Interview with "Mother Merc" Jean Trousdale
Apex to Zenith
Issue 59 - Fourth Quarter 2002

By Roger Rowlett

Jean Trousdale and her staff, Penny.

It's hard to imagine the kind of year that Jean Trousdale has had.

Starting on September 11, her daughter Betsey, who then lived in Brooklyn, watched the World Trade Center collapse from her midtown office.  This was part of the inspiration for Jean to coordinate the Club's "Fifty Flags Above America" to fly flags from the highest points of each state prompting thank yous from the like of New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani and President George Bush.

This past summer Jean took on two formidable tasks as she made repeated visits to Missouri to assist Jack Longacre do chores and finish his memoirs "Keep Klimbin'" which she shopped until finding a publisher for the first book ever copyrighted by the Highpointers Club.  Then, of course, she hosted the highly emotional Convention at Black Mesa where she managed to get Jack to the summit.

Jean was alone with Jack when he died.  Three weeks later Marsha Griggs

And somewhere in between, she managed to shepherd a dramatic expansion of the the Highpointers Merc which has seen its offerings double in the past year and at times gets so busy that she is filling 21 orders/day.

I personally have seen Jean more in the past year than any other Highpointer as she frequently visited New York City to visit Betsey.  We have experienced a wide range of emotions over the year ranging from comparing notes on our golden retrievers to visiting the smoking ruins at Ground Zero to the moment of Jean got the double edged news that Jack's book had been delivered from the publisher -- one week after Jack passed.

If there is such a thing as a Highpointer Saint, Jean certainly would fill the bill.  We are very lucky to have her doing so much for the Club and I feel very lucky to consider her a friend.   Here's an interview to give you some background on Mother Merc.

1. What was your first highpoint?

Five years before I ever heard of the Highpointers, but after about 10 years of hiking in Mt. Rainier Park, I got Summit Fever.  In 1989, I climbed Mt. Rainier, an exhilarating experience! 42 summits later, Rainier is still my all-time favorite.

2. What is your background? (birthplace, college, vocation, kids, etc.)?

I was born in Fergus Falls, a small town in West Central Minnesota.  My education got off to an inauspicious start, as I flunked resting in nursery school. Three years running. I haven't changed much, have I?  I was graduated from Fergus Falls High School, spent a year at Smith College in Massachusetts, then got my B.A. and M.A. at the University of Minnesota. During this time I married, and after a 10 year Maternal Sabbatical, a move to Oklahoma and my husband's death, I finished my Ph.D. at the University of Oklahoma.  I've been a Clinical Psychologist in private practice in Norman since 1970.  I love my work--I do psychotherapy with adults and couples.  I frequently use clinical hypnosis for pain control, habit control and memory retrieval, primarily.

My kids?  My older daughter, Peggy, is a Senior Associate with First Investors, a Wall Street-based investment firm.  She and her husband, John Wilkerson, 3 cats and 2 horses, live in Oklahoma City.  Peg is an expert equestrian, and one day will train horses full time.  My younger daughter, Betsy is  Executive Vice President and Creative Manager for Lowe New York, a large advertising agency in mid-town Manhattan.  She and her husband, Takaya Yamazaki, live with my 4-year-old twin Grandarlins, Jeannie and Leo, in White Plains, NY. None of my kids climb or hike, but we are all avid skiers, so family vacations are usually in the winter, with one get-together in Norman in the summer.

3. What brought you to the Highpointers Club?

Well, that's Don Holmes' fault.  In August of 1994, we were visiting Carlsbad Caverns and stopped in the gift shop.  There I found a copy of "Highpoints of the United States", started reading, and I was hooked. Just like that!  I couldn't put it down. I had climbed Wheeler Peak the day before, and although we had  a 13 hour drive back to Norman the next day, I was on the highway at 4:00 A.M. making the 35 mile trip down to Guadalupe Peak.  That was scary!  I didn't know where I was or where I was going or if I could even find the trailhead.  But I did, it was a wonderful hike and I was back in White City ready to start home by noon.

4. How did you get started doing the Merc?

Actually, that was Don Holmes' fault, too! I had just volunteered to take over as Merchandising Chairperson from Ken Jones.  I was talking to Don on the phone, tossing around ideas about what to do with this position, when he mentioned "Store".  As I have often remarked, other people have most of my good ideas--I just run with them.

5. How did you come up with the Merc name?

The Highpointers Mercantile is a spin-off from the Kenton Mercantile, Allan Griggs' store at the foot of the Black Mesa.  My moniker, Mother Merc, came from John Mitchler. My Golden Retriever, Penny, is the only staff I have at the moment, and just between you and me, she's not much help.

