Lynn Harnett, longtime book reviewer for the Portsmouth Herald, died peacefully at her winter home in Marathon, Florida on March 15, 2012, of cancer, in the arms of her loving husband, Rodman Philbrick. Lynn Patricia Harnett was born Sept 27, 1950, in Brooklyn, NY, to Deborah McMahon Harnett and Robert Frederick Harnett. Lynn was brought up in East Meadow, Long Island and graduated from SUNY Oneonta with a degree in literature in the spring of 1972. By early autumn of that same year she was working as a freelancer for the Newburyport Daily News and the weekly Hampton Union. Within a few months the Exeter Newsletter hired her as a full-time editor and photojournalist. Her long career included stints as Assistant editor for Business Digest, Assistant Editor and then Editor of New Hampshire Profiles, and Editor and co-founder of ‘Kidwriters’ Monthly’, a newspaper supplement for young writers and artists. In the early 90’s she left her position as Arts & Entertainment Editor of the Portland Press Herald to write novels for young readers, publishing ten books with Scholastic, Inc.
Over the years Lynn wrote hundreds of book reviews that were published in newsprint as well as on various websites. As her many friends will attest, she lived a life of books, new books and not–so new. When she knew her time was running out, Lynn resolutely vowed to reread all of the volumes of her beloved ‘Chronicles of Barsetshire’, and did so. Lynn loved to hike, bird watch, kayak in the Keys, and swim with the manatees. She was an avid gardener and an amazing cook and hostess. She faced her daunting illness with a sense of great calm, seeking to comfort family and friends.
Although they collaborated on the ideas and outlines, Rod freely acknowledges that Lynn did all the heavy lifting and almost all of the actual writing in the ten mass market thrillers credited in both their names. Click for a link to Lynn’s books
(The following is adapted from Rod’s remarks to the many friends who gathered at The Press Room in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in June of 2012, to celebrate Lynn’s life It was here that Lynn and Rod were first introduced by a mutual friend in 1979. They married in 1980.)
Welcome to you all. For those of you who came up those stairs thinking ‘poor Lynn’, here’s hoping that what you see and share here today will help ease that particular thought from your mind. Lynn packed a whole lifetime into 61 years, and wanted you to know it.
Shortly after graduating from college Lynn submitted freelance stories to the local papers and was soon working as a staff reporter, later a feature writer, then an editor in newsprint and various glossy magazines. She had no particular qualifications to be a journalist, other than a BA in literature, the ability to write a clear sentence, and a gift for listening. She rewrote at least one Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and made him sound almost literate. As a writer you were lucky indeed to have Lynn Harnett as your first reader – her suggestions were always good ones, applied gently.
As you all know, Lynn loved to read, and loved to share her recommendations with other readers. She wrote many, many book reviews – 1300 are posted on amazon, and that covers only those reviews written in the last 8 or 10 years. She published 10 novels, and had several completed but unpublished novels nestled in various filing cabinets.
As a young woman Lynn traveled across this country and explored many if not most of the National Parks. She hiked the Rockies and braved the heat of Death Valley. Years later she canoed and kayaked deep into the Everglades, binoculars slung around her neck, pith helmet on her head, utterly untroubled by the presence of alligators, saltwater crocodiles, Burmese pythons, and deadly coral snakes – indeed, that’s what she was hoping to see, and as close-up as possible. Lynn could name all the birds, had a good eye for the weather, and loved a lightning storm.
She became a certified scuba diver and dove the coral reefs. She swam with sharks and manatees, and walked the red carpet with movie stars. And when she knew her days were numbered, the way she faced death was truly awe-inspiring. Lynn strived to make her friends and family welcome, eased their anxiety by her own example of calmness and gentle dignity, and even humor, and generally made the business of being terminally ill look almost stylish.
To her brothers, Lynn was the big sister who always listened. To her nieces and nephews she was the amazing aunt who was never judgmental, and who made ice cream Sundays with real whipped cream. To my brothers she was the big sister they never had. To my mother, Jane, Lynn was both daughter and dear friend. To her many friends she was wise and kind and brave, and loved to laugh, and she loved you all.
To me Lynn was simply everything, the bright sun to my little planet.
And for those of us who deeply grieve, and feel that a beautiful and mighty ship has suddenly vanished from beneath our feet, leaving us far out to sea, here’s a kind of life raft:
When I was little more than a puddle, and she was still the sun, I asked her how she did it, how she could be so calm, so serene in the face of death. And Lynn said, "Because I am well and truly loved, and because, even though I wish it could have been much, much longer, I have lived a full and complete life. A wonderful life."
Indeed she did.
Those interested in a glimpse of Lynn's life, double click the image below. If you do not have the Apple Quicktime plugin on your computer, click here for the YouTube.com version.