In Memory of Barbara Curtis and Ethel Herr

There are days when the world should stop spinning on its axis. Today is one of those days for me.

I learned that two writing colleagues and friends – Ethel Herr and Barbara Curtis – passed away Tuesday, October 30. Ethel succumbed to a long battle with cancer, and Barbara is thought to have had a stroke. Both women played a significant encouraging role in my life, and I want to pause and honor them today.

Barbara Curtis

Barbara and I met in 2005ish, and as adoptive moms do, we instantly bonded as we shared our adoption stories. At that point in my career, I was itching to write a book that would help prepare people for adoptive parenting, and Barbara said she’d review the manuscript and consider endorsing it.

In the mid-2000s, blogging was a fairly new thing, but both Barbara and I were avid bloggers. She authored a popular blog called Mommy Life, and we traded tips about how to grow our audiences and serve as a helpful voice in our respective communities.

In 2007, when I was teaching a blogging workshop at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference in California, Barbara sat in the back of the auditorium where I was teaching. Afterwards, she came up to me and stated, “That was good.” Her simple words of praise made my spirit soar.

As Barbara and I got to know one another, she shared her life story with me. I was so captivated that I asked her if I could pitch her story to the magazines I wrote for. Two magazines published slightly different versions of Barbara’s life story: Marriage Partnership and Today’s Christian. (Both stories are still online; you can read them by clicking the magazine links above.)

Barbara did endorse my book, The Adoption Decision: 15 Things You Want to Know Before Adopting,  and we emailed each other periodically. The qualities I loved most about Barbara were her no-nonsense attitude, her love for her family, and her willingness to share her very colorful life story, warts and all.

When I called Barbara and her husband, Tripp, to do a followup interview for one of the features I was writing about them, I kept asking, “Are you sure you’re comfortable with seeing this information in print?”

They both repeatedly assured me, “Our lives are an open book.”

Barbara and Tripp’s radically-transformed lives will continue to serve as an inspiration for many, including me.


Ethel Herr

Classmates from the Mount Hermon 2010 Internet Marketing course. Ethel is in the back row, far right, with her arm around me.

Ethel Herr and I met several years ago at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.  Ethel had the reputation of being the “matriarch” of Mount Hermon; she was one of the original attendees at the first conference 44 years ago, and she has served on the faculty of nearly every conference since then.

At the 2010 conference, Ethel and I spent several hours together discussing ways she could market a book project she was working on. Although Ethel had approached me for advice, I somehow felt as if I was the one doing the learning and growing during each of our conversations.

When Ethel informed me that she planned to attend my Major Morning Track (8-hour course) on internet marketing, I was more than a little intimidated. She said, “Don’t worry; I’ll probably just attend the first session.”

Ethel attended the first session. And the second session. And the third session. After the third session, I pulled her aside and said, “Ethel, you’re still here!”

She gave me that frank, steady gaze that’s so “Ethel” and said, “If your class wasn’t good, I wouldn’t have come back. But I’m planning to come to all the sessions.”

And she did. What a blessing Ethel was to everyone in our class. She often chimed in with quiet, thoughtful comments. More often than not, I felt as if I should just sit down and let Ethel lead the class! What a tremendous privilege it was to spend those hours in the presence of such a delightful woman.


Do you have a story about how either Barbara or Ethel has impacted your life? I hope you’ll share it.

  • Thanks for sharing this story. I’ve wondered about this… as we share almost everything online, it seems we should also honor those who’ve passed on, by mentioning how they’ve touched our lives.

  • Thanks for sharing this story. I’ve wondered about this… as we share almost everything online, it seems we should also honor those who’ve passed on, by mentioning how they’ve touched our lives.

  • I debated whether to post something, but I just felt compelled to do it. In fact, I felt as if I couldn’t be at peace unless I did it. Thinking about the deaths of these two friends made me ask myself, “How often do I tell the people who have made a huge impact on my life — while they are still alive — how much they mean to me?

