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Sallie Astor Burdine – Delta author leaves legacy with books
by Beth Boswell Jacks

You can complain because roses have thorns,
or you can rejoice because thorns have roses.”
-- Ziggy

    I never knew Sallie Astor Burdine. She was a native of Miami, then a resident of neighboring Greenville, Mississippi, for several years. Our Delta paths should have crossed, but didn’t.

    The wife of building contractor Hank Burdine and the mother of two sons and a daughter, Sallie was blond and beautiful, I’ve been told, with a body Cindy Crawford would have envied and a buoyant personality that made her the center of attention at any gathering.

    Friends and family she had in abundance. In fact, there were not many things of value Sallie lacked. Sadly though, she possessed something else nobody wants: cancer.

    During a period of remission from her cancer several years ago, Sallie decided to record her thoughts and experiences.

    “I began to write -- feelings, memories, whatever came to mind at first,” she said. “I was computer illiterate, but I figured out how to open and save a document and began typing. I was also literary illiterate . . . I had never had a course in creative writing, my grammar was dubious, to say the least, and basically I had no clue as to how to write a story, much less a book. But I became obsessed with finding out. I went to the library and the bookstores and brought home books on every facet of writing and the publishing world . . . I was starting at zero in ability, but, for what it was worth, I was starting at one hundred in terms of desire and interest.”

    With dedication and perseverance, Sallie was able to publish an extraordinary book titled Who Needs Hair? – a witty manual of sorts, an inspirational book from her medical experiences for those going through chemotherapy. I loved the book with its whimsical illustrations and bought it for a friend. That was a couple of years ago.

    Then a few months following, I heard the Big C had won. Sallie was gone.

    Several weeks ago, my telephone rang. I picked up to hear the voice of Sallie’s widower.

    “This is Hank Burdine,” he said. “I’d like to talk with you about my wife Sallie’s books.”

    As we chatted, I learned that Hank, devoted to the memory of his vivacious Sallie, hopes to spread the word about her books, Who Needs Hair? and Unplugged.

    He sent me copies of both books. I read them immediately, rereading Who Needs Hair?, enjoying it once again, and spending more time with her second book, Unplugged.

    Is this a recommendation? Most definitely.

    Sallie was a remarkable woman, as smart as she was pretty. She fought demons, very honestly describing those demons in Unplugged, and she lived a life of privilege, enjoying a lavish lifestyle that most of us can hardly imagine. Some of the book’s passages are shocking, but Sallie’s honesty and her loving heart are apparent on every page.

    “I encourage all of you who take the time to read my words to stop running around doing this and that, as I have been doing for most of my life,” she writes, “and start doing or finding what it is that you and you alone have to offer this world. Do not worry how superb or pitiful others may find your creative effort – just express it as if your life depends on it.”

    Yes, I never met Sallie Astor Burdine, but now I feel I know her well. She shared her life’s struggles so that hopefully other women (and men, too) going through midlife ups and downs could find answers in her experiences.

    I’ve an idea Sallie’s lovely soul is perched somewhere in the heavenly realm, laughing and content at last, assured that her legacy of words is touching hearts.

    Did cancer really win? No! Read Sallie’s books and you’ll understand how she died a conqueror.

    She writes: “I am convinced that human beings have an innate need to give something back to the world . . . whether it’s from a sense of obligation to contribute or merely the physical manifestation of a creative power they possess.”

    Sallie Burdine did that with her vibrant life, her loving relationships, and her books. I am, with many, most grateful.


    Editor of USADEEPSOUTH, Beth Boswell Jacks is the author of 3 books (Grit, Guts, and Baseball and Snippets I and II) and is also a weekly columnist for a number of Southern newspapers. Readers and editors may contact her at bethjacks@hotmail.com.
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