(Reprinted with permission of KPC Media Group, Inc. Originally appeared in The News-Sun, August 21, 2005)
By Angie Mapes
I don’t remember much about my grandfather, Arthur Franklin Mapes.
His poem “Indiana” was adopted by the Indiana General Assembly as the Official State Poem in 1963, and he was named an Indiana Poet Laureate in 1977.
I wasn’t born until 1982, after he’d already suffered a stroke and was in poor health. I have a hazy memory of singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” at his bedside in Kendallville Manor toward the end of his life. When he died in 1986, I was not yet 4 years old.
When asked to write a column about his poetry, I wasn’t sure where to start. I asked my older sister, Erin, for advice.
“God, family, nature, Indiana,” she answered thoughtfully.
Those few words sum up the man and his art.
He came from humble roots on East Lisle Street. For more than 30 years, he worked as a machinist at Flint and Walling, but his passion was poetry — specifically, poetry that expressed his Hoosier roots and a great love and respect for nature.
His subjects? Anything that inspired him, from anecdotes about local character “Sassafras John,” to gathering walnuts, to his old Kendallville neighborhood, Sunnyside.
He recognized his gift for poetry as God-given. In his poem “Vision,” he wrote:
My purpose, as a poet,
Is to glorify His name;
And to picture Nature’s beauty,
Seeking neither wealth … nor fame.
He and my grandmother, the late Ruth (Acker) Mapes, had 10 children, including two consecutive sets of twins. With such a busy household, it boggles the mind that grandpa had time to write at all. That’s where Grandma came in, keeping the kids out of the way while he wrote his poems, supporting his hobby throughout the decades of their marriage.
I’m proud of my grandfather’s accomplishments, and I feel blessed to be part of a family that cares so much about preserving Grandpa’s legacy. At East Noble High School, the Arthur Franklin Mapes Literacy Scholarship is awarded to deserving students. The scholarship money comes in part from family-run fundraisers at the Kendallville Apple Festival and elsewhere, as well as sales of paperback volumes of his poetry.
His poetry has become part of our family gatherings throughout the years and inspired new traditions. It has allowed me to get to know him through his words and the recollections of our family.
My own aspirations to become a writer are influenced by Grandpa’s published works, especially “Indiana Memories,” a limited-edition, hardcover volume printed in 1981 that Grandpa said fulfilled a lifelong dream.
My “Uncle Jim,” the late Rev. James A. Mapes of Kendallville, wrote of Grandpa’s poetry in “Indiana Memories”:
Dad has written with compassion, honor and in awe of the people, places and events that have made our world a better place in which to live. For me, I am proud to be known as his son.
And as for me, I am proud to be known as his granddaughter.