Tifton Gazette

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January 9, 2010

Author's dreams come true

TIFTON — Janie Hopwood’s dream to write a book recently came true, she said, because of her “dream team” of supporters. The author will sign copies of her dream come true, “The Beck House,” from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Tifton Elks Lodge and the public is invited.

Hopwood was a physical education teacher for 30 years (17 at Annie Belle Clark Elementary School) before she retired. Six years ago she began writing a mystery, crime and romance novel, she said, but after talking with her sister, Deanne Veal, she decided to write something about their maternal grandmother, Rena Beck, who owned and operated a boarding house in Americus from 1931 until the ‘50s.

“She was a courageous and strong woman,” Hopwood said of her grandmother. “She was a feisty old lady, and didn’t much get by her.”

As the book relates, Rena Beck, a twice-widowed woman who had to provide for her family of six daughters, transforms their home into a boarding house where guests are fed sumptuous meals and “roomers” are treated like family. She is a mother hen who protects her daughters without smothering them and an entrepreneur who takes advantage of every opportunity that comes her way, and some she invents, to keep her business going and growing. She is a sympathetic, caring lady who takes on the woes of the world through her colorful boarders.

World War II sees her daughters’ husbands going away and returning to live more comfortably than Beck had ever dreamed.

She then faces the fight of her life. Beck has to go to court in Sumter County to face city lawyers who are representing the county in its efforts to take her land away through the law of eminent domain.

Hopwood, originally from Americus, wrote the book as a collection of short stories. It is a work of fiction, she said, with a common thread being that the fodder for her writing came from interviews with people who lived at the Beck House, veterans of World War II and people from the Depression era, who all shed insight into history and how it shaped society. Some of the “bits and pieces,” she said, are about some people from Tifton.

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