That love of writing led her to teaching, and to careers as an author and journalist.
Kaye and Gary were married for five decades. Both born and raised Wisconsin, they called Indiana, PA, home for 36 years. During 19 years at Indiana Area Junior High School, Kaye taught English and ran the school’s journalism program, winning the prestigious Pennsylvania Student Press Award in 2007.
She spent the last ten years of her life back in Wisconsin with Gary, fully immersed in her community. Always, writing. According to Gary, “She didn’t need fanfare or applause for doing it. It was just something she had to do as part of her daily life.”
Kaye wrote a weekly column for her local newspaper called “Bird’s Eye View,” which was also published as a collection. She worked with hospice patients, writing down their personal histories and creating books from their stories. She took on public relations for the Lake Wobegon Brass Band, which played an original song at Kaye’s memorial service.
When Kaye passed away from Leukemia in December 2016, she left behind a prolific body of work, “but the real thrill to her was being advisor to the Jr High newspaper,” says Gary. “So that’s the direction we went when we decided to give a gift because that was her passion.”
Gary collaborated with the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies to establish the Kaye Bird Visiting Writers’ Series Fund. The annual seminar will bring a professional author into Indiana Area Junior High School, so that young and aspiring writers can talk with published authors about the creative process and their career paths.
Gary says it was the best way he knew to celebrate everything his wife loved. “We just felt it was important for students to stand next to, rub elbows with, someone who has been successful as a writer, because that was Kaye’s passion. Maybe it will inspire a student or two to read more or to write something or become person of words. Kaye loved words.”
When Indiana author Janice Dembosky kicks off the series this fall, a creative circle will be complete. Janice and Kaye were friends, and the author dedicated the third book in her successful “Bond Woman” series to Kaye, crediting her with convincing Ms. Dembosky to pursue publication of her first book.
The writers’ series keeps Kaye’s spirit and kindness filling the halls of her beloved Indiana Area Junior High School.
“I think she would be delighted,” says Gary. “She would be overwhelmed by it. She would love the whole idea. She loved the faculty (at IAJHS). She adored the job.”
Gary is still finding works of Kaye’s that he’d never seen before. And along with of their two daughters, a son, two nieces and Gary, a “Bird’s Eye View” still runs every week. Kaye’s love of literacy still inspires, still delights with the written word.