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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|Age Range:||18 Years|
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; serendipitouslyafter he lost his job at the Kenton, Ohio car shops because of the Depressionhe 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 (18831993): 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 differenta 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 careera 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 Citationtheir first posthumousfor 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.
Read an Excerpt
A Violent Encounter
At first Morgan saw only movement; colorless shapes milling about. They turned into people.
A woman using a walker labored his way. Her eyes were anxious, her ankles so swollen that her legs looked like thick poles. A pinch-faced gentleman leaned on a counter behind which a receptionist sat. "Where's my wife?" he asked petulantly. Two women, slumped side by side on the couch like two rag dolls, stared forlornly into space.
Morgan took his handkerchief from his pocket and patted his forehead. What am I doing here? I'm too young for this. He whirled around in a panic and dashed back through the double doors, heading for the sunshine.
At the same time a woman in a yellow dress hurried up the walkway. The two strangers collided.
Morgan's spectacles were knocked askew. The large white box the woman held so carefully in front of her flipped and was crushed against her chest. She stumbled and almost fell. When he grabbed her by the arm to steady her, she pulled away, clutching at the box as it slowly slid down the front of her, opening as it went, leaving blobs of white and red icing on her bright yellow dress. "Oh, no," she wailed. "Look what you've done." Chunks of white cake with red and yellow roses smeared the sidewalk leading up to the entrance.
Her face turned pink. She called out to a passerby, "He's ruined the cake for Effie's party."
Morgan, still stunned by the collision, took off his glasses and tried to bend the earpiece back in shape. It snapped. He stuffed it in his pocket and held his glasses on with one hand as he looked down at his pants leg, streaked with icing.
She gave him a scorching glance. "If you hadn't jerked my arm. . . " Tears welled in her eyes. "Now we have no cake for Effie's party."
"Let me pay you for the cake." Flustered, he drew out his wallet, cracked it open, and held out a twenty dollar bill.
She ignored the bill in his outstretched hand. Her gray-blonde curls bounced as she rummaged furiously in the purse hanging from her shoulder.
She's pretty high strung, he thought. Feeling like a fool, he put away the money. His glasses felt lopsided on his face. He took them off and jammed them in his pocket with the broken earpiece.
"You've also ruined my dress," she snapped, whipping a handkerchief from her bag and scrubbing at grease stains on her shoulder.
"You nearly broke my glasses," Morgan spluttered. "And this is my new suit." She had a spot of icing on her cheek. He resisted the urge to reach over and brush it away.
Half the cake was still in the box and the message was almost intact: appy 100th Birth. "Some of this may be salvageable," Morgan grunted, feeling more and more embarrassed as he became aware that people on their way in and out of the center were stopping to gawk.
He heard a passerby say, "Looks like just another domestic argument." A man plunked himself down on a nearby bench to watch. "Poor devil," he said to a lady beside him. "She's trying to get rid of him. She'll visit him here once a week and someone else will do the dirty work."
"That's unfair," the lady broke in. "You think women are to blame for everything wrong in this world."
Did they think he was here for their entertainment? "Why don't you folks go on home?" he flared. "This is just between me and"-he groped for a word-"the broad." He stooped, jiggling the cake box to shift the broken pieces toward the middle. With some smoothing-over of the icing to connect the chunks, there'd be a perfectly healthy-looking half a cake.
Just then she bent to rub the icing off her skirt. Her shoulder bag slid down her arm, knocking him on the side of the head.
He looked up in surprise as a cascade of cosmetics, credit cards, a checkbook, hairpins, papers, and assorted trinkets rained down on him and scattered across the walk.
The woman muttered, "If you'd been looking where you were going, none of this would have happened."
"Drama queen," he mumbled to himself.
He helped her gather up the items, thinking the quicker they were collected, the faster he could be on his way
His hand accidentally brushed hers and their heads nearly touched. They were eye-to-eye.
Her cheeks were flushed, he noticed, her blue eyes blazing. She was a damn good-looking woman.
She stood, snapped her purse shut, and hurried toward the parking lot.
Face flaming, Morgan gathered up the residue of cake and icing from the walk and dumped the box in the trash, a clear indication to himself at least that he remained a gentleman under stress. His eyeglasses were broken, his hands were sticky, and his pants and shoes had frosting on them.
Now what? What the hell, he told himself, you're here. You don't want to be a burden to your friends. He had to admit that sometimes in the night he woke up in terror, knowing that old age would eventually get him. It was the beast in the corner, waiting to dig its claws in him and sink its teeth into his neck.
On that beautiful July day in Columbus, Ohio, the birds were singing, the flowers were in bloom. As if he were facing the firing squad, Morgan squared his shoulders and walked into Whispering Pines Retirement Center and Nursing Home for the second time that afternoon. "I have an appointment. I'm a little late." The receptionist's eyes were merry behind her glasses. Had she heard the commotion and peeked out the door?
