An Unofficial Poetess-Laureate Resides in Hampton

By Mike Bisceglia

Seacoast Scene, Wednesday, June 10, 2009

[The following article is courtesy of the Seacoast Scene.]

Isabel Grasso's interests are many and varied. Maintaining a life-long love affair for the written word. Her current enthusiasm is writing haiku, a form of poetry with three lines in a precise pattern. Isabel knows it well; she has written dozens of them.

Isabel Grasso may very well be the unofficial poetess-laureate of the town of Hampton. You may ask, "Well, what are her credentials?" If you have a moment, you may want to pour yourself a cup of coffee while you learn of her wonderful life.

The former Isabel Sweeney grew up in Boston, Massachusetts. She is a direct descendant of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. both of whom came to American on the Mayflower.

As a young girl, during the years that she lived in Littleton. New Hampshire, Isabel learned to skate in her back yard on a small rink fashioned by a neighbor.

Isabel's love of reading drew her to the Littleton Public Library. It was her home away from home when she was a school girl.

At the onset of World War II, Isabel, as was her practice, went to the library to take out a book. "I ended up taking out the librarian," she chuckled.

Isabel worked her way through college as a dental hygienist. As a senior at Boston Normal School, Isabel married James (Jim) Vincent Grasso, but the couple kept their marriage a secret in order for Isabel to continue her schooling. Majoring in French, Isabel had her sights set on becoming a French teacher. In those days, however, married women were not allowed to continue their schooling or to teach in the Boston Public School System.

With the war raging, her husband, Jim, was deployed to the Pacific. Isabel was left behind to tend to one daughter as well as to a second daughter born shortly after Jim left. When Jim returned to Boston after the war, he attended Harvard College on the G.I. Bill. Their son was born in March of Jim's freshman year. Isabel typed master's theses to earn extra money during those years.

In later years, Isabel worked as a substitute teacher, and then found employment at Draper's Mill in Canton, Massachusetts.There, she deftly handled the payroll and computed the ingredients needed for each type of fabric. During her years spent in New Jersey, she worked at Mercedes Benz, computing import duties and taxes.

Isabel's interests are many and varied. Maintaining a life-long love affair for the written word, Isabel was a reporter/photographer for local New Hampshire newspapers until the age of 84. At that point, she retired but continues to do occasional free-lance reporting.

Her current enthusiasm is writing haiku, a form of poetry with three lines in a precise pattern. Isabel knows it well; she has written dozens of them. She still speaks French, and recently wrote a haiku-style poem in that language:

A Mon Amour

Mon amour, tu sais
Que je't'aime mine fois beaucoup.
Tu es tout mon monde.

It translates as:

To My Love

My love, you know
That I love you a thousand times very much.
You are my whole world.

Mrs. Grasso also utilizes her writing and photographic skills for the Hampton Congregational Church, where she has been the "unofficial photographer and scribe" for a number of years. She doesn't stop there. She is deeply involved in several clubs and keeps the official scrapbook for the Church's Guild and the Hampton Women's Club. She often writes publicity for both. In addition, she is a regular contributor to the Meals on Wheels monthly newsletter. Besides the Guild and the Dearborn House Writers' Group, Isabel is in the Hampton Seniors. She is, however, making a mild concession. She is "retiring" as a photographer for the clubs, yielding to those who have transitioned to digital photography. Isabel has not taken the leap to either the computer or the digital camera.

Isabel loves animals. From woodchucks to dolphins, she simply adores them. She is, however, a true "cat person." In the course of her life, anywhere from one to seven cats has always graced her residence. Her current feline friend is Megan.

Mrs. Grasso has traveled extensively, including such faraway destinations as Iran, France, England, and Italy. Any place with a wonderful museum featuring French Impressionists will do nicely.

If you can find Isabel at home, you might find her catching a glimpse of her favorite television shows, "Jeopardy," "Wheel of Fortune," and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" She also enjoyed "Murder, She Wrote," and the principal character, Jessica Fletcher.

A visitor shouldn't be surprised if she totes out her Scrabble game and then proceeds to trounce her opponent. Two games might be all the time she'll allow, though. Isabel is a busy woman.

With children in North Carolina, California, and Colorado, along with two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, she has places to go and things to do. And, yes, she still has her driver's license!

Isabel isn't bothered by the jitters when she drinks coffee, and Isabel has had a lot of caffeine in the last three-quarters of a century. After all, she is 93-years young, and began drinking coffee when she entered college, and that was more than just a few seasons ago.

"With all of that reading and late-night studying, in addition to working, I just needed something to help me to stay awake. Coffee did the trick," she said.

Today, morning, noon or night, Isabel is likely to be found with a steaming cup of java close at hand. And, like her life, she savors its richness.

Yes. Isabel still maintains a very active schedule, but if she'll pour you a cup of coffee, you just may be treated to one or two of her special poetic creations. They, like the tales of her life's adventures, are simply too good to pass up.