6. How many orders a week (or month) does the Merc get?

This depends on the time of year and on when we have new and different merchandise.  Spring and just before Christmas are good. We might have a week with just one or two orders or a week with 10 or 15 orders.  Right now, with the 50 Flags posters and Jack's book, I often get 4 or 5 orders a day. The day after I received the first shipment of Jack's book, was an all-time high--21 orders!

7. What are the most popular items?

New items, of course, but in general, the old stand-bys, guide books and tee shirts.

8. What is the work that is involved in the Merc?

Keeping the inventory up, processing orders, answering questions, usually by e-mail, finding space for my ever-increasing inventory, keeping track of what I sell, endless trips to the post office (I'm on a first-name basis with everyone at both post offices here) and keeping the bank account up to date. When members write for awards, I send a list of their highpoints on to Bill Strickland who is keeping a data-base. Time-wise, I spend 3-4 hours a day at it. Then there is the matter of transporting merchandise to the conventions--I guess folks are getting used to seeing my red Explorer with its black pod on top around convention sites.

9. Can somebody help?

I really should have a back-up, but given the nature of the job, this would require someone in Norman, since the merchandise is here. One of these days, I am going to write congratulatory notes to everyone who writes in for awards.  Now, all I manage time for is a post-it to say congratulations. At the conventions, there are always friends around who pitch in and help out, and running the Merc at the conventions is its own kind of highpoint.

10. What is the most rewarding thing about the Merc?

It is fun!  When members write, they often include notes about what they are doing, how many highpoints they have, or what's next.  The enthusiasm of the members is wonderful. Because I think we sell nifty stuff, it is satisfying to fill orders, too. I try to update The Catalog in every issue of the newsletter, and I am really delighted with the Merc information card Craig included with the membership cards in the last issue.

11. What is the least rewarding?

Two things:  When the packing tape sticks to itself, and keeping the checkbook balanced.

12. How did you get involved in the Fifty Flags Project?

When John Mitchler was first casting about for someone to help out, I was intrigued.  I wrote at once that I wanted on board.  Members sent me pictures for months--then finally I had to choose the ones for the poster. Now THAT was very hard work.  We had so many great photos, it was really tough to decide.  I tried to make the pictures as varied and representative as I could, and there were times Dave and John had to help me choose. It is because we got so many good pictures that I decided to make the scrapbook/photo albums that contain all the pictures that were submitted, something over 200.  I think the albums are great, too, and I will always take them to the conventions.

13. Did having your daughter Betsy watch the World Trade Center collapse affect the decision to pursue this project?

Yes, I think so. I was in constant touch with her that day and everyday for several weeks after 9/11.  I visited New York in early October, and for both these reasons, I was acutely aware of the impact on New Yorkers. Of course, 9/11 impacted all Americans; because of the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in  1995, 9/11 was a re-traumatization for a lot of people in this state.  I worked closely with the de-briefing process in Oklahoma in 1995, and again in 2001, and there was a special awareness, I think, of 9/11 in Oklahoma.

14. What was involved in coordinating the project?

MUCH time.  John and Dave and I were on the phone or e-mailing almost daily as we worked on it. I also did a lot of e-mailing with folks who had submitted pictures, to be sure we had accurate names, places and dates.  We had to decide to whom to send the posters--we sent a total of 13 posters to national dignitaries most closely associated with 9/11.  Then, of course, there was the poster you hung at Ground Zero. When we finished, Mary Maurer and Diane Winger took over and got addresses and letters together and got posters sent to all of the highpoint owners.

15. What was the most rewarding thing about the project?

I am very proud of the work we did on the 50 Flags poster, not only because it turned out so beautifully, but also because of the great tribute it pays to our country.

16. What was the least rewarding?

Having to choose the pictures.  I am just now tackling the job of writing thank you notes to everyone who submitted pictures--I know I've put it off because it is hard to write to folks whose pictures weren't chosen. But they are ALL in the albums.

17. Why did you decide to host the 2002 Convention?

Do you mean "What possessed me?"  After Jack and Gary White and Tim Webb and I got blizzarded off Mt Hood in May of 2000, I was pretty sure I was done climbing big mountains.  I had a long talk with myself about how I could contribute to this Club of ours.  When I got back to Oklahoma, I talked with Lee and Bill Strickland about hosting the 2002 convention.  We drove out to the Black Mesa to talk it over with Allan and Marsha Griggs.  They were very enthusiastic!  In fact, Allan got on the phone at once and called Paul Zumwalt, who offered to nominate Oklahoma for the 2002 convention site. About then, I added Gary and Tim to my committee, and I decided to go to Hawaii to campaign at the 2000 convention.