    I had the opportunity to do that today with a friend I haven’t seen in a couple of years. It was a special conversation for both of us.

  • I debated whether to post something, but I just felt compelled to do it. In fact, I felt as if I couldn’t be at peace unless I did it. Thinking about the deaths of these two friends made me ask myself, “How often do I tell the people who have made a huge impact on my life — while they are still alive — how much they mean to me?

    I had the opportunity to do that today with a friend I haven’t seen in a couple of years. It was a special conversation for both of us.

  • Laura, I think you did the right thing! And yes, nice to share with those still with us 😀

  • Laura, I think you did the right thing! And yes, nice to share with those still with us 😀

  • Laura Bennet

    What a dear, dear woman Ethel is! (In heaven, she still IS!) Her warmth and encouragement to me at the Mt. Hermon Writer’s Conference paved the way for me to pursue my writing with tenacity and grace. She will be greatly missed by so many. Rejoicing that she is enjoying being in the presence of her Savior. So sad to lose her. Mt. Hermon will not be the same without her.

  • Laura Bennet

    What a dear, dear woman Ethel is! (In heaven, she still IS!) Her warmth and encouragement to me at the Mt. Hermon Writer’s Conference paved the way for me to pursue my writing with tenacity and grace. She will be greatly missed by so many. Rejoicing that she is enjoying being in the presence of her Savior. So sad to lose her. Mt. Hermon will not be the same without her.

  • Thank you for sharing that, Laura. I will miss Ethel’s smiling face and brisk pace so much next spring!

  • Thank you for sharing that, Laura. I will miss Ethel’s smiling face and brisk pace so much next spring!

  • My Christian writing group, 1st Writes just started teaching from Ms. Herr’s book “An Introduction to Christian Writing”. This morning I went looking for her website and found that she had passed away. I was going to thank her for writing the book and sharing her knowledge and wisdom of Christian writing. I did not know her, but she will live on through her book, touching Christian writers. Thank you for sharing this memorial post.

    The Write Soil
    1st Writes

  • My Christian writing group, 1st Writes just started teaching from Ms. Herr’s book “An Introduction to Christian Writing”. This morning I went looking for her website and found that she had passed away. I was going to thank her for writing the book and sharing her knowledge and wisdom of Christian writing. I did not know her, but she will live on through her book, touching Christian writers. Thank you for sharing this memorial post.

    The Write Soil
    1st Writes

  • Dawn – How fantastic that your group is working your way through Ethel’s book. She would be delighted. She was such a kind-hearted and no-nonsense lady. I hope her words teach and encourage your group!

  • Dawn – How fantastic that your group is working your way through Ethel’s book. She would be delighted. She was such a kind-hearted and no-nonsense lady. I hope her words teach and encourage your group!

  • Patrick Craig

    Barbara Curtis was a dear friend and was the person who first inspired me to attend the MountHermon Christian Writer’s Conference. She indeed died of a stroke, as her husband Tripp has shared so beautifully on her blogsite http://mommylife.net/. My wife and I used to lead nights of worship at the Curtis home when they lived in Novata, CA. A great writer and a wonderful person. She will be missed.

  • Patrick Craig

    Barbara Curtis was a dear friend and was the person who first inspired me to attend the MountHermon Christian Writer’s Conference. She indeed died of a stroke, as her husband Tripp has shared so beautifully on her blogsite http://mommylife.net/. My wife and I used to lead nights of worship at the Curtis home when they lived in Novata, CA. A great writer and a wonderful person. She will be missed.

  • Patrick, Thanks for sharing about your friendship with Barbara.

  • Patrick, Thanks for sharing about your friendship with Barbara.

  • Honored to be part of that group photo, Laura! And I sure miss my sister-poet, Ethel!

  • Honored to be part of that group photo, Laura! And I sure miss my sister-poet, Ethel!