Donald Finkel and Constance Urdang were wonderful people. I know that without ever having met them, because every time somebody asks me if the editor of this paper is any relation to Don and Constance — he is their proud son — the inquirers immediately tell me how much they respect Constance's poetry or how much they liked having Don as a teacher. The stories are remarkably similar yet always unique. Students who were frustrated with writing, or were struggling with the rather mundane business of being a student, would meet with one or the other and leave feeling like it, whatever "it" was, was going to be all right. Both Don and Constance had the rare gift of great teachers: They listened. Sometimes what they heard worked its way into their poetry, as both were keen observers of the human condition with wry senses of humor. Constance wrote a poem called "The Muse Is Always the Other Woman," proving that you can be married to a poet, but you don't always have to be happy about it. She died in 1996, leaving Don and three children behind with all of her literary children. Don passed away barely three weeks ago, leaving behind the same three children and a different set of literary offspring. People who knew the pair as teachers, as mentors, as neighbors, as friends or as friendly voices on the page are invited to honor their lives at "Charades & Celebrations" today at 11:30 a.m. The gathering takes place in the Women's Building Formal Lounge on the Washington University campus (Forsyth and Skinker boulevards; 314-935-7130). There will be snacks and drinks and a string quartet, and probably a large group of sad and happy people. All are welcome, and admission is free.
Fri., Dec. 12, 2008