by Deborah Sweaney

Deborah Sweaney was barely eight years old when her father, Frank Sweaney, died. She grew up being told by the community he served that Doc Sweaney literally worked himself to death. He became a mythic figure to her—there in lore but not in person.

Laughter which had been so central to life with my father left our home for years leaving in its place an overwhelming feeling of sadness. And yet, Deborah’s mother, Iris Sweaney, persevered and saw that each of her four children attended college and pursued meaningful lives. That could be the whole story—except for a suitcase.

What Deborah discovers in opening up that old suitcase is the heart and soul of Holt County, Missouri, and of the small town of Oregon where she grew up. She learns that tendrils from her father’s life and death wove their way into the stories and lives of the community.

Unpacking Memories tells of a time and place that is no more—the 1950’s. For those not of that generation, it offers a peek into the real decade—neither Peyton Place nor Mayberry—a place as rich as the Missouri soil that serves as the foundation for the story.


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