Today, the 2012 Sarah Verdone Writing Award, at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC), will be presented to the poet and songwriter, Alicia Jo Rabins, at the Downtown Dinner, an annual event benefiting the LMCC. The Sarah Verdone Writing Award was established in 2011 in memory and honor of Sarah Verdone. Sarah was a woman, a mother, a wife, a sister, a friend and a writer. She was also another woman, who two years ago, at the age of 45, died of breast cancer. Sarah Verdone may be just another statistic in the battle against breast cancer, but to everyone who knew her, she was so much more. Sarah Verdone was a woman you should know.
Sarah spent the early part of her career writing at the widely read and influential Microwave News. She was also a freelance writer for Paper Magazine, ID Magazine, Cookie, The New York Times, and other publications and was best known for her witty commentaries on art, design, fashion, food, and travel. A great beauty, generous, funny and deeply empathetic, Sarah’s charms also made her the muse to Coty-award jewelry designer, Ted Muehling.
At 41, during a routine shower moment, Sarah found a lump on her breast, which was later to be diagnosed as a stage 2-breast cancer. What followed was typical of most women who are diagnosed – mastectomy, chemotherapy, reconstruction and remission for a few years. During that time, Sarah did what any writer would do… she shared her thoughts, ideas and feelings about her illness on a funny and authentic blog called, SVBOOBBLOG. After her last surgery, she wrote: “Finito. Yes, it’s true… nearly one year later I am rebuilt, better than ever; I got myself a new nipple and a 4 inch scar in my right groin to prove it, I’m a sewing sample.”
Unfortunately, Sarah’s cancer reappeared when she was 44. She continued to give every ounce of herself to living throughout her illness. She cooked, knitted, traveled and continued to write, all while she took the cancer drug tamoxifen and cared for her two young daughters. She even went on an African safari with her children and husband, the industrial designer, Tucker Viemeister, to write a family travel story for Cookie Magazine.
Throughout her last nine months, Sarah strove to remain in high spirits, although she was suffering daily from the side effects of the chemotherapy, which included fatigue, shingles, loss of appetite among a host of other health related issues. A great thrill and distraction for Sarah during this time was watching old Julia Child cooking show episodes with friends and family or listening to music on her green ipod. Watching her younger daughter practice the electric piano or meeting her older daughter’s new high school friends, brought her an incredible amount of joy. And then, when she knew her body was succumbing to this terrible illness, she looked back at old family photographs, reminding her of a time when things were simpler and kinder. It was on one such moment that the idea for the Sarah Verdone Writing Award came to fruition. Her friends wondered how does one remember a great woman – or, how do you never forget?
Sarah’s friends and family banded together through this common cause and raised over $20,000 to create the Sarah Verdone Writing Award at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. As a graduate of SUNY-Binghamton with a major in English, Sarah enjoyed reading the classics of literature and especially the work of women writers. During the last few days of her life, when the idea of an award was presented to her, she took great comfort in knowing that her own challenges as a woman and a writer would be remembered and honored. And for the next 10 years, with this award from Sarah to other women, the cycle of women writers continues.
About the Lower Manhattan Cultural Center
From Wall Street to Washington Square, from the Battery to the Bowery, from the East River to the Hudson, LMCC brings art where it’s least expected and engages the ideas of the moment by exploring the links between culture and capital.