18. Describe the work and time involved (and who helped).

The very most important thing I did was choose the committee that I did. Every one brought different ideas and skills--having Lee, Bill, Gary, Tim, Allan and Marsha working together is what made the convention run so smoothly. And two years of planning is not an exaggeration.  Lee and I talked about nothing else for 2 years!  We'd decide on something, then we'd change it or dump it for some other idea. We came up with new ways of doing things, I wrote 4 or 5 articles for the newsletter. We worried about money, we fretted about logistics.  We planned surprises, we talked with Marsha about food.  Tim and Gary were here one week-end and we went over duty rosters.  We drove out to the Black Mesa to meet with local people we needed to rely on.  With no hotel/restaurant for our banquet, Marsha had the humongous job of feeding us.  It was a lot of work! Another important aspect of making a convention work is in the planning--planning every single detail you can think of, so that when snafus happen (and they do), you have the time and energy to deal with them.

19. What was the most rewarding aspect of the convention?

Not only that Jack made it to the convention, but that he loved it!  And so did all his friends, who had a chance to say good-bye to him.  The "highpoints" for him were being serenaded Friday night, getting to go to the summit on hike day, and receiving the Summa Cum Laude (now the Jack Longacre Award).

20. Anything that was not rewarding?

Only that the 4 days of the convention went by so fast!

21. Was there anything you would have done differently?

Oh, probably, but it worked.  There were some details that could have been better, or smoother, but you can't anticipate Everything.....

22. What were the logistics of getting Jack to the convention and to the summit?

Wow!  These two things really took some planning.  First, getting Jack to the convention:  We weren't sure until just a few days before the convention that he was going to be able to make it, but we planned ahead anyway, and it worked. (I'll give you an abbreviated version.)  On Sunday before the convention, Gary drove the 400 miles from his home in Alabama to Jack's home in Missouri.  Monday, they drove the 500 miles from Jack's home to mine. Tuesday, we caravaned the 400 miles to the convention. At that time, Jack was able to sit up in Gary's truck. Getting him home again was a little different. Sunday, when we had finished cleaning up after the convention, Tim and Gary loaded their trucks with all their stuff and mine, as I made a pallet in the back of my Explorer for Jack.  We got to my house about 8:30 that evening.  Monday, Tim left Norman, as did Pen (my friend Penelope May, who did the slide presentation at the convention).  Gary and Jack stayed an extra day so Jack could rest; on Tuesday, Gary took Jack back to Missouri. It was a rough trip for him, but he was so glad to have been able to do it!

Getting Jack to the summit began in May, on one of the trips the Stricklands and I made out to the Black Mesa. While we were there, I wanted to go to the summit for a flag picture and for a picture of the USGS marker for pins and paperweights.  Marsha wanted to go with me, but I was sick and she had a sore foot, so we got Monty Joe Roberts to drive us up there via an all-but-non-existent road.  We got to talking about the convention, and it was Monty Joe's idea to transport Jack and Paul Zumwalt to the summit on hike day.  Well, you know I ran with that one!  And we kept it a secret, so that when 200+ hikers arrived at the monument on Saturday morning, they were greeted by Jack and Paul reclining in lawn chairs by the monument!  Both Paul and Jack remarked that it was one of their scarier summit ascents--there's not much road there...........

23. Tell us more about Allan and Marsha Griggs.

Marsha's untimely death has shocked and saddened all of us who knew and loved her.  I refer you to the article on page ___ of this newsletter.

 24. How and when did you meet Jack Longacre?

May 18, 1996, about 5:00 o'clock in the morning.  Lee and I were highpointing in the Midwest; we got to Taum Sauk the evening of the 17th and stopped at Jack's house.  He wasn't home but we left a note saying we were sorry we had missed him, but that we were leaving early in the morning.  We camped up at the campground, and about 5:00 a.m., my dog began to growl.  I stuck my head out of the tent, and could barely see someone striding toward me.  He said, "Jean?"  I said, "Jack?"  He said, "I thought you said you were leaving early!" We sat and talked for about 2 1/2 hours.  By then we were old friends!

25. Can you describe how he affected your life?

In nearly as many ways as there were facets of his life.  We hiked and climbed together, we visited back and forth between Missouri and Oklahoma, hiking and climbing in both states as well as in Arkansas, Colorado and Oregon. He brought his kayak over and we took it out to the lake, we drove to many places to hike or climb, and we talked.  We talked for hours and hours.  But it was the last 5 months of his life that had the greatest impact on me, the months we spent working on his book.  It was during that time that I got to know him really well, not only by reading his manuscript, which is truly "Pure Jack Longacre", but also working with him and being so closely in touch.

