Remembrance From My Mom’s Lifelong Friend, David Weber (Gail Schlachter Hauser 1943-2015)
Circumstances beyond my control forced me to make a difficult decision about which coast of the country to spend today. I could either be in Boston, where I had long-standing hotel and airline reservations, for the graduation of my daughter from college or in the San Francisco Bay area for a memorial service for my longest-lasting and best friend. Reluctantly, I chose to have my body in the Boston University Stadium, but my heart and soul will be split between activities there and being with you.
Aside from her brother and some cousins, I knew Gail longer than any of you did. Sandy and I have reminisced about when I first met her, a couple of weeks before she was born, and her poor petite Mom lumbered around the campus of the University of Wisconsin, agonizing about whether her first child would ever be born. In more than half a century, I had the pleasure of knowing Gail in many capacities. Like all of you, I knew her as a loyal and devoted friend, one who gave much more to the relationship than any of us could ever give back. I knew her as a librarian, a single person who made a huge impact on that very large profession. Sandy and Eric knew her as a Mom who contributed so much to making them such successful and highly-regarded members of their own professions today. Hayley, Leah, Jacob, and Dina knew her as the world’s greatest grandma.
Although I could talk about any of the many dimensions of our dear friend, I have chosen to limit myself today to her work as a publisher. Many people have contributed to the success of Reference Service Press over the years. In the early days, Gail’s mother kept the company solvent with her meticulous bookkeeping and relentless pursuit of customers who failed to pay their bills. Sandy and Eric helped with the actual cutting and pasting of text in those early pre-computer days and then helped fill orders from the company’s warehouse, i.e. the basement of Gail’s parents’ apartment. When computer technology pulled type-setting out of the early days of the company’s operations, Martin Sklar wrote the programs that transformed material on floppy disks into finished books. After Martin’s illness and death, Mike Fields replaced him as computer programmer par excellence. After Stuart Hauser joined Gail in a happy and rewarding marriage, he took on the role of managing the by-then real warehouse and all of its operations, including manufacturing the spine-bound books-on-demand. Recently, Dena Ringen wrote the programs that have transformed the database into an electronically-searchable version. Early on, Gail invited me to help write the actual programs, and over the last quarter century I have spent the bulk of my living hours writing up and updating programs for all of our books. Last summer, I enjoyed sending Gail a picture of myself on the beach in Puerto Vallarta, laptop in place, as I tapped away on our latest project of updating a technical feature of the database.
Despite all the assistance and participation of so many of us, Reference Service Press was never anything without the inspiration and genius of Gail Schlachter. She was always the person with the vision of what the company could be. As technology and the market for books changed over the years, Gail was also the one whose instincts told her where the company needed to go, how it needed to change and evolve. As the company curmudgeon, I used to tell her that change would be too difficult, that her proposals were undoable, that we needed to keep doing what we had always done. After a while, I learned to keep my mouth shut. She was always right. She always knew what was best. She just had a knack for understanding how to run a business, specifically a business devoted to books and then other resources on financial aid. She thought of new books that we could publish. She wrote all the introductory material for the books. She designed the format of the books, down to and including the art work for the covers, the arrangement of the text, the style of the printing, the material to cover in the indexes. She was the company.
Now that she is gone, those of us who worked with her are anxious to keep the company going. We believe it performed a valuable service that should be continued. Maybe we will, maybe we won’t. Even if we do manage to keep Gail’s legacy alive by keeping the company in operation, it will never be quite the same. There always was, and always will be, only one Gail Ann Schlachter.
For another professional perspective about my mom, see this remembrance from Sumyyah Bilal, who helped run my mom’s electronic editions.
There will be another memorial service for Gail Schlachter at the ALA Annual Meeting in San Francisco, June 28, 5 pm.
Blog Posts About Gail Schlachter Hauser’s Death
* Remembrance from Sumyyah Bilal
* An Example of How My Mom’s Books Helped Students (Gail Schlachter Hauser 1943-2015)
* My Sister’s Eulogy For Our Mom (Gail Schlachter Hauser 1943-2015)
* My Eulogy For My Mom (Gail Schlachter Hauser 1943-2015)
* From my wife: Gail Schlachter, My Mother-in-law, Remembered
* Selected Remembrances of Gail Schlachter Hauser (1943-2015)
* My First Mother’s Day Without My Mom (Gail Schlachter Hauser 1943-2015)
* Signs That My Mom Is Still Thinking of Us (Gail Schlachter Hauser, 1943-2015)
* My Mom’s Idea of a “Really Good Day” (Gail Schlachter Hauser, 1943-2015)
* Initial Reflections on Losing a Parent (Gail Schlachter Hauser, 1943-2015)
* My Mom Died: Gail Schlachter Hauser, 1943-2015