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Author Alice Louise Staman might have died of coronavirus. She was never tested.



“Here she was this intellectual person doing her best to have her career, and the patriarchy just sort of discounted her,” Karen Staman said. “She wanted to make sure women were given a voice and were counted.”

Fighting back tears, Karen recalls her mother’s life recognizing others, knowing that Alice Louise Staman — A. Louise Staman to her readers and Louise for family and friends — won’t be counted in death because she wasn’t tested for the virus that likely killed her.

Louise, 78, was admitted to a Savannah hospital on March 29 with a 104-degree fever and trouble breathing, which are common symptoms of the novel coronavirus. The hospital staff told Mike that she wouldn’t be tested because she was close to death, her family said. She died a day later.

“I want her to be counted because I think it matters,” Karen said. “There is an enormous number of people who aren’t being added to the toll.”

The Staman family is also concerned that because she wasn’t tested, they don’t know if Mike was exposed to the life-threatening virus.

The close-knit family members, spread across North Carolina, Georgia and California, haven’t seen each other in months and are concerned about gathering for a memorial amid stay-home orders. Before the pandemic flared, they had planned to vacation together in Rome in the fall.

In retirement, Louise and Mike Staman rented an apartment for a month in a different country every year just to see what it was like to live there — a feat that is even more impressive given that Louise battled breast and then bone cancer over two decades.

“She was the kind of lady who would charge forward, regardless of the hand she was dealt,” Karen said. “She always had wonder and whimsy and the world. She was gobsmacked at how beautiful it was.”

She also was researching, writing and self-publishing up until her death. One of her latest novels, “Restoring Lost Times,” is about Anna Colquitt Hunter, who ignited a movement in Savannah in the 1950s to save historical buildings and is credited with preserving one of the country’s oldest historical districts. Another novel, “Loosening Corsets,” was about the first woman to serve in the U.S. Senate, Rebecca Latimer Felton from Georgia. She served for only one day in 1922.

Louise’s eldest daughter, Laura, said her mother was most interested in women who changed the future but the present had forgotten.

“My mom is kind of like these women,” Laura said. “She wasn’t necessarily a suffragette, but in her own human, everyday life way, she made a difference and she was able to put forward these women’s stories that were pretty much lost and forgotten because they were women.”

Louise’s daughters said their mother was crushed by being fired over getting married. She had master’s degrees in French and history and a Fulbright scholarship to study in France.

“In terms of intellect and what she could do, she was a force to be reckoned with,” Laura said. “But she was disempowered.”

Mike said that the time period “was a different world,” unprepared for Louise.

“She was a better French teacher than I was a math teacher and she was a stronger scholar than I was a scholar,” Mike said. “It was a typical, male-dominated college of the ’60s, where women were second-class citizens.”

After she lost her teaching job, Louise became a stay-at-home mother, raising three daughters, Karen, Laura and Jeanette, but she never lost her interest in education and history. While her husband went on to various teaching jobs at different universities, Louise discovered those schools’ libraries and literary collections.

When she became an empty-nester, she helped local students with their college applications and researched for a historical society. She opened a small publishing company called Tiger Iron Press and published about 15 novels.

She doted over three grandchildren, Madeleine Pilione, Zach Pilione and Gracen Cotulla.

She wrote poetry and prose about her life musings.

“I love the present,” Louise wrote in one essay about her cancer. “I have lived a fabulous life. And the best is still at hand. Every day is a new gift for me, and if I die tomorrow that’s all right.”

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