Peggy Heatwole Landis and Jay B. Landis have a long history with Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), one that began more than half a century ago.
The two met, fell in love and cultivated successful careers at EMU, whose campus they can see from their nearby home.
Thursday, April 11, 2013, the duo fittingly celebrated their latest milestone on campus — the release of their respective books.
It’s rare to have a husband and wife publish separate books at the same time, Marti Eads, the EMU professor who organized the event, said. And it’s a rarity that’s particularly special for EMU, given the couple’s longtime ties to the university, she added.
“They made wonderful contributions to our community [and] this is just another type of contribution,” Eads said of the couple’s books — his, a compilation of poetry, and hers, a memoir.
The EMU Language and Literature Department hosted a reading and book-signing event for the Landises on Thursday, an event that drew a large crowd of alumni, friends, faculty and administrators to the Campus Center.
“We didn’t really anticipate that it would be that many people, so that was a nice surprise,” Peggy, 73, said.
On Saturday, the Landises will host another book signing similar to Thursday’s at Park View Mennonite Church from 2 until 4 p.m. in the fireplace room.
Peggy and Jay Landis, 80, met when Peggy was a senior at Eastern Mennonite High School and Jay was a new teacher fresh from graduate school. The two forged a relationship after Peggy earned her high school diploma, and upon her graduation from Eastern Mennonite College — the precursor to EMU — four years later, the two were married.
Peggy worked 16 years in the student life office at EMU and Jay, an educator for 51 years, is a professor emeritus of EMU’s Language and Literature Department. June will mark 52 years of marriage for the couple.
Writing the books was Peggy’s idea, Jay said.
A few years ago, at “about the time that one should be making New Year’s resolutions,” Peggy posed an idea:
“[She said], ‘I think that next year, we should just each publish a book; I’ll write my memoirs and you get your poetry together,’” Jay recounted.
The idea turned into a three-year process that culminated in the recent pressings of the books.
In her memoir, “Kitchenary: From Birth to Zucchini,” Shenandoah Valley native Peggy Heatwole Landis shares stories of “friendship and forgiveness, heritage and hospitality, generosity and gratitude, loss and love and the people of the lifetime with whom she has broken bread.”
The book is organized alphabetically by each story’s title and her personal anecdotes are paired with recipes from her own cookbook or those of family and friends. “Kitchenary” is Landis’ self-coined term for her personal dictionary of recipes and the memories they summon.
“My theme for the book is that the flavors and aromas and food evoke memories and so I associated my chapters with a recipe,” she said.
In “Verse Assignments” Jay B. Landis compiled the poems he’d written throughout his career about the classroom, family, community and faith.
“[The book] is an eclectic work marking, among other things, EMU achievements, milestones, and honoring persons who are an integral part of the very mortar that is EMU’s foundation,” Vi Dutcher, chair of the Language and Literature Department, told the crowd during Thursday’s event.
“Having had a vested interest in EMU for many years and being a relative newcomer here, I treasure this contribution to the EMU community,” she said.
The books were put out through Xlibris, a self-publishing company.
More than anything, both books are records the Landises hope to preserve for future generations of their family, they say.
But they hold something for others, too.
“The books [are] a chronicle of a lifetime of real partnership, creative endeavors, faith and family,” Eads said. “It’s really beautiful.”
Published April 17, 2013, courtesy Daily News Record.