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New book looks at Holyoke’s ‘Legendary Locals’

Date: 4/24/2015

HOLYOKE – There are names in the new book, “Legendary Locals of Holyoke” that may be familiar and some names that may not be. Author Jacqueline Sears wants her readers to know them all.

Do you know who William Skinner was? How about Dr. William Nolen? William Loomis? Eva Tanguay? Maria Dwight?

The history of the Paper City is told through the lives of the 170 people whose photos and biographies are collected in the book from Arcadia Publishing.

Sears is a Holyoke native who now lives in Southampton where she is a member of the Board of Selectmen. She was approached by Arcadia about writing a Holyoke book in the company’s “Legendary Locals” series and signed a contract in 2013.

The publishing company gave her a list of 15 people to start, but Sears had to assemble the rest of the list, acquire photographs and write the biographies.

While she admitted, “it was a long year,” she added the experience was “really wonderful.”

Her charge from Arcadia was to present a group of people that were mix of both historical and contemporary figures. There also had to be current residents to whom the potential readers could relate, she explained.

Sears added the publishers wanted stories of “tragic, quirky and unsung heroes.”

While compiling the list of people and writing the biographies was “a lot of leg work,” making sure there were photos of the subjects proved to be “frustrating” at times, she said.

She wanted, for instance, to include pro golfer Paul Azinger, a Holyoke native, but couldn’t afford to pay for the rights of a photo.

In several cases she was able to negotiate a lower fee for the use of some photos the Daily Hampshire Gazette held.

In the case of the earliest people in the city’s history, such as John Riley who lived from 1664-1714, she used a map of Ireland Parish; the area that he bought that would one day become Holyoke.

She credited the help of the Holyoke Public Library in helping her gather the information and photos she needed for the book.

Gathering the biographical information meant interviewing people, something that required Sears to be “really persistent.”

She added, “People are busy. I hate bugging people.”

Sears said the book expresses her love for Holyoke and noted that one can always find the Holyoke native in a room because “they are having the best time enjoying themselves.”

Sears will be having a signing at the Odyssey Bookshop at 4 p.m. on May 9

“I had a good time [writing the book] but at times it was stressful,” she admitted.