Commentator Jo Carson Dies At 64

Michele Norris and Melissa Block remember former All Things Considered commentator Jo Carson, who died earlier this month in the place where she was born — Johnson City, Tenn. She was 64. She was a playwright, fiction author and children's book author.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host: We have learned that an old friend of this program died a little more than a week ago. Jo Carson contributed her commentaries to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED throughout the 1980s. She died of cancer in the city where she was born, Johnson City, Tennessee. She was 64.

MICHELE NORRIS, host: An award-winning playwright herself, Jo Carson spent her life encouraging everyone she met to tell their own stories. For two decades, she worked with communities across the country to create plays made from stories collected in those communities.

BLOCK: For our listeners, she spoke about smoking, gardening and her finances. Once, she teamed up with three other ALL THINGS CONSIDERED commentaries, all Southern women on a trip to Miami Beach.

(SOUNDBITE OF RAIN)

JO CARSON: It's a thunderstorm that it's going to be over after a while. So what I do is find one of those residential hotels that have a portico kind of thing. So I just pulled in under it and I was going to wait out the thunderstorm. And this woman called from inside and she said, you don't have to stand out there, you can come in here and wait.

I said I don't mind standing out here. And she said, you're somebody to talk to, come in here and talk to me. So I get in there and the woman who owns it comes by, and she says in Spanish, why are you here, you're not dying yet? I said in English, what do you mean? And she just walked away. And the woman who had invited me in said, she said I'm dying didn't she?

She said, why are you here because we're all dying and you're not dying. She said, well, I'm not dying. I'm not about to die yet. I came here to have fun.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CARSON: We left it at that for a moment. We are sitting there and this man walks in. He sits down with us. He tells me that he's 80 and she's 60, and she swims. And the woman tells me that he says he's still does to her - and this is her words - what women want done to them.

He offers to take me up into his room where there is a sign that says: no visitors in the rooms, and do to me what women want done to them. I can, he says. I am still - I can still do everything any woman ever wanted. And...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CARSON: ...what keeps ringing to me is you're not here to die. I mean, what are you doing here? You're not here to die.

NORRIS: Storyteller, playwright, poet and actor, Jo Carson, she died earlier this month at age 64.

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