When the Brautigan Library’s most prolific submitter, Albert Helzner, died in 2016 one month before he would have turned 93, his daughter, Ronnee-Sue Helzner, picked up where he left off, shaping the manuscripts he left behind into what she hopes will one day be a published series.
Though she remembers her father traveling to give talks at the Brautigan Library in its Vermont incarnation, and was aware that he’d self-published one book, Ronnee-Sue and her father didn’t speak much of his literary projects. “I didn’t know for a long time what he was writing,” she says.
Helzner submitted 16 manuscripts — the most of any author — to the Brautigan Library between 1990 and 1991.
Helzner, of Marblehead, Massachusetts, had other, more obvious occupations. He was a chemical engineer who held an industry patent and had been published in the professional journal Chemical Engineering. He was a World War II veteran, a volunteer at the Boston Museum of Science and a state chess champion who Ronnee-Sue Helzner recalls playing preinternet “postcard chess.” Competitors would play remotely by setting up their own individual chessboards and sharing their moves by mail.
Her father was a thinker, she says, who loved to encourage curiosity in others. His capacity for wonder is something she remembers fondly, and a reminder, she says, “to always be aware and appreciative of … the physical world around you, the people that inhabit this planet, to wonder and to think about things that we may be very complacent about in our everyday lives, because it can really enrich our lives to do so.”