Louisville Writer Bonnie McCafferty has died

Louisville Writer Bonnie McCafferty has died

“I do believe that most people probably end up wishing they’d taken more chances in life, risked more, had more fun. I doubt that people agonize over those days they were late to work or regretted missing school on the day when the visiting missionaries showed slides of the leper colony. I don’t know any woman who would lie on her deathbed and wish she hadn’t eaten that last box of Godiva chocolates and I’ll bet there’s not a man anywhere who would lie on his deathbed and wish he’d gone to see Yanni “Live at the Palace.”

— Bonnie McCafferty, Ace, November 1994

Louisville writer Bonnie McCafferty, author of Smiling Through the Apocalypse (1992), died Sunday, after a long illness. NPR’s Bob Edwards wrote in 1992, “Bonnie McCafferty understands that we live in an imperfect world but wonders why our imperfections lack imagination. As a girl, she dreamed of being a writer. Now she writes like a dream.”

She was known for her sharp wit, but gentle soul. Throughout the early 90s, she was a contributing columnist at The Chicago Tribune, Louisville Magazine, and at Ace, and also co-hosted a popular Louisville radio show, “On Good Authority,” on WFPL with the late Bob Schulman and Bob Hill. Prior to that, she worked for many years as a creative in advertising and PR, where she worked with clients like Brown Forman.

She was an observational humorist, in the tradition of a Molly Ivins, with a little of fellow Kentuckian Hunter S. Thompson thrown in — a narrative journalism/essay style that would later make wild successes of David Sedaris and Chuck Klosterman.

In an Ace Christmas essay in December 1994, she wrote a Holiday Guide to Ill-Advised Gifts:

  • For Senator Mitch McConnell: any gift that didn’t come from a lobbyist;
  • For Hillary Clinton: dinner with Rush Limbaugh;
  • For Coach Rick Pitino: a bumper sticker that says HONK IF YOU’RE LEAVING LEXINGTON.
  • For Rush Limbaugh: dinner with Hillary Clinton.
  • For former Gov. Wallace Wilkinson: A bumper sticker that says HONK IF YOU’D FALL FOR SOMETHING LIKE THE LOTTERY AGAIN.

She is survived by husband Nick Stump (Michael Stamper), a musician (The Metropolitan Blues All-Stars, Nick Stump Blues All-Stars) and writer. The two married in 1992. She wrote, “The wedding ceremony was much like our courtship — swift, heartfelt, slightly surreal and absolutely hilarious.”

In a piece called, “The Comeback,” she later wrote movingly about her 1993 brush with death, when she suffered a double aneurysm and spent nine days in a Louisville ICU awaiting surgery.

“I had a brain hemorrhage, and the angiogram two days later revealed that I had not one aneurysm on the carotid artery, as the neurosurgeon suspected, but two. The miracle is that I lived through it. I’m having a complete and fast recovery. I’ve got a really cool post-surgery punk haircut that is the envy of all the teenagers in the neighborhood, and I quit smoking. All that is great news. But why do I consider 6/28/93 a lucky day?

I think it was lucky that the doctor in the emergency room didn’t dismiss me as a woman with a bad headache, give me a pain shot and send me home. He wanted to know why my pain was great enough to have caused me to come by ambulance to the emergency room door.

About 11:30 a.m. I felt a pain in my left temple that was so great, so sharp, I almost fell to the floor. It felt as though something had exploded inside my head — and it had.

I’m trying never to take another day of life for granted. I found out how lucky I am to have Michael and my family and so many friends who let me know daily that they wanted me to be well, to be among them again.”

Author Ronni Lundy, one of her editors at Louisville Magazine in the 90s, writes in memory of McCafferty:

“Last week I came across a stack of Louisville magazines in a box I was weeding through and sat down and read them. Bonnie was our regular monthly columnist and she always served her wit up with a sharp dash of wry. That I recollected without reading. But as I did read through her past columns, I was also struck by her gentleness with those who truly deserved its light. She suffered no fools, but she had tremendous compassion. I will miss knowing that she is no longer sitting at her window, looking out on the little park across the way, marveling at and commenting on the mysterious, crazy, hilarious and magnificent comings and going of her fellow humans.”

Author Ed McClanahan recalls being introduced to her by her new husband, his longtime friend Nick Stump, and learning that she was a fellow fan of the famed Cowboy Poets, and discovering to their surprise and delight that they had a mutual friend in cowboy poet Paul Zarzyski.

McClanahan later wrote a blurb for her book jacket, saying, “If Dave Barry ever grows up (God forbid), he could be the next Bonnie McCafferty.”

Her husband, Nick Stump, wrote after her passing on his facebook page, “Bonnie touched a lot of hearts out there. She was such a sweet-hearted woman. We had a great continuing conversation over the last twenty years. And what a babe…”

A memorial will be scheduled later this Spring, 2013. Updates will be posted here.