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Berniece Rabe Tryand, a teacher and award-winning author, dies at 85

Berniece Rabe Try

Berniece Rabe Tryand

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Updated: February 4, 2014 10:24AM



While growing up in a large sharecropping family in Missouri during the Depression, Berniece Rabe Tryand practiced telling stories to herself. When she was 40, a teacher at Elgin Community College inspired her to use those storytelling skills to become an author, leading her to write 17 books, several of which won awards.

Ms. Tryand, who lived most of her life in the northwest suburbs, died in her sleep Dec. 28 at her home in Plano, Texas. She was 85.

A common theme in her books, most of which were written for children or young adults, was surviving hard times and overcoming handicaps, rejection and harsh situations.

“Her perseverance was an inspiration to all her writer friends,” Batavia author Jennifer Bartoli-Kalina said. “In a sense, writing for her was problem-solving. The resolution might take years, but she loved it. Her maternal instincts were great, and she lent them to her own creations. She would not give up.”

Ms. Tryand’s 1978 book “The Orphans” (Dutton Juvenile) won the Society of Midland Authors award for best children’s nonfiction. Ms. Tryand, who wrote under the name Berniece Rabe, also was nominated five times for the American Library Association’s Newbery Medal and won the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Golden Kite award, the National Children’s Choice Award and two Best of the Decade awards.

Ms. Tryand met her first husband, Walter Henry Rabe, in Panama during World War II while she was modeling a line of fashions and he was in the Army. They were married in 1946 and organized the first Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints congregation in Elgin. Walter Rabe died in 2005 after a 59-year-marriage, and Ms. Tryand married James Tryand of Plano in 2009.

Children’s book author Stella Pevsner said Ms. Tryand lived for many years in northwest suburban Sleepy Hollow and often invited friends for an annual re-enactment of Washington Irving’s tale of the headless horseman.

“Berniece had a difficult childhood, yet her sauciness and determination not only helped her survive, it also helped her triumph,” Pevsner said. “Her vivid characters, often based on people she had met during her early years in Southeast Missouri, seemed remarkably real. Readers rooted for them, even when their stubbornness seemed to work against them.”

Ms. Tryand served on the boards of the Off Campus Writers’ Workshop in Winnetka, the Society of Midland Authors, the Fox Valley Writers and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

She is survived by James Tryand; her three sons Alan, Brian and Clay Rabe; her daughter Dara Rabe Sandland; 10 grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren.

Services have been held.

Email: tfrisbie@suntimes.com

Twitter: @thomasfrisbie



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