by Nora Edinger
Nancy Drew is dead.
You might not have noticed her obituary last week as it was under the name Mildred Wirt Benson.
Benson, the original author of the Nancy Drew children's mystery series, was a 96-year-old newspaperwoman.
She was also the embodiment of the teen-aged girl detective, according to her obituary writers.
Gutsy, smart, well pressed.
Like the dozens of other authors who later worked under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene, Benson wrote of a young woman who was everything generations of American girls have wanted to be.
From her titian hair (which I remember looking up in a dictionary) to her convertible -- who wouldn't have wanted to be Nancy?
My admiration for her was so strong I can tie specific behaviors to her influence.
My love of cheese, for example, is a result of a mystery set in Pennsylvania Dutch country, which sounded unbelievably exotic when I was 10 and living in the Midwest.
In that book, Nancy ran her car into a farmer transporting a wheel of cheese to market. Sensing the farmer's loss, Nancy nibbled some cheese on the spot and offered to buy a healthy amount. (She always was a considerate sort.)
I remember heading straight to the kitchen to get a chunk of cheddar. Any food good enough for Nancy was good enough for me.
Nancy was a whole lot more than the Popeye of the dairy world, however. She was a well-rounded role model.
She was feminine yet independent. She was smart yet respectful of others. She was beloved by adults, teens, small children and animals.
The only ones who didn't like Nancy, of course, were the bad guys.
And, unlike modern heroines (i.e. strumpets Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Britney Spears), Nancy was moral throughout her thrilling adventures.
I suspect most girls focused more on the adventures than the morality part, however. There were plenty.
In "The Clue of the Broken Locket," for example, Nancy faced three kidnappings, an endangered engagement, a collapsed bridge, a phantom boat, a record-pirating ring and being locked on a steep roof. All that in 178 pages.
Rereading that book, the first in my collection, made me freshly realize what an excellent literary creation Nancy was.
She's timeless. I still want to be her.
So, Mrs. Benson and you authors who continue to turn out modern Nancy adventures: Thanks. You'll never know how many American girls -- and women -- you have inspired.
Your work has been so good, in fact, it calls for a toast. Pass the cheese.
Regional Editor Nora Edinger can be reached at 626-1447 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org