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Remembrance: Emyl Jenkins 

1942-2010

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When Emyl Jenkins was a little girl, her mother responded to whines and complaints in one way: “Mary Louise, make yourself content.”

Mary Louise Joslin Sexton, who adopted the pen name Emyl Jenkins, took that message to heart. The first thing an acquaintance learned about her was that she was happy, extremely happy, with a bone-deep warmth and optimism that touched everyone drawn into her circle. And did she ever draw people in — from everywhere.

To mystery lovers, Jenkins was a don't-put-it-down favorite, with two witty novels featuring antiques appraiser Sterling Glass. To the antiques aficionados who read her books about decorating or saw her segments on national morning shows, she was a beacon. To many she was a gracious and beloved friend. She was first on the scene in a crisis (illness, romantic trauma, home repair disaster) and loved throwing parties to celebrate others' successes. She and her husband, Bob Sexton, might even take you out to dinner for having been kind enough to let them give the party.

Jenkins liked doing. She was a mainstay of several community organizations, including her church and the boards of the Executive Mansion, the Library of Virginia (where an annual fiction award will now bear her name) and the James River Writers. She was an enthusiastic mentor. If she knew you were thinking of a book, she'd pull you into a corner to hear all about it, praise you extravagantly, then give suggestions for writing something you might like better. She inspired many new writers to get started and gave others (like me) a much-needed kick in medias res.

Shortly before cancer claimed Jenkins on April 27, she told her husband and her children that she wanted everyone to “think happy thoughts.” She was a beaming, bustling, fairy-dust-sprinkling imp of a Southern lady. I feel happy, extremely happy, to have known her.

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