Erna M. Russnak was born December 24, 1920 in a small German town in the Black Forest. At the age of five she came to America by boat with her parents. In 1956 she began writing Perhaps Tomorrow at age 36 on the insides and backs of Christmas cards from friends and family. She completed her 495 page manuscript on a typewriter after turning her cozy breakfast nook into a place to make her dream a reality. Perhaps Tomorrow was completed towards the end of 1957.
In today’s world, Erna would be called a Fashionista. She loved big brimmed hats, costume jewelry and had a flare for coordinating an outfit. Her creativity reached into all aspects of her life. She recycled the backs of junk mail for scratch paper, created doll bed’s from cigar boxes and made doll clothes from odds and ends of material. She designed dressing tables from orange crates and transformed an old ping pong table into cocktail tables for the Living Room. Left over paint from her husband’s projects created murals on three of the basement walls. When the blue paint for the ocean was gone, the tan paint turned into a sandy beach and the green paint provided a huge forest of trees.
After Erna completed her epic romance novel her priorities changed. Health issues delayed the marketing of her book. She cared for her mother dying of breast cancer. Her own health wavered as her vision progressively worsened and she developed Cataracts in both eyes. She was faced with her husband’s illness and death. Erna was 56 when her husband died. A year later she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease at age 57.
In the late 1970’s Erna saw an article in the newspaper about an Alzheimer’s research program at a local hospital. She recognized warning signs of the illness and thought she would be a good candidate for the program because her overall health was good. Erna benefited greatly from being part of the research and her family credits the program for allowing her to be able to live at home with her daughter and family until her death in February 1991.
Erna was age 71 at the time of her death. While her memory faded over the years her favorite expression, and the title of her novel, Perhaps Tomorrow, remained in her heart.