Wanda June Alexander died on Sunday morning, at her daughter’s house in Santa Fe, up the street from my own places.
Her health had been failing for some time, going back a couple of years at least, so all of us who loved her knew that we were going to lose her soon. We thought she had another three or four months, though, maybe longer… and of course one cannot help but hope, even when the docs tell you there is no hope. Wanda faced and fought lung cancer a few years ago, and though she beat it with chemo, in the aftermath she was left with Idiopathic Pulmony Fibrosis, which was slowly destroying her ability to breathe. She went on as best she could for as long as she could, enjoying every day to the best of her ability, but at the end she was bedridden and hooked up to oxygen 24/7. It was only going to get worse, we were told. The end, when it came, seemed to be as peaceful as it was sudden; she went to sleep, and died sometime in the night. She was gone come morning. Right up to the last she was as sharp, funny, and loving a woman she had always been. A lot of friends came to visit her and spend time with her over the holidays and afterward, and she enjoyed their company as much as she enjoyed theirs. Wanda June was always a delight.
Wanda and Raya
Wanda June was a dear dear friend… but more than that, really. She and Raya have been part of our family, in one sense or another, for decades. I do not actually recall when and where I first met Wanda. It was at a con, no doubt, probably in the late 70s or early 80s. I knew OF Wanda before I actually knew Wanda, however. She was an East Coast fan when I first began hearing tales of her, from mutual friends. Gardner Dozois, Jack Dann, David Axler, Dave Kogelmen, Joe and Gay Haldeman… all of them were friends of mine, and friends of the legendary Wanda June. She was one of Parris’s oldest, dearest friends, from the 70s on to this very day. Parris, as many of you know, ran off and joined the circus in the late 70s, travelling with Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey for a year, selling sno-cones to the kids. She fell in love with the elephants (and loves elephants still). But it was Wanda June who inspired her… Wanda ran off and joined the circus first. Instead of elephants, Wanda fell in love with a clown. The relationship did not endure, but from that union came the great joy of Wanda June’s life, her amazing daughter Raya. (Seen above when she was little).
The circus was only the start of Wanda June’s adventures. After Ringling she returned to New York City, where she became an editor for Tor Books… and Raya got her start in publishing toddling around the corridors of the Flatiron Building, bringing Tom Doherty his mail. Ultimately she left Tor to go back to school, though, heading off to Montana to get her Master’s degree in English. As much as she loved editing, she loved teaching more… and her students loved her. She was one of those teachers who changes lives, and she shared her loved of books and reading (and SF and fantasy) with all the kids she taught.
She began her teaching career after Montana, and it took her to some pretty colorful places, including a small island off the coast of Alaska, and a place called Dead Monkey Ridge in New Mexico, where she taught on the Navajo Reservation for some years. Then came Grants, New Mexico, and the public schools there… and finally retirement. Education was the poorer when Wanda June put down her chalk and her eraser. Once retired, she moved to Santa Fe to be close to Raya, and we had the pleasure of her company frequently. She and Parris and Raya… and sometimes me… shared some great memories of these past few years. Trips to Ireland, the Yucatan, the Bahamas, London. Thanksgiving feasts at Melinda’s house. Christmas morning, opening gifts.
And cons. She was an educator, an editor, an agent, a mother, and a circus roadie… but through it all, Wanda June Alexander was always a FAN. She loved science fiction and fantasy, loved books, movies, and television, loved fandom… and above all, loved the friends she made there. Wanda had sisters and other blood relatives, a largish family, but fandom was her family too. If I believed in such things, it would please me to think she was off with Gardner and Kay and Roger right now, drinking and laughing and telling jokes at the Secret Pro Party in the sky.
She was one of a kind, Wanda June. We are all going to miss her so very, very much.
((Raya tells me that, in lieu of flowers or other memorials, Wanda would have wanted those who mourn her to donate to a local teen or family shelter near where you live. Wanda always loved the kids: her own students, and those she never had the chance to teach, and please be sure they are LGBTQ friendly and an inclusive organization in general)).
Current Mood: sad