 26. What was the process for editing (and publishing) his memoirs "Keep Klimbin'".

When Jack called to say that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, his chief concern was what was going to happen to his book.  He had spent 17 years writing it, and now he couldn't finish it.  The third time he worried about it over the phone, I told him I would take care of it. So in early June, I was back at his house. I read the manuscript.  I wasn't far into it before I knew he had a winner! It is such a great story. I spent all summer working on the book (when I wasn't at my office, or working on the convention or the 50 Flags project or the Merc), typing, editing, going over details with Jack on the phone, and finally, getting lined up with Jack Grauer, who published, "Keep Klimbin'".  It was incredibly time-consuming, as you might imagine, but very, very satisfying. My only regret is that he didn't live to see it in print.

27. You were with Jack at the end.  Any comments about those moments.

Only to say how grateful I am to Jack's brother, Dave Hendricks, who summoned me the Saturday before Jack died.  I had three days with Jack, which gave me a chance to pay him back a bit for all he had done to enrich my life. I will always be grateful for that opportunity.

28. What was the highlight of your experiences with Jack?

That's a tough one--there were so many different and varied ones.  But the one that really stands out is the look of delight in his eyes and the smile on his face, the day I placed his completed manuscript in his hands.

29. Any low point?

Sure. When I learned he was about to die.

30.   Anything not covered?

Yes. In the first month after Jack's death, I found myself strangely waiting for a message from him.  I tried to dismiss this as being just a bit far out, but I never completely shook the feeling.  After the Missouri Memorial that message was there: I am totally Committed to our Club.  Not that I chose to be, it just happened. "Okay, Jack, I hear you."

Jack loved this Club and he gave it his all for years. I now find myself with that same feeling of love and commitment...........

Thanks, Roger.  Thanks for giving me a chance to share some of my personal thoughts, feelings and memories of 2002.  It was a quite a year for me.

Comments on Jean Trousdale

Here are some comments about Jean Trousdale by Highpointers.

Gene & Lillian Elliott

Two words in our minds describe this fine lady.  "Go Getter" and "non-quitter."  We first met Jean in MO during the 1999 convention.  We found her to be a person of immense fun.  We had the opportunity to join with her on the "stream of little water" white water rafting trip which was loads of fun trying to stay afloat.  We shared a room together in HI for the 2000 convention and watched her tackle two or more jobs at once - the Merc and campaigning for the 2002 convention in OK.  With her over zealous enthusiasm, she vigorously offered her help for whatever she could do for our turn as host and hostess for Maryland 2001.  She is an avid highpointer and loves the club. We are sure there are many more words to describe Jean than those we mentioned. We count it a privilege to have her as a friend and wish her the best as she continues to be a "Go-Getter" and "non-Quitter" in any of her future endeavors.

Tim Webb
I met Jean several years ago camped at around 12,000 feet on Mount Elbert. She came up and asked if she could use our stove to cook on as hers had malfunctioned and she had thrown the $%& thing off the side of the mountain! What a great friendship that has developed since that day. Jean is one of the hardest working people that I have ever met. Where she gets her energy from I will never know. The members of our club should be thankful for people like Jean who devote so much personal time and energy to better our organization. I have been to Jeans on three different occasions this year and on each trip she has been engrossed in club work and projects. She even put me to work! There's the flags project, the 2002 OK convention, Jakks manuscript, and the highpointers mercantile which has dramatically increased in what it has to offer members since she took the helm. She has become a dear friend to Rebecca and I and a grandmother to Andrew and Whitney. Thanks Jean, for all you have done and continue to do for the Highpointers Club.

Diane Winger
Jean was the first person who greeted us when we attended our first Highpointers Club convention several years ago, and it didn't take long for us to realize that this wonderful, warm person is a central part of the whole "spirit" of the Highpointers Club. Whether she is helping with registration, serving a pancake breakfast, running the HP Merc, organizing an entire convention, or doing any of the other innumerable tasks for the club, Jean ("Bibi") is someone who is always "there for you", come rain or shine.

Although I've only spent short bursts of time with Jean at conventions over the years, or "talked" with her via email, I consider her to be a very special friend. Jean has a way of making everyone she meets feel like they are very special. I was particularly moved when she called me after Jack passed away, and shared some stories with me that made me feel like she was trying to comfort me. Jean's special friendship with Jack was demonstrated in so many extraordinary ways. She reassured Jack that she would make sure his manuscript would be published, and she got it all typed up and organized, and found a publisher. She found a way to get Jack to the highpoint of Oklahoma for the convention. She jumped in her car late at night to drive 500 miles to be by Jack's side when his family called to tell her he was doing badly. Above all, she found ways to bring a smile to Jack's face, at a time when he needed that most of all. No one could ask for a better friend.