A Remembrance and Appreciation of Loree Rackstraw

  • Posted on May 17, 2018


Loree Rackstraw died Tuesday, May 8 at Mayflower Retirement Center in Grinnell. 
She would have turned 87 in June. 

In 2011, just before she moved to Grinnell, her family held a celebration of her 80th birthday, and friends were asked to offer a few remarks.  I thought I would reprint mine here as a remembrance and appreciation of my much-admired colleague, and beloved friend.  She is much missed.  

At that celebration, I took photos, a selected few of which are posted below too. 

For Loree’s 80thBirthday

A Belief in Moreness 

June, 2011


            Loree, we’ve been friends since before the end of the Vietnam war.  Forty and more years.  How many friends do I know that I still see more than once a year from that time?  None.  You’re it.  

         You’ve become part of my family, the older sister I never had. 

         That means more than I can say.           

        Thirty years ago, at your fiftieth birthday party, in this place, on this day, you provided an occasion for Winter Ridge Handy’s first gig. Waller, Waterman, Schultz, and Cawelti, trying their best to make their peculiar kind of eclectic music.    Thank you for that opportunity, and for all the other musicians, artists, poets, and writers you’ve helped over the decades.  It gave us a perfect start, and we played five more years at dozens of venues.    

         Fifteen years ago you retired, and Angeleita and I were happy to help celebrate that occasion with a night we still remember. Champagne, a limo, music, speeches, and a glow that lasted the rest of the year.  

         Ten years ago in September, several of us gathered to honor your ancient and much lamented giant boxelder tree.  I still remember the bittersweet feel of that farewell and thanks, which echoes today.  By then, you had become a pacha mama, an earth-mother goddess with ties to Peruvian indigenous shamans.  

         So here we are, celebrating your 80th, which is sweet, and your leaving Cedar Falls, which is bitter.  Your leaving is bittersweet for sure.   

         You’ll be more than missed, your absence will leave a hole in our local culture and hearts that won’t be filled. 

         For me and dozens of others, you’ve been a sounding board, a right-on critic, a supporter of creativity wherever you find it, an always ready ear, and a great laughing partner.  I’ve laughed more with you than anyone, excluding Angeleita and D. Terry Williams, two of the funniest people alive.  You’re the third. 

         Most important for me has been a shared world view, a common sense of omnivalence.   I don’t think we’ve discussed this word,  but it describes what you’ve known and lived, and in fact what I came to understand, thanks to you.  

         “Omnivalence” is a coinage from John Briggs’s wonderful study of creativity, FIRE IN THE CRUCIBLE. Roughly, it means “moreness.” There’s more to everything, you know, from the tiniest grains to the monster stars.  There’s more to all of us, more to every poem, more meanings lurking in every piece of music, every human expression, every expression of nature from trees to pachamamas to grandchildren.    

         Years ago, you joined with me in “Oxherders,” a once-a-month book discussion group consisting of local seers and seekers that focused on writings about enlightenment—mystics, physicists, religionists, historians, futurists.  We were seeking the ox of enlightenment, from Philip Kapleau’s Three Pillars of Zen

         We read works such as Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near,Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, Karen Armstrong’s In Defense of God,  Sam Harris’s The End of Faith, plus books on quantum physics, such as Gary Zukov’s The Dancing Wu Li Masters, about how physical reality is --neither. 

         Through all those hours of intense discussion, you consistently revealed wonder, curiosity, and an unshakeable belief in moreness  that only a few people understand—among them Kurt Vonnegut, who expressed it in humor and satire, and musicians, who reach it through melodies and rhythms that transport listeners to another dimension.   

         So I’m here to offer thanks to a world citizen, an 80 year old sister who has lived a life of seeing and believing in the moreness in everything.   

         And for that, I’m profoundly and forever grateful.


Cedar Valley Chronicles Photo

“Even before the advent of the Internet, Cawelti’s columns went 'viral' in the Cedar Valley… the role of a columnist is to be thought provoking, to take tacks that shed a different light on an issue or possibly cause a reader to reevaluate a position. At the very least, it should bring clarity to a particular perspective, whether you buy into the commentator’s worldview or not.

Scott's work does just that.  Enjoy this collection of his writing.”

-Saul Shapiro, Former Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier Editor
Read Shapiro's entire introduction.


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