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A Tribute to Catherine Marshall

- by her husband, Leonard LeSourd


Julie is Catherine Marshall's nineteenth and final book, and her second novel. It is a companion piece to Christy, her first novel, published in 1967.

Both Christy and Julie give readers a fascinating look at unforgettable segments in American life and history. Christy portrays life among the mountain people of eastern Tennessee in 1912. Julie depicts the depression years of 1934-35 in a flood-prone town in western Pennsylvania. Both books took a long time to write: Christy, nine years; Julie, seven. Both works are based on Catherine's family life: Christy Huddleston was nineteen-year-old Leonora Haseltine Whitaker, Catherine's mother. Julie Wallace, the central character in Julie, is in part drawn fron Catherine's own memories of her life in Keyser, West Virginia, as an eighteen-year-old.

Research on Julie began in 1977 as Catherine became fascinated by both the Johnstown Flood of 1889 and and the inner workings and mechanics of operating a small weekly newspaper. She also took a refresher course in the events of the depression years of the thirties. Soon the research spilled over into dam construction, the early union movement in America, steel making, private railroad cars. Poems written by Catherine as a teenager found their place.

I married Catherine in 1959 after she had been working on Christy less than a year. She was a courageous woman to become, at forty-four, a mother to my three young children, ages three, six, and ten. Christy was put aside for a time as we established a new home together.

Soon it also became clear that as an editorial team, Catherine, the writer, and I, the editor, struck a good balance. We began spending countless hours together talking through characters and plotting the action and suspense of Christy. This close relationship continued through Catherine's non-fiction books: Beyond Our Selves, Adventures in Prayer, Something More, The Helper, Meeting God at Every Turn, and a book we bylined together, My Personal Prayer Diary.

When Catherine spent forty-two days critically ill in the hospital, during the summer of 1982, working on the manuscript of Julie was a form of therapy for me at this very difficult time. Even during visiting hours we sometimes found ourselves talking about the book's characters. So often--perhaps too often--did our absorption in the editorial process spill over into family life, vacation periods, travel, even illness.

By January 1983 Catherine seemingly had recovered from her lung collapse of the summer before. She and I began the new year by spending several days on Julie with our longtime editor, asssociate and close friend, Elizabeth Sherrill. Months of revision work were still needed.

Catherine was in the hospital for tests when she passed away suddenly of heart failure on March 18, 1983.

What a tremendous loss to her family, as well as to a book audience of millions! Her writing career had spanned thirty-four years, including eighteen books that sold somewhere over sixteen million copies.

In many ways Julie is Catherine's own story, because the passion for causes, the quest for faith and the courageous spirit in Julie Wallace were also in Catherine.

I know. I lived with these qualities for twenty-three years. Though the void she leaves in my life can never be filled, I am sustained by memories--of our adventures in faith, of our tumultously creative family life and of our fulfilling editorial partnership.


Leonard LeSourd
January 1984

Text from the Forward to Julie, by Catherine Marshall LeSourd