#33) Ten things you probably didn’t know about Sarah Wernick

Sarah Wernick and her son (the author), 1975

The title of this post may seem a little ironic, because most people reading this probably have no idea who Sarah Wernick is in the first place, but quite a few people do know who she as and remember her fondly.  She was many things to many different people.  To national audiences, she was the co-author of the best-selling “Strong Women Stay Young” and its sequels, “Strong Women Stay Slim” and “Strong Women, Strong Bones.”  To a generation of Boston freelance writers struggling to make it in the tough market, she was a mentor and the voice of encouragement that she herself never had.  To David and Benjamin Lockeretz, she was Mom.

On this, her birthday, I’ve decided to put together some little-known trivia about Sarah Wernick, which will hopefully bring a smile to the faces of those who knew her.  Here are ten things that you probably didn’t know about Sarah Wernick.  Enjoy.

1) Sarah Wernick’s middle name was Isobel.  At her memorial service four years ago, her brother Pete mentioned this, quickly pointing out that she hated the name Isobel and legally dropped it as soon as she was able.

2) When Sarah was three, her mother, who was a smoker, decided that if she conditioned her to hate cigarettes at an early age, she’d never want to smoke.  Unfortunately, the plan backfired; Sarah loved the taste of the cigarette.  On a crowded city bus in New York, she said, “Mommy, can I have a cigarette?  You always let me have them at home.”

3) Sarah Wernick didn’t go to kindergarten.

4) She skipped a grade in the middle of a school year.  Perhaps because she was unusually smart and because, with parents being teachers, she was always used to being around them, Sarah never developed a healthy fear of authority.  In third grade, she was considered to be such a behavioral problem that the school decided that the only solution would be to transfer her to fourth grade in the middle of the year.

5) At Bronx High School of Science in the late 1950s, Sarah Wernick briefly dated a young man named Willie Lockeretz.  She decided that he was too nerdy for her tastes, so she moved on.  They went to different colleges, but apparently Willie didn’t forget about her, and decided to call her a few years later.  The rest is history.

6) Sarah had to spend a summer in Palo Alto, CA while her father taught a summer course at Stanford.  She would later to describe it to her older son as like “being in jail”; said son speculates that perhaps Sarah Wernick’s lifelong distaste for California stemmed from this.

7) In the 1960s, Sarah was considered a candidate to be a spy for the US Government, because she had studied Russian at Columbia.  When asked for more details, she would say, “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

8 ) Sarah was known for having a subtly off-color sense of humor, which showed itself in birthday gifts she made for her parents, letters she sent her sons at summer camp and even on the title page of her husband’s doctoral thesis.

9) Sarah Wernick never drank a beer in her entire life.  (She would drink wine occasionally).

10) Her most famous advice on writing was: “Just because it happened, doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong in the story.”  Her most famous advice on parenting: “Darling, bribery.  There are no problems that twenty-five cents won’t solve.”

Bonus) Sarah Wernick’s first grandchild, Leo Philip Lockeretz, was born to her younger son Ben and his wife Hikma in New York City on November 7th, 2011.

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4 Comments to “#33) Ten things you probably didn’t know about Sarah Wernick”

  1. Happy birthday, Sarah! This is a great article, David. All the info you can give us about her makes the fact that i won’t get to meet her (in this lifetime) easier to swallow. She would be so proud of you and so happy for us!!! ❤

  2. Happy Birthday Sarah, I am so glad David shared your facts. I see you in your son now. You would be very proud of David And Mindy.

  3. David,
    You captured a fair amount of your mom/my sister in that tribute. At these times, both her birthday, and 4 years passed now since her death, and the new additions to the family (her first grandchild, and two new daughters-in-law whom unfortunately she didn’t get to meet), it’s natural and good for us to think of her. My only sibling, highly talented and opinionated, incredibly focused at times, and filled with love for her dear ones, left us a legacy in all those respects. I think it’s important to keep her memory alive both by talking about her and recognizing the parts of herself that she imbedded in our psyches.

    One little memory comes to mind that makes a “Sarah” moment for me… At this time, when there are so many delicious, fattening things proffered everywhere, I recall Sarah’s “Hour of Chocolate” practice where she’d get together with a friend and 12 small chocolate morsels apiece, and every five minutes they’d each sample one of the pieces, while enjoying conversation and fellowship. Getting the best bang for the (figurative) buck was a specialty of hers, as was enjoying special pleasures with friends/family.

    So on those times I give in to the temptation of a “holiday candy”, I think of her as I munch it in really small bites, savoring each taste until it fades away, then a little while later having another small bite. So the taste lingers and my mind can revisit a good association with my sister. I know she’d want to be remembered, and I think she’d smile at the thought of her memory coming back on the wings of a delightful piece of chocolate!

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