,” she said. “Papers were strewn everywhere. Nonstop I wrote, and then I would do it over and over and over.”
Lamers redid the previous editions of “Junny’s Marie” and added a conclusion about Marie’s death. Although most of the information is factual, she altered a few names and made educated guesses when she found gaps in her information. Family members helped proofread.
“It’s wonderful to have the book done,” Lamers said.
She keeps printouts of online reviews and readers’ emails about the memoir.
When Lamers taught Montessori preschool in Alaska for 30 years, she would write Christmas programs and stories for her students. “Junny’s Marie” is her first book.
“If I could have one superpower, I would choose teleportation to go back and experience what [my mother’s] life was like,” Lamers said.
“Junny’s Marie” is available for $2.99 for e-readers on Amazon.com.