By Susan Johnson
A former local TV news anchor, much beloved by her family and friends, is being memorialized in a unique way on the anniversary of her passing. Jeannie Hayes, 29, an anchor at Rockford affiliate WREX, died Nov. 8, 2012, just two days after being diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. Hayes, who joined WREX in 2005, anchored the noon newscast.
Now, she is making news again — in a much happier way. Before her death, Hayes had been working on two children’s stories in hopes of getting them published. Now, her family is making that dream a reality.
The Rock River Times (TRRT) spoke with Angela Malavolti of Jungle Wagon Press, which is publishing the work, titled Jeannie’s Missing Shoes/Shelly the Turtle. Malavolti observed: “This book is unique in several ways. It is our first-ever flip book, featuring both of Jeannie’s children’s manuscripts. One of the titles was modified so that Jeannie would be the main character. Local artist Jeff Gale collaborated brilliantly with Jeannie’s family to incorporate several mementos from Jeannie’s childhood within the illustrations.”
TRRT: Did you ever meet Jeannie or know her personally?
Angela Malavolti (AM): I did. Jeannie actually submitted a manuscript to my company in 2011. That’s when I first came to know Jeannie. It was a contest. … She and I had been in contact over time, and she interviewed me for another book release that we did on The Morning Show. That’s how I met her in person and got to know her. A year ago, she passed away. It was only two days prior that she was diagnosed with leukemia.
TRRT: How long had she been working on this book?
AM: We’ve been working on this for about seven months now. Her parents are Phil and Claire Hayes, who live in Indiana. Most of Jeannie’s community was here in Rockford, but they live in Indiana. They were really wanting to publish both manuscripts. So, what we ended up deciding to do was to make a flip book. We used two very different illustrators, Angie Scordato and Jeff Gale. Initially, when Jeannie submitted the manuscript, it was called Tom’s Missing Shoes, about a little boy who couldn’t find his shoes. It’s all in prose. In the end, they were in his closet. We decided that since this would come out after Jeannie had passed, we would make her the main character. Jeff [Gale] did the illustrations for that. We got pictures and toys and mementos from [Jeannie’s parents]. He was able to incorporate these into the illustrations, which are very special. It just turned out beautifully, and we’re very pleased.
TRRT: What age group is the book aimed at?
AM: I would say, basically, 0-6.
Proceeds from the first run of books sold will help cover the costs of publication/printing, which were incurred by Jeannie’s family.
Angela Malavolti will be personally selling copies of the books at two upcoming holiday events: Rockford Handmade Market at Prairie Street Brewhouse, 200 Prairie St., Thursday, Dec. 5, from 2-10 p.m.; and A Local Holiday Market, Burpee Center, Rockford University, 5050 E. State St., Saturday, Dec. 7, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
From the Nov. 13-19, 2013, issue