Jennifer Bement Sass

Jennifer Sass came into my life seventeen years ago. It’s been a wonderful journey with her, over all these years. And now we she’s in the process of leaving the world and we (her family and vast and loving group of friends) are saying goodbye to her.

One day, about ten years ago, Jennifer and I were walking, as we did almost every Wednesday for several years. Jennifer is one of the fastest walkers I know. We walked whether it was raining or windy or blasting sunshine. We  always took the same path from her house, down to Tryon Creek. It was a beautiful tree-ey kind of walk.

I was just beginning to write back then and I had an idea, a memoir I wanted to start. But it required one first step, a letter to a man in prison, the man who raped me. It scared me. Jennifer was considering doing a new documentary on Powell’s bookstore (she loved to read and she loved bookstores, especially Powell’s) and she needed to make contact with Michael Powell to start the process. She also was  a bit scared. So she said, “I challenge you. You write your letter and I’ll make my call.” We agreed. We shook on it. We smiled at each other. By the time I got home that afternoon, there was a message from Jennifer. She had made the call, the project was started. There was NO WAY, I wasn’t going to write my letter. So I did, that day. And that path was the beginning of me becoming a writer.

Over the years, Jennifer has been a champion of my writing, always asking about it, always showing up at readings, always cheering at my successes. But more than that, she’s been a champion of me. She’s encouraged and pushed and she’s continued to challenge me. She’s been a dear friend, most especially because we’ve gone through times of conflict, becaue there are ways we are so very very different. I treasure those times because it has simply deepened the grooves of our path to each other.

And I’m not alone. She has a huge group of people that she’s touched. Because she’s curious and open and honest and funny, and she’s got a great voice.

I got to work on the documentary, while it was being filmed. It was so cool to see Jennifer in her element, interviewing people, drawing them out, loving them, connecting. The finished project, Shelf Life, is a wonderful story of the love of reading and books and Powell’s.

On these last days of her life, as we all gather around her, I am endlessly grateful for the day Jennifer stepped into my world. This world is going to miss her.


5 Responses to “Jennifer Bement Sass”

  1. Diane Hunt says:

    I am so thankful that I was able to be in Portland to say my final goodby to Jennifer, at her bedside the week before she left us.

    She has been a very special dear friend for almost 45 years. I will forever miss her laugh, her smile, her honesty, her love and our conversations.

    I want so much to be able to talk to her about my trip to Portland. To laugh with her about seeing friends and family members again and meeting for the first time friends that gathered around her.

    Although we have lived on opposite sides of the country since 1975, and have not seen each other more than half a dozen times since then, we would calll each other and the conversations never skipped a beat. It was always like we had been together just the day before.

    I have so many fond memories of her and the fun and laughter we shared with our Dobermans, horses and of course our families and friends.

    Jackie, you are so right, this world is going to miss her!

    I am so glad that I found this site and I enjoyed meeting you.

    I love you Jennifer…you are forever in my heart.

  2. Jackie, I hope you are ok. You are in my head.

  3. Jennifer has been on my mind since you told me of your connection. I will remember her as a very positive force… she interviewed me with my young husband in the early ’80s for a project on marriage and I remember her easy ability to draw us out in a fairly intimate conversation.

    I wish her an easy passing and the same peace to her closest people.
    You and I have a conversation ahead, ok?

  4. Kim says:

    A loving tribute – thank you for sharing Jennifer with those of us who have never met her otherwise.

  5. Yuvi says:

    This is beautiful and heartbreaking, Jackie. Thank you.

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