His face felt hot. He hoped he wasn't blushing. Had she seen him come in and hightail it out of the place once he saw the lethargic crowd? If he'd stuck to his guns, he'd be on a tour of the center now and would have missed that awful fight.
The receptionist lifted the phone and dialed. "Mr. Morgan is here for his appointment." She looked up at him, nodding. "She'll see you in five minutes."
He asked her where the restroom was. He'd clean up first.
Dixie fled to her car, gunned the motor, and drove from the parking lot onto
the street, tires squealing. She slowed after seeing a patrol car parked a short
distance away and forced herself to proceed more calmly.
That splendid cake, with the magnificent red and yellow roses-Effie's favorite colors. She'd never be able to find another cake that lovely on such short notice.
Her heart was pounding. That man was obnoxious, overbearing, and insulting. He'd almost knocked her down. He'd ruined her dress, destroyed the beautiful cake, and threw money at her as if she were a beggar! Then he had the gall to call her names.
She increased speed on the open road and found herself watching in the rearview mirror for flashing lights that would warn her of a patrolman in pursuit.
She reached for the cell phone and speed-dialed a number. She needed to talk this over with Vera, her closest friend. Sympathetic Vera.
The phone was ringing when she glanced at the car in front of her and saw the bumper sticker, You could drive better with that phone up your ass. That teed her off again and she pulled out into the left lane, almost hit a car, and darted around the vehicle with the offending slogan, waving the phone at the woman driver. Dixie gave her the finger and watched for signs of road rage. When the woman just grinned, Dixie sped on.
"Hello, hello, is anyone there?" Dixie heard Vera's gravelly voice ask through the receiver.
"Hi, it's me," Dixie said breathlessly, jamming the phone against her ear.
"You sound awful. What happened?" Vera asked.
"I bumped into a man, literally."
"In the car? Is he hurt? Are you okay?"
"No, yes. I mean, not in the car. On foot. And now I'm late for Effie's party. And I'm in charge. I'll tell you about it later. What are you doing at four? If you're not busy, I'll bring by a six-pack and some chips."
"It's a date," Vera said.
At the bakery, Dixie picked up three small cakes to replace the destroyed sheet cake meant for fifty people. The clerk squirted a couple of flowers on each and wrote a quick Happy 100. Dixie felt like crying. The cake for Effie had been specially designed for her: ornate, dignified, and old-fashioned. Effie didn't have much to look forward to, confined to a wheelchair the way she was. No family left. But she did look forward to her birthday parties. And 100 was a very special birthday!
Dixie rushed back to the retirement center. With the three cakes stacked under her chin, she carefully entered the front door. She glanced furtively around to make sure that dreadful man wasn't lurking in the hallways.
Flushed and apologetic, she swept into Effie's birthday celebration only thirty minutes late. Multicolored balloons floated gaily throughout the party room, crowded with Effie's friends, most of them residents of the center.
Coffee was perking in the urn. Dixie was thankful she'd decorated and started preparations before heading out to pick up the cake, the first cake, that is.
She lined up the three small cake boxes beside the paper plates, opening each lid, feeling fresh disappointment at the sight of these second-rate substitutes.
Effie wheeled herself over to look and clapped her hands. "Scrumptious!"
"You should have seen the one that got away," Dixie began, but didn't want to get all worked up again. "Effie, you look gorgeous! Who did your hair?" She gave her a hug and kissed her on the cheek.
"You look pretty gorgeous yourself, Dixie. Full of pep and ginger. Wish you could pass along some of it to me."
Dixie laughed. She liked being with Effie. She always made her feel like a spring chicken. Well, she was a spring chicken compared to Effie. Only 79. And a young 79, at that!
Table of Contents
Book I - Getting Together
1: A Violent Encounter
2: Mixed Messages
3: The Inspection
4: Royal Flush
6: The Proposition
8: Running the Gauntlet
9: The Kiss
10: This Will Never Work
11: Boot Camp
Book II - Staying Together
12: What Could They Have Been Thinking?
13: Strange Doings
14: The Playboy of the Midwest
15: Secrets, Lies, and Tears
16: Battle of Wills
Book III - The Intruder
17: What a Mess
18: The Police
19: The Contract
20: The Cleanup
21: The Blow-Up
Book IV - The Hospital
22: Tests and More Tests
23: Prayers and Apologies
24: Hospital Horror Stories
26: Doctors' Conference
27: A Change of Attitude
28: Their First Rendezvous
Book V - Family Business
29: Apologies All Around
31: The Confession
32: The Unexpected Guest
33: Leave It to a Banker
34: A Very Special Day
Book VI - The Accident
36: The Heroes
37: The Unknown
38: You Used To Be So Full of Life
39: Almost Like Old Times
40: The Wanderer
41: Bring Him Back
Book VII - Other Arrangements
42: Get My Suitcase
43: Do You Want to Dance?
44: Where Have You Been?
45: We Can't Put It Off
Epilogue - Five Months Later