A story about finding love at any age, One Last Dance is the delightful tale of Morgan, aged 89, and Dixie, 79, two “mature” individuals on seemingly divergent paths. Despite their disastrous first meeting, complete with a dropped birthday cake, broken eyeglasses and insulting remarks, it was obvious to bystanders, even then, that the two were fated for each other. Written with great humor and a deep understanding of the challenges associated with aging in America, One Last Dance is a joy to read and an inspiration to all generations, reminding us to live every day and always be in search of new experiences, regardless of age. Author Mardo Williams lived that philosophy, by writing this, his first novel, at age 92.
At the tender age of 88, when many people would be content to sit back and reflect; Williams began a brand new chapter in his professional life. After over six decades as a journalist, many of those with the Columbus Dispatch, Mardo decided to write his first book, based on stories he’d been telling for years. The result was Maude (1883-1993): She Grew Up with the Country, a loving, humorous and meticulously detailed biography of his mother, an extraordinary woman who experienced our country’s immense growth and changes for over a century, until her death at the age of 110. The book, published in 1996, found great success, propelling author Williams into the public arena. Maude is still a favorite among discussion groups and has been adopted as a supplemental text in many college American History courses. Next, after penning a whimsical book of children’s stories, Great Grandpa Fussy and the Little Puckerdoodles, Mardo began something completely different–a novel–and One Last Dance was born.
One Last Dance follows the relationship of Dixie and Morgan, as they begin to date and ultimately decide to move in together–for convenience only, they agree. But the relationship changes and strengthens as the couple unites to combat illness, scandal and a near-fatal accident. It’s also a tale about how insecurities, humiliations and fears, thought long past, can haunt a person throughout their days. Dixie fears intimacy. Morgan has concealed important details about his divorce, his estranged children, and his lost job. And all the while, a mysterious intruder lurks, bent on vengeance for past wrongs. He invades their lives, exposing their most intimate secrets and lies.
As Mardo completed the first draft of One Last Dance, his health was failing and his eyesight was all but gone due to macular degeneration. He made his daughters, Kay and Jerri, promise to finish the book if he could not. He died at age 95. Honoring their father’s wishes, daughters Kay, a writer, editor and actress in New York, and Jerri, a former master English teacher, editor and writing teacher, began the often painful undertaking of finishing their father’s work. Four years later, One Last Dance was published. On October 21, 2001 Williams became the first posthumous recipient of an Ohioana Library Award for his body of work as an author and journalist.
One Last Dance won a 2006 Independent Publishers Book Award, and was a finalist in the National Readers’ Choice Award. Mardo’s daughters, Kay and Jerri won a 2009 Ohioana Library Award for "unique and outstanding accomplishment in writing and editing" for finishing One Last Dance.
“Williams' writing shows a ready wit, and neither Dixie nor Morgan is spared from comic consequences. In the first scene, Dixie gets creamed with a birthday cake; later, Morgan finds himself wiping a guest's spilled wine with a pair of Dixie's lace-trimmed underpants. One Last Dance is charming and touching.” Barbara McIntyre, Akron Beacon-Journal
“Williams and his daughters have achieved a thing of beauty. Do yourself a favor, snuggle up in a chair and enjoy this magnificent hallmark of senior romance.” Debra Kiefat, ArmchairInterviews.com
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About the Author
Mardo Williams' story is right out of the pages of Horatio Alger whose books he read as a young boy. Alger's heroes valiantly overcome poverty and adversity and this seems to be exactly what he did. He grew up on a 100-acre subsistence farm; serendipitously--after he lost his job at the Kenton, Ohio car shops because of the Depression--he answered an ad and became the only reporter at the Kenton News-Republican, a small Ohio daily. (He'd always had an inclination to write.) He had no college degree but while he'd been cleaning out the insides of the smokestacks of the locomotives up in Toledo, he'd taken two courses at the business school there, shorthand and typing, and so he was prepared to be a reporter. He did all the beats, hoofed it around the small town of Kenton digging up stories on slow news days.
Nineteen years later, after World War II ended, the Columbus Dispatch recruited him to the copy desk. He moved up the ranks from the copy desk to travel editor . . . and in 1954 he was asked to develop and write stories about the world of business. Columbus was booming at this time. Mardo, familiar with pounding the pavement to search out stories, did just that. Within the year, he was writing a daily business column with byline.
After he retired from the Dispatch in 1970, he freelanced for several years, editing a newsletter and doing publicity. He began his second career, writing books, at age 88, after his wife died after a long illness. At his daughters' urging, he learned to use a computer and began writing his first book, Maude. It was about his mother, who lived to be 110, and also about life at the turn of the century when everything was done arduously by hand. This was to be for family, but his daughter Kay read a few sections to her writers group. They loved it, and wanted more.
The manuscript grew from 50 pages to a 334 page book with a 32 page picture insert. The finished product was published in 1996, Maude (1883--1993): She Grew Up with the Country. It has been adopted by some college American history classes as a supplemental text "to put a human face on history."
Then Mardo wrote an illustrated children's book, Great-Grandpa Fussy and the Little Puckerdoodles, based on the escapades of four of his great-grandchildren. He decided at age 92 that he would try something completely different--a novel, One Last Dance. His magnum opus.
