In memory of
Berthe Amoss, beloved wife of Jimmy Amoss, mother of 6 sons, writer and illustrator of children's books and young adult novels and a former columnist for The Times-Picayune's Books Page, died Oct. 6 at her home in Pass Christian. She was 94. A native of New Orleans, Berthe thought of herself as an artist and illustrator since she was a young girl. But it wasn't until she was 35 and expecting her fifth child that she attempted to be published as a writer and illustrator of children's books. A writer friend had told her that New York children's book publishers were "looking for talent. Just barge in," Berthe recalled in an interview. That's what she did. Armed with some manuscripts, she called unannounced on the prestigious publisher Harper and Row in New York and met an interested editor, who showed her work to other Harper editors and came back with a verdict: "Everybody likes your illustrations, but your stories are pretty bad." Undaunted, Berthe went back to work. "I kept writing these terrible little stories, and (the editor) kept sending them back." When her fourth son, Mark, had a party for his 9th birthday and her envious 2 ½-year-old fifth son, Tom, sandwiched between Mark and the newly arrived John, had a temper tantrum, Berthe realized that she had a story. Harper and Row immediately accepted "It's Not Your Birthday". It became the first of the 24 children's books she wrote and illustrated, followed by four young adult novels. Berthe Lathrop Marks was born and grew up in New Orleans, the daughter of a lawyer, Sumter Davis Marks Jr., and his wife, also named Berthe. She graduated from Isidore Newman School in 1943 and from Newcomb College in 1946. She studied art at the University of Hawaii, the Kunsthalle in Bremen, Germany, the Academie des Beaux Arts in Antwerp, Belgium, and the New Orleans Academy of Art. She received a Master's Degree in English and Art from Tulane University in 1986. She taught children's literature at Tulane from 1981-1993 and again from 2001-2003. At Tulane, she was the first recipient of the Newcomb College Authors Fellowship, and founded and directed Trial Balloons, a children's literature program at the university. She established the Amoss collection of children's literature at Tulane's Howard Tilton Library. She also wrote a column on children's literature, "Reading, Writing and Children", for the Books Page of The Times-Picayune from 1982 to 1993. Berthe also designed Advent calendars for many years for the National Gallery of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Cathedral in Washington and The Art Institute of Chicago, as well as greeting cards for corporations, including the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans. She received the Outstanding Newcomb Alumna Award in 2010. In her acceptance speech at the time, she noted that her father and mother were Tulane and Newcomb alumni, as were her husband's parents. "You might get the idea that we are nothing but olive green and blue," she said, but added that one of her sons had graduated from LSU and another from LSU Medical School, requiring "a big adjustment of attitude on our part." After living in Hawaii, Germany and Belgium with her husband, W. James Amoss Jr., known as "Jimmy", former CEO of New Orleans-based Lykes Bros. Steamship Co., and raising her six sons, Berthe and Jimmy split their time between homes in New Orleans and in Pass Christian, Miss. In 2011, they became permanent residents of Pass Christian, where they rebuilt the family home for the second time, after losing it in Hurricane Camille in 1969 and in Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Berthe's identity as a writer and artist was intertwined with her view of herself as a wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother. Her stories often derived from her experiences growing up in a close-knit New Orleans family and later raising her own large family. On her 80th birthday, she wrote her sons that "I do want you to know that my greatest joy and blessing given to me by God is Jimmy and each one of you. I am further blessed with six truly beloved daughters-in-law and twelve adorable grandchildren." She was actively involved in the lives of her grandchildren, who spent much time with her at their grandparents' house on Carondelet Street and their summer home in Pass Christian. Berthe was a member of the Junior League of New Orleans. She was in the court of Mithras and the court of the Mystic Club. She is survived by her husband, Jimmy; six sons: Jim (Nancy) of New Orleans; Bob (Lisa) of New Orleans; Billy (Kate) of Washington D.C.; Mark (Liz) of New Orleans; Tom (Colleen) of New Orleans and Louisville; and John (Dunbar) of New Orleans. Twelve grandchildren, Adam (Jaime) of Philadelphia; Philip of New York City; David (Missy) of New Orleans; Christopher of Washington D.C.; Sophie of New York City; Matthew (Madeline) of New Orleans; Ashley of New Orleans; Haley of Louisville; Ben (Katherine), Daniel, James and Jeff of New Orleans; and six great grandchildren, Andrew, Robert and Claire of New Orleans; Luke and Savannah of Philadelphia; and Emma of New Orleans. A funeral Mass will take place at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, at Holy Name of Jesus church at St. Charles Ave., after a visitation at the church beginning at 10 a.m. A private interment at Metairie Cemetery will follow. In lieu of flowers donations may be sent to the Newcomb College Institute or in support of the Amoss Collection of Children's Books at the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University. Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral home is in charge of arrangements. The family invites you to share your thoughts, fond memories, and condolences online at www.lakelawnmetairie.com.
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