Youngstown woman, 81, writes 5 books in 5 years
YOUNGSTOWN — In 1932, American philosopher Walter B. Pitkin published a self-help book titled “Life Begins at Forty.” Eight years later, June Summers was born at St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital and proved him wrong.
In fact, the Youngstown native has achieved more in her 81 years than some nations have in centuries.
Born into a family of 12 children, Summers and her five sisters and six brothers learned the value of hard work very early in life. And Summers certainly personifies the theory that hard work pays off.
Today, as an acclaimed author in her own right, she is a testament to the notion of life beginning whenever you decide to start it.
Her newest book, “There Was an Old Woman” is her latest release — but her own life story could well be its own best seller.
She is a 1958 graduate of The Rayen School and earned a degree from Youngstown State University in 1962.
She’s officially retired, but Summers began her career an art teacher, then became a staff accountant for a CPA firm in Florida. She left the firm in 2016, but her real passion — writing — took off like gangbusters five years ago, even though it actually began when she was just a girl.
“I started writing poems in grade school, but my serious writing didn’t begin until the 1990s. My oldest daughter, Wendy, and I ran a nonprofit finding forever homes for abused and abandoned dogs and cats. We needed money to support our animal family. Wendy had the idea of writing a book to help us fund the animal rescue and I ran with the idea,” Summers said.
Wendy died of cancer several years ago, but she inspired Summers to write her first book.
That book, “Let Freedom Ring,” was her first, but it unfortunately wasn’t published until 2016 — long after Wendy lost her battle with cancer. But it sparked Summers’ inner author and she has since published four more books: “Before We Fade Away” and “Conflict of Time,” both in 2018, “Whatever It Takes” in 2020 and “There Was an Old Woman” in 2021.
“I have two completed, nonfiction manuscripts yet to get published. ‘In the Dog House,’ which is about Wendy and our lives with our animal shelter, and ‘Please Pass the Eyeball: Hosting the Most Unique and Bizarre Halloween Party Ever,’,” Summers said.
In addition to Wendy, Summers has another daughter, Glory Ann Harnois, who lives in Florida with her husband, Jim, and her grandson, Steve, and a granddaughter, Emily Harnois, who is a staff sergeant in the Air Force. She said her family is her real success story.
She said they and her sisters Bonnie Miller, 94, of Hermitage, Pa., and Gail Johnson, 83 (who also still works five days a week) of Youngstown, along with her niece Joyce A. Joyce, are her greatest source of happiness and accomplishment.
A sister, Bernis Fizet, died last October and another sister, Helen Balestra, died in October 2018. A sixth sister, Betty, died as a child. All six of Summers’ brothers also are deceased.
Although she lived in Florida for many years, she relocated back to her hometown a few years ago to spend time with her surviving sisters.
“I am currently working on a manuscript I call ‘1010 Colleda Avenue’ about an apartment building on the East Side of Youngstown, its eight tenants, and its superintendent,” Summers said.
“I don’t want the reader to put my book down. So I try to entice the reader to keep reading to find out what exciting, horrific or tantalizing event will take place in the next chapter.”
Stay tuned to see what Summers’ next life chapter reveals, as well.
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