He spent three years writing the first draft while touring with his first book, Maude. He persevered through illness and blindness, determined to finish it before he died. It was the most challenging piece of writing in his 73-year writing career--a long work of fiction when he'd been writing short non-fiction pieces for most of his life. After his death, his daughters Kay and Jerri spent another three years editing and revising One Last Dance, and after it was published, four more years touring with it as the centerpiece of their program, Keep Dancing!
One Last Dance fills a niche, especially now that the baby boomers have turned 65. The novel gives readers hope and laughs. Book discussion groups throughout the country have read it and loved it. Many readers have said, "Well, if Mardo could do this (embark on a new romance, write a book) in his nineties, I can certainly give it a try myself; I'm only 70 or 80 . . ."
Many honors came to Mardo and to his writing after his death. In 2006 One Last Dance won the Independent Publishers Award for Best Regional Fiction. The book was also one of five Finalists in the National Readers' Choice Awards for 2005. Before that, Mardo won an Ohioana Citation--their first posthumous--for his body of work as a journalist and author (for, at that time, Maude and Great-Grandpa Fussy).
His daughters, Kay and Jerri, won a 2009 Ohioana Citation for "unique and outstanding accomplishment in the field of writing and editing" for finishing One Last Dance.
As well as a successful author, Kay Williams is a professional actress. She earned her Actors Equity card in San Francisco where she played many roles, including the title role in Miss Jairus, Cybel in Great God Brown, Rosalind in As You Like It, and Amelia in The House of Bernarda Alba for the nationally famous Actor’s Workshop. She was with the Pittsburgh Playhouse for two years, and from there moved to New York City, living in a 6-floor walkup (a women’s residence that provided free breakfast!!) while she made the rounds. She was hired by the Jackson, MS Theater Center to replace Mercedes McCambridge as Regina in The Little Foxes and stayed on to do several other plays including originating the role of Queen Elizabeth I in a new play, Masquerade, that opened off-Broadway. She has also acted in TV shows and in movies, but finds stage acting more challenging and rewarding.
A lucky break landed her a job with a prize-winning independent filmmaker and that gave her flexible hours to audition and rehearse. She was cast in a number of new off-Broadway plays (it was an exciting time for theater in NYC).
When acting roles began to dry up, it seemed natural to gravitate to writing, and she’s surprised to find she doesn’t miss acting all that much (although she still has occasional nightmares of being onstage and not knowing which play she’s in). A big plus with fiction writing is: you can play all the characters!
The author’s move into the crime-ridden, sleazy Hell’s Kitchen of 1977 provided the catalyst for the award-winning thriller, Butcher of Dreams, co-authored with Eileen Wyman. Kay’s wide ranging acting credits and theater experience gave focus to this character/plot driven mystery that centers around the struggling 42nd Street repertory theater where much of the action takes place.
Kay’s years with the filmmaker gave her production credits for two films, respect for the courage of independent filmmakers, and took her to the Cannes Film Festival, where for a month she shared a villa overlooking the Mediterranean with cast and crew. She traveled with the filmmaker to Leningrad in 1991 where she received the idea for The Matryoshka Murders. Anything could happen here, she thought, in this city at this desperate time (just a few months before the USSR broke apart).
Eileen Wyman, Kay’s writing partner, helped organize photos and notes collected from the trip, and together they drafted a plot and wrote this thriller that begins in Russia and jumps across an ocean to New York City.
Eileen, known to friends as Jo, an amazing, talented woman, tragically passed away on Sept. 6, 2013, just after The Matryoshka Murders was completed, but before the book was published. She is deeply missed by family and friends.
Kay is also a co-author of the comic romance One Last Dance: It’s Never Too Late to Fall in Love, started by her journalist father Mardo Williams, and finished by her and her sister Jerri Lawrence. One Last Dance has won several awards, including an Ohioana Award (to Jerri and Kay) for writing and editing excellence.
Coming next (dedicated to Jo) will be a series: New York City, Collected Letters, 1956-57: Were We Ever That Young?, the hilarious, heart-breaking and hair-raising adventures of two starry-eyed girls from the Midwest (Kay and Jo) who arrive in New York City with big dreams of success. Part Two will be San Francisco, Collected Letters, the Sixties.
Jerri Williams Lawrence is a writer of award-winning fiction and short travel pieces about her sailing adventures with her husband Fred in their boat, Roaring Forties.
She is also a gifted editor, who has worked with many writers of both fiction and non-fiction, in many genres. A former teacher of high school honors students in literature and composition, she was actively involved in curriculum development for gifted students. She also advised students and edited their pieces for the literary magazine and the school newspaper. She has her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Ohio State University.
One Last Dance: It’s Never Too Late to Fall in Love, the novel she co-wrote with her father, Mardo Williams, and her sister, Kay, has won an Independent Publishers’ Award, a National Readers’ Choice Award, the Eric Hoffer Award, and an Ohioana Library Award.
In conjunction with One Last Dance she developed a multimedia program, Keep Dancing!, a popular inspirational program that she and Kay presented to libraries, retirement centers, social and civic organizations, and book discussion groups.
She also has written book discussion questions for several novels.