One of the most important functions of community newspapers is to record the important events in the lives of residents, including births and deaths. Sometimes, however, people move away and become lost to the places they spent much of their lives.
That's why a message from Joseph Quinn of Independence, Ore., caught my eye. He wrote to tell Carson City about the death of Amelia Lewis de Gremli, who lived in Carson City in the 1970s through mid-1980s. She died on May 9 in Bend, Ore., where she'd lived since 1986.
She had several claims to fame, and reasons why she may be remembered by many Carsonites, even though she had not lived here in more than 20 years.
For one, Quinn wrote, "she was a published playwright and author and doctorate candidate in Elizabethan Literature; she was active as the coordinator, director and actress for the Carson City Proscenium Players."
But there is much more, and Quinn hinted at the saga of her "stroke, abduction out of Nevada, and her Carson City friends' 6-year search for her whereabouts, resulting in a criminal trial in Bend, OR. This trial resulted in Oregon changing its laws regarding judgments and pensions."
In fact, her death inspired the Oregonian newspaper to write an editorial about her life, which appeared on May 13, titled "The woman who put a face on elder abuse."
The editorial started with the words, "Before the nightmare began, Amelia Lewis de Gremli had led a rich, exhilarating life," and then it told of her education (she was a Rhodes Scholarship finalist) and her work in theaters all over the world. She was living in Carson City when she had a stroke in 1986 and, the Oregonian wrote, "became the vulnerable victim of outrageous exploitation. Seven years later Oregon authorities found her - ill, lonely, unable to walk or speak - in a Bend foster care facility where she had been secreted by a married couple who had drained her assets.
"Barely able to scratch her name on a piece of paper, de Gremli managed to draw attention to her plight by scrawling the word 'help' on a postcard."
Quinn revealed more of her story by sending me a passage from the April 1993 Western Area Postal Update newsletter: "Ami, isolated in a Bend, OR foster care home, with instructions she was not to see a doctor or receive any therapy, managed, in a child-like scrawl, a letter to her friend, Dorothy Dutton, in Carson City, with the word 'Help' enclosed in an envelope. The envelope consisted only of 'Dutton, Carson City.' No address, no state, no return address. Like her earlier attempts, this letter may well have never made it out of the foster home, or have been undeliverable, ending up in the dead letter box.
"Gregory Swift , a Carson City postal worker, temporarily taken off his delivery route for a day because of an injury, 'was helping another carrier case his mail.' He came upon Ami's letter, 'I recognized the name (Dutton) as a woman who had moved to a route on my new string, and redirected the letter.' Any other day and the letter, like many others before, would have been dumped in the dead letter box. The rest is history."
Gremli was victimized by a man and his wife who moved in with her to "care" for her, gaining power of attorney, selling her home, moving her to Oregon and cashing her Social Security checks.
Quinn wrote that her neighbor in Carson City told him that she witnessed Ami's hands being "pried off her porch post" when the couple took her from her home.
By some accounts, justice let her down after the crime was discovered, though eventually she won a civil suit against the couple. The Oregonian editorial said, however, she "received very little of the judgment because her abusers filed for bankruptcy and their only source of income, a government pension, could not be attached."
Her plight led to changes in Oregon law and likely saved other seniors from similar plights.
That's a story of a remarkable woman, a woman who should not be forgotten in Carson City.
Last June was the first time I'd attended a Community Awards banquet, and I feel confident that I wasn't the only one of the 300 attendees who left feeling pretty good about Carson City, Douglas County and all of the other places those nominees hailed from. Each nominee was inspiring ... story after story of people giving of themselves for the greater cause of helping others.
If you ask me, the timing couldn't be better for another dose of "feel-good."
That's why I'm asking you to stop a moment and think about the people in your life, in your neighborhood, at your school or at your place of work. I'll bet you won't have to ponder long to come up with someone who inspires you.
Now, please take one more step: Nominate them for the Community Awards ... share that inspiration with a world starved for inspiration.
We've made the nomination process simple. All you have to do is send us an e-mail or letter explaining what makes your nominee special. The more specific you can get about their accomplishments, the better. Then, along with your name and phone number, just send it to the Nevada Appeal, Community Awards, 580 Mallory Way, Carson City, NV 89701. You may also e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org (on the e-mail subject line, write "community awards nomination").
There are a dozen categories, so please indicate the one you're nominating them for (if you're not sure which category fits best, just indicate that and our panel of judges will make the call).
The categories are public servant of the year; organization of the year; artist of the year; athlete/sportsperson of the year; educator/school administrator of the year; student of the year; mentor of the year; volunteer of the year; employer of the year; employee of the year; humanitarian of the year; and citizen of the year.
• Barry Ginter is editor of the Appeal. You can reach him at email@example.com or 881-1221.