Thursday, July 2, 2009

Who was Ferner Nuhn?



Most of our members know Ferner as Ruth Suckow's husband. However, he was also a scholar, artist, teacher, writer and Cedar Falls native. I was intrigued to learn more about him when George Day loaned me a small booklet by Nuhn that included a two page biography. I knew that Ferner had been one of the founders of the Supper Club that Mike and I attend; he was good friends of James Hearst, and it turns out that Ferner also helped to found the Cedar Falls Art Association.

I found it rather romantic that he and Ruth met in 1926, after he read something she wrote. He visited her in Earlville, where she was taking care of her bees, earning money so that she could spend time writing. Both of them were writers and had stories or articles accepted by H. L. Mencken, the editor of The American Mercury. After a courtship of three years, Ferner and Ruth were married in California in 1929. They did a lot of traveling and lived in several areas of the country,including Washington, D. C., Cedar Falls, Arizona and California. They were heavily involved with the Quakers.

After Ruth's death in 1960, Ferner worked to ensure her memory,and her literary work, would endure. He helped to found the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association. In 1965 he remarried--his wife, Georgeanna Washburn Dafoe, was a cousin of Ruth Suckow. They lived in Claremont, CA for many years. I am looking for more informatin about their marriage, as well as about Georgeanna. All I know now is that Ferner died on April 15, 1989 at the age of 85. He was living in a retirement facility for the last three years of his life. Since nothing is mentioned of Georgeanna, I am assuming she preceded him in death. If anyone knows more, I would appreciate your help, because Mike and I are working on a wikipedia entry for Ferner.

I came across a reference to a book that Ferner wrote and ordered it online: The Wind Blew from the East was written in 1940 and published by Harper and Brothers. The subtitle is "A Study in the Orientation of American Culture." He meant it to be the first of three books, but I don't think the others were ever written. Once I've finished it, I will be sure to post a brief summary/review.

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