Writer, 100, Loved Words and Helping People Find Them

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Bill Carrigan was used to words, and most of the time, it was his.

He worked through every thought, struggled with every detail, inspected (then re-inspected) for accuracy, clarity, and tone. He’s collected words and carried them with him for decades, including that of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow The wreck of the Hesperus, which he learned in the fourth class.

He scrutinized the words of others, whether they come from consenting peers in his Sarasota writing groups or a botched copy on the back of the cereal box.

Carrigan died on November 20 shortly after a fall. He was 100 years old.

Bill Carrigan headed the Sarasota Fiction Writers Group and the Fiction Writers Forum. His colleagues remember recitations of famous poems, including “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes. [ Courtesy Pat Gray ]

Give meaning to words

He grew up in a house full of books, and a college encounter deepened Carrigan’s love for words.

After her family moved from New York to Washington DC, Carrigan met American poet Vachel Lindsay. This meeting introduced the college student to the delights of the spoken word. After college, at the start of World War II, Carrigan’s language skills led him to a job at the National Institutes of Health. There he translated, edited and shared the work of the scientists.

“Over time, he acquired enough knowledge in medicine and medical research to write some articles on his own,” his friend and fellow writer Pat Gray wrote in remembrance. “Some scientists gave him their analysis and let Bill do the writing. Sometimes he even helped them with their research as he facilitated scientific communications between departments and even individual scientists. clarity to much of the medical research done at NIH. ”

Carrigan and his wife, Theodora, had two daughters, Bonnie and Delane. After 46 years at the National Institutes for Health, he retired and began a second career doing similar work at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. When he retired for the second time, Carrigan and his wife moved to Sarasota, and he turned to his own writing full-time.

The process was as rigorous for fiction as it was for science.

Grandson Matthew McCarthy remembers the street maps of Tampa stuck in the den while Carrigan worked on maniacal, a thriller set in this city that reads like a mix of Jimmy Buffett and Tom Clancy.

“Everything in the book is very specific,” McCarthy said. “It almost plays out like a movie.”

Carrigan joined and eventually led the Sarasota Fiction Writers group and the Fiction Writers Forum, which works on reviews.

“He really helped me,” friend and author Susan Klaus said. “I really wasn’t a writer. I just had some great stories to tell.

Carrigan was precise, she said, and could tighten a sentence, add the right verbs, and make it sing.

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He always spoke last when the Sarasota Fiction Writers Group got together, said writer friend and colleague Raymond Ryder. And Carrigan was the only member of the group whose advice was accepted by everyone, Ryder said.

Carrigan has published seven books and a collection of short stories. He was working on another with his grandson. Both worked intermittently for years Write your song, a guide to compose songs.

McCarthy intends to finish it, but, as he was taught by his grandfather, he knows many more changes will be needed.

Bill Carrigan's Manic book is set in Tampa.
Bill Carrigan’s Manic book is set in Tampa. [ Courtesy Matthew McCarthy ]

In his own words

Summitville Doctor, chapter 20, by Bill Carrigan

One day in early spring, the life she had left behind on the farm became evident. A letter addressed to “A. Duval” arrived, mailed in Phoenix, Arizona. Henri must have learned his skill from Schmitz. His words, scrawled in disjointed French and barely legible, were bitter and threatening. She had deserted the farm, he said, she had taken training that she would never have used. He had no more money and could not find a job in this shit hole. Did they pay her at the hospital? He needed the money if he wanted to stay in the West. Martin, he said, either ignored his saliva samples or didn’t bother to tell him what they were showing. Sick or not, he might have to return to the farm – Schmitz wasn’t ready to handle it on his own – and she needed to help him. Send her the money she had.

Good! how could he have spent all his savings so soon? And why was he so unreasonable, putting it all on her? Did he think for a moment that she was making fun of him or that old farmhouse? Cursed be it, in any case! But the fear that he might somehow force her back made her write in feverish haste.

She told him he was wrong about everything, especially her. Nursing was a noble profession and in great demand. She was not paid yet, but she would have a lot of work after her training. For now, she was enclosing a money order for her very last penny. He doesn’t even have to think about coming back. He must stay in the West until he recovers – until Dr. Martin says he can return safely. And Schmitz would do better if he was left alone.

After posting the letter, she returned to her duties very sober. She had found herself faced with the threat of falling back into the life Henry intended for her, the life of bondage and drudgery that he considered fitting for a wife. The years of training that awaited him seemed a lifetime, but desperation strengthened his resolve.

Over time, desperation has become a new ambition. She has set her sights on the future. In carrying out her chores – changing dressings, giving enemas, washing or spooning her helpless loads – she welcomed the opportunity to prove her will, for these modest chores were just the details of a great deal. chart. And she was grateful for Jim’s vision and support that had put her on the path. She did her best to express these thoughts in her next letter.

Bill Carrigan's grandson designed the cover for The Doctor of Summitville, one of seven books Carrigan wrote and published.
Bill Carrigan’s grandson designed the cover for The Doctor of Summitville, one of seven books Carrigan wrote and published. [ Courtesy Matthew McCarthy ]

Poynter news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this story.

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