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Willa Cather Foundation - Red Cloud Nebraska (NE)

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Member Profile: Meet Jerry and Susan Anderson

Member Profile: Meet Jerry and Susan Anderson

Jerry and Susan Anderson
Sunday, December 8, 2019
Jerry and Susan Anderson live in the Des Moines, Iowa metro region where Jerry is dean of Drake University Law School and teaches environmental law while Susan has retired from a career in education law. Both avid Willa Cather enthusiasts, the Andersons have traveled to various settings around North America that appear in Willa Cather’s novels. They recently spent time in Red Cloud where they enjoyed their several day stay at Villa Willa, an Airbnb apartment offering in the National Willa Cather Center. We first met them at a beautiful October sunset on the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie.

You recently visited Red Cloud. What brought you here and how did you hear about us?

We are big fans of Willa Cather. Having spent our childhoods in Iowa and Kansas, we were aware of Cather’s Red Cloud roots. Both of us come from prairie immigrant stock; Cather’s books about that time—like My Àntonia and O Pioneers! and One of Ours—allow us to picture what life must have been like for our ancestors and to honor their efforts and sacrifices. We spent four nights and three days in Red Cloud, and we have many fond memories of seeing almost all of the Cather sites and exhibits. We have recommended the trip to our family and friends.

What appeals about Willa Cather and her writing? Do you have any favorite works?

Willa Cather’s writing has the clear ring of truth. Between the two of us, we have read all of her novels and short stories, and we really find it difficult to choose favorites!

What was your favorite thing about your visit to Red Cloud?

Hiking through the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie really helped us picture what Cather and our ancestors must have experienced – the unbroken sea of grass stretching out to the horizon. Remarkably, we met the artist Matilda Essig on our walk, who was on her way to the National Willa Cather Center to install her amazing exhibit on native grasses. Her work opened our eyes to the incredible beauty of the prairie. We also loved the tour of Cather’s childhood home – seeing her attic room just as she described it, as Thea’s room in The Song of the Lark, allowed us to envision her ensconced there in her own world.

What attracted you to the National Willa Cather Center in particular and what motivated you to become members of the Willa Cather Foundation?

The Center does an amazing job of telling Cather’s story and preserving the history of her world. Because so much of her work involves the story of immigrants on the prairie, the Center also gives visitors the ability to meaningfully immerse themselves in that pivotal time.

What do you hope the organization will achieve in the near future? In the long term?

Because Cather’s work drew so much on her experience, the Red Cloud area presents so many opportunities for additional historic presentation. For example, we tramped out to the original Cather homestead site, so we could picture the place where much of the early part of My Àntonia takes place. That was really fun, and we think it would be even more meaningful if the site had informative, non-intrusive signs indicating the history of the land and where the house and other features were located on the site. And maybe some pavement that would make the road passable? Lots of possibilities, if the funds are there!

What do you expect from your membership in the Willa Cather Foundation?

We are looking forward to the newsletter, including updates on Cather scholarship, which we find interesting. We also like contributing, through the membership, to further the preservation and restoration of the Cather buildings and archives.

If you would like to share your story with the Willa Cather Foundation, please contact: 

Catherine Pond, Marketing Coordinator, at — she'd love to hear from you!

To learn more about membership in the Willa Cather Foundation click here or at the